Magazine article The Spectator

Design Inside No. 10

Magazine article The Spectator

Design Inside No. 10

Article excerpt

We are standing in the wood-panelled anteroom to the state rooms at No. 10 Downing Street - myself, Mo Hussein, David Heaton and Janice Blackburn, the former curator of the Saatchi Gallery who has been putting examples of contemporary decorative art and design into No. 10 since last July.

We gaze up at Michael Eden's Wedgwood Tureen on a high mantelpiece above the fireplace. Eden used to make earthenware pots in deep Cumbria but now he designs with 3D software and his pieces are built layer by layer by a 3D printer. His Wedgwood Tureen is based on a classic Wedgwood shape, translated into a vivid red diagram of the original.

It looks like a replication of a familiar object made by intelligent aliens. We are all quietly impressed.

Mo, the senior press officer, points out that thousands of visitors come through Downing Street each year. And I feel that I already know David - the facilities manager - because he and 11 other 'non-political' staff selected their favourite Downing Street artworks for the exhibition 12 from Number 10, now at the Whitechapel Art Gallery (until 10 June). David, radically, decided on John Wood and Paul Harrison's video 'Twenty Six (Drawing and Falling Things)' that interrogates the relationship between humans and architecture.

There is impressive fine art of all dates at No. 10 (a beautiful early Lucian Freud landscape at the top of the main staircase, the best version of Thomas Phillips's 'Lord Byron in Albanian Dress' in the Pillared Room and Tracey Emin's faintly annoying neon 'More Passion' sharing space with Michael Eden in the anteroom). But modern craft and design (aside from the Silver Trust's munificent gifts for the state dining room) are strikingly absent. Blackburn began her campaign to put good design into Downing Street when Gordon Brown was Prime Minister, inspired by a lyrical speech he gave on creative Britain. Letters were sent to his faithful aide Sue Nye but in the end Blackburn had better luck with the coalition government. The culture minister Ed Vaizey likes quoting Ruskin and Morris, cites Matthew Crawford's libertarian best seller The Case for Working with Your Hands and has sung the praises of the pots of Edmund de Waal and the ceramic installations of Clare Twomey. …

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