Black Eyes and Lemonade: Curating Popular Art

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Past Exhibition

In 1951 a colourful and vibrant exhibition of popular art opened at the Whitechapel Gallery as part of the Festival of Britain. A talking lemon, an edible model of St Paul’s Cathedral, a fireplace in the shape of a dog and a life-size wax model of a Rabbi, were amongst a plethora of other extraordinary objects on display.

Entitled Black Eyes and Lemonade, after a Thomas Moore poem Intercepted Letters or The Two-Penny Post Bag (1813), it presented everyday objects made in Britain, normally excluded from museums and art galleries.

The 1951 exhibition was organised by artist, designer and writer Barbara Jones. It was divided in categories such as Home, Birth-Marriage-Death, Man’s Own Image and Commerce & Industry, reflecting Jones’s ideas on popular art and museum culture, questioning the cultural values attached to handmade and machine made objects.

This archive exhibition includes original exhibits, the iconic Airedale fireplace among them. Unseen archive material from the Design Archives, the Vogue Archives and the Whitechapel Gallery Archive, as well as installation views and ephemera from Jones’s surviving studio, highlight her innovative curatorial approach towards popular art, and the connections she was able to draw across images and objects.

The exhibition is co-curated with museum director, Simon Costin, design historian Catherine Moriarty and is supported by the University of Brighton Design Archives and the Museum of British Folklore.

The Whitechapel Gallery archive exhibitions are generously supported by Catherine and Franck Petitgas.

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