The Independent Group

Richard Hamilton. “Just What is it that Makes Today’s Homes so Different, so Appealing?”. 1956. From
The British Pop was launched by the Independent Group (IG) in 1952. I bring up the subject because some of the participants were architects, and it is always interesting to see the relationship between architecture, urban culture and arts.
They were intrigued by technology and automobile design and mainly focused on happenings rather than painting and comics.
House of the future. By the Smithsons. From
“This is tomorrow” exhibition. A page from the catalogue.
“But the young artists, architects, and critics who met informally at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts in the early 1950s were actually embarked on a far more subversive and constructive mission than the founding of an art movement. Street-smart, anti-academic, and iconoclastic, they embraced Hollywood and Madison Avenue and rejected the traditional dichotomies between high and low culture, British and American values. They used their meetings and exhibitions to challenge the official modernist assumptions of British aesthetics and to advocate instead a media-based, consumer-based aesthetics of change and inclusiveness – an aesthetics of plenty” . (From
From the book “Movements in art since 1945. Issues and concepts”, by Edward Lucie-Smith, we can learn that (p. 128):
“ It now seems to be generally agreed that Pop art, in its narrowest definition, began in England, and that it grew out of a series of discussions which were held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London by a group which called itself the Independent Group. It included artists, critics, and architects, among them Eduardo Paolozzi, Alison and Peter Smithson, Richard Hamilton, Peter Reyner Banham, and Lawrence Alloway. The group were fascinated by the new urban popular culture, and particularly by its manifestations in America. Partly this was a delayed effect of the war, when America, to those in England, had seemed an Eldorado of all good things, from nylons to new motor-cars. Partly it was a reaction against the solemn romanticism, the atmosphere of high endeavour, which had prevailed in British art during the 1940s.

In 1956 the group was responsible for an exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery which was called “This is Tomorrow”. Designed in twelve sections, the show was designed to draw the spectator into a series of environments. In his book on Pop art, Mario Amaya points out that the environmental aspect probably owed something to Richard Buckle’s exhibition of the Diaghilev Ballet, which was held in London in 1954, and which seized on the excuse of a theatrical subject to provide a brilliantly theatrical display”. 

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