diamond geezer

 Saturday, January 25, 2003


Where better to head on a Saturday morning than South Kensington - home to most of London's top museums. It's great to have our national treasures on view for free again, and I don't make the effort to go and look at them as often as I should. I battled through crowds of middle class parents (it's surely no coincidence that the Piccadilly line goes direct from Islington to South Kensington) and their disinterested offspring, and headed to the delightfully child-free Victoria & Albert Museum.

I went to the V&A to see Rewind, an exhibition charting 40 years of developments in British design and advertising. Rewind covers a range of creative disciplines from graphic design to poster advertising, and from packaging to radio ads. On view, amongst other things, were posters for the film Trainspotting, the British Rail logo, old Radio Times covers, record sleeves from the Pet Shop Boys, Blur and Spritualized, tins of pears from Harrods, some Airfix-type football hooligans, a great online Compaq bird hunts worm game, Silk Cut posters and a suspiciously high number of Apple products. An unitentional additional exhibition was also on view - the fashions being worn by the creative types attending the show. So that'd be baggy shorts, NHS specs and facial hair trimmed into unfeasibly-stripped goatees.

My favourite exhibit was a showreel of the very best adverts and onscreen design of the last 40 years. I wouldn't normally sit in a gallery and watch a video presentation for 55 minutes, but this was creative nostalgia of the highest order and exceptionally watchable. What a joy to sit and wallow in the original 1960s Dr Who opening titles, the legendary frothy Cresta bear, classic ads for Heineken, Stella Artois and Holsten Pils, the 1982 Channel 4 and 1991 BBC2 channel logos, J R Hartley's Yellow Pages ad, the orange Tango man's facial slap, the Guardian 'point of view' ad with the skinhead (alas, not the Persil one), Parklife with Nike on Hackney Marshes, that Levis launderette ad, and the stunning Dunlop tyre ad with the Velvet Underground backing track. It's amazing how much creativity and effort is poured into products like cars, lager and jeans which without a brand profile would be virtually indistinguishable.

The exhibition's only on until next weekend. Should you want to visit there's a special late viewing next Friday, complete with pub quiz, debate and table football. It's a reminder that British creativity is amongst the very best in the world. And I love it.

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