Pop goes the easel and the armchair: the Barbican’s new show celebrates the playful influence of Pop Art on postwar design

Tom Wesselmann Smoker Banner, 1971. Copyright Estate of Tom Wesselmann/DACS, London/VAGA, NY, 2013

Tom Wesselmann Smoker Banner, 1971. Copyright Estate of Tom Wesselmann/DACS, London/VAGA, NY, 2013

With pop style being a personal obsession – and forming an entire chapter of our book 70s Style & Design – we were most interested to hear about the new show Pop Art Design at the Barbican Art Gallery, which celebrates the influence of Pop Art on everything from fashion to furniture, album sleeves to architecture. A collaboration with Vitra Design Museum, Denmark’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and Stockholm’s Moderna Museet, it brings together around 200 works by more than 70 artists and designers.

The show traces the relationship between Pop Art and pop design from the 1950s, but in our opinion it wasn’t until the 1970s that pop style truly hit the mainstream, thanks to the influence of shops such as Tommy Roberts’s Mr Freedom and Terence Conran’s Habitat, which inspired a million copycats.

The 70s was also the decade in which the 50s pop movement’s challenge to modernism and its strict rationalist rules began to take shape in the radical designs of the Italian new wave and the beginnings of postmodernism, a development which is covered in more detail in our chapter From Pop to Postmodernism. Check out the show at the Barbican Art Gallery, Barbican Centre from now until 9 February 2014. In the meantime, here are a few of our favourite things, pop 70s style…

The foodhall at Big Biba (designed by Steve Thomas of Whitmore Thomas) brought pop art back to its supermarket roots

The foodhall at Big Biba (designed by Steve Thomas of Whitmore Thomas) brought pop art back to its supermarket roots

Mr Freedom shop girls, circa early 70s. The shop's founder Tommy Roberts was a pop fashion pioneer. Photo courtesy of Jon Wealleans

Mr Freedom shop girls, circa early 70s. The shop’s founder Tommy Roberts was a pop fashion pioneer. Photo courtesy of Jon Wealleans

Mr Freedom's furniture designer Jon Wealleans at home in London circa 1970

Mr Freedom’s furniture designer Jon Wealleans at home in London circa 1970

Salvador Dali and designer Oscar Tusquets with the latter's Saliva sofa, designed for his company Bd Barcelona Design in 1972

Salvador Dali and designer Oscar Tusquets with the latter’s Saliva sofa, designed for his company Bd Barcelona Design in 1972

Michael English's iconic lithograph Coke, from the Rubbish Prints, 1970

Michael English’s iconic lithograph Coke, from the Rubbish Prints, 1970

Pop-inspired wares for sale in Habitat's winter supplement, 1972

Pop-inspired wares for sale in Habitat’s winter supplement, 1972

The Joe chair, designed by Jonathan De Pas, Donato D'Urbino and Paolo Lomazzi in 1970 as an homage to the legendary baseball champion Joe DiMaggio

The Joe chair, designed by Jonathan De Pas, Donato D’Urbino and Paolo Lomazzi in 1970 as an homage to the legendary baseball champion Joe DiMaggio

Gaetano Pesce's Sit Down chair for Cassina, 1975, plays with form and decoration in a pop assault on traditional good taste

Gaetano Pesce’s Sit Down chair for Cassina, 1975, plays with form and decoration in a pop assault on traditional good taste

San Francisco's influential street-style magazine Rags flags up the pop T-shirt trend in 1970, with an illustration by Albert Elia

San Francisco’s influential street-style magazine Rags flags up the pop T-shirt trend in 1970, with an illustration by Albert Elia

A 1970 textile design by Zandra Rhodes featuring a pop-deco design of lipsticks

A 1970 textile design by Zandra Rhodes featuring a pop-deco design of lipsticks

Molly White wears a design by herself and her partner John Dove at The Fabric of Pop exhibition at the V&A in 1974. John and Molly designed for hip King's Road boutiques Mr Freedom and Paradise Garage as well as their own label Wonder Workshop in the 1970s

Molly White wears a design by herself and her partner John Dove at The Fabric of Pop exhibition at the V&A in 1974. John and Molly designed for hip King’s Road boutiques Mr Freedom and Paradise Garage as well as their own label Wonder Workshop in the 1970s

A proto-punk pop T-shirt design by John Dove and Molly White, aka Wonder Workshop, from 1974

A proto-punk pop T-shirt design by John Dove and Molly White, aka Wonder Workshop, from 1974

An ice-cream sundae sandal by Thea Cadabra from the late 70s

An ice-cream sundae sandal by Thea Cadabra from the late 70s

Studio 65's Capitello chair, 1971, manufactured by Gufram. Collection Vitra Design Museum. Photo Andreas Sutterlin

Studio 65’s Capitello chair, 1971, manufactured by Gufram. Collection Vitra Design Museum. Photo Andreas Sutterlin

Guido Drocco and Franco Mello's Cactus coathanger for Gufram, 1972

Guido Drocco and Franco Mello’s Cactus coathanger for Gufram, 1972

The Hello There chair, designed by Jeremy Harvey in 1978 for Artifort

The Hello There chair, designed by Jeremy Harvey in 1978 for Artifort

Ettore Sottsass's painting, If I Were Very, Very Rich I Would Confront Myself With My Complexes, 1977

Ettore Sottsass’s painting, If I Were Very, Very Rich I Would Confront Myself With My Complexes, 1977

Michele de Lucchi's cartoon-like toaster design for Studio Alchimia, 1979

Michele de Lucchi’s cartoon-like toaster design for Studio Alchimia, 1979

April Greiman and Jayme Odgers's design for the cover of Wet magazine, Sept/Oct 1979, featuring a young Ricky Martin

April Greiman and Jayme Odgers’s design for the cover of Wet magazine, Sept/Oct 1979, featuring a young Ricky Martin

A late-70s Fiorucci poster runs the gamut of postwar pop imagery, new-wave Italian style

A late-70s Fiorucci poster runs the gamut of postwar pop imagery, new-wave Italian style

Barney Bubbles's design for the Damned's Music For Pleasure, 1979

Barney Bubbles’s design for the Damned’s Music For Pleasure, 1979

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