Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Here Comes the Fun; A New Exhibition at Mima Sheds Light on the 1950s, a Decade When Post-War Austerity Gave Way to Optimism and Fun - Apparently. David Whetstone Reports ART

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Here Comes the Fun; A New Exhibition at Mima Sheds Light on the 1950s, a Decade When Post-War Austerity Gave Way to Optimism and Fun - Apparently. David Whetstone Reports ART

Article excerpt

Byline: David Whetstone

Between the wartime '40s and the swinging '60s lay the 1950s. What of them? Sandwiched between decades with lots to shout about historically, the '50s can seem a bit of a shrinking violet.

If there's one word that sticks to the postwar, pre-Beatles decade, it's 'austerity'. Postwar rationing didn't end completely until 1954 by which time the principle of 'make do and mend' was well ingrained.

This concept has made a comeback in recent years, notably after the bankers' transgressions shrank the pound in our pocket.

An inaugural Thrift Festival proved popular while allotment gardening, knitting and cycling have shed their fuddy duddy image to attract a new wave of devotees.

Now comes an exhibition at mima called Art and Optimism in 1950s Britain.

This is interesting because through the prism of 'optimism' rather than 'austerity' the decade can seem very different.

The title alone is a reminder that this was also the decade of the Coronation, the conquest of Everest and the 1951 Festival of Britain, an attempt to cheer up a battered population and promote good design ahead of massive post-war reconstruction.

The exhibition in Middlesbrough will celebrate the fine art, design and sculpture of the 1950s and feature work by, among others, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Anthony Caro, Eduardo Paolozzi and LS Lowry.

Pop art was actually born in the 1950s which is why you will see works by Peter Blake and Richard Hamilton, who taught in Newcastle and is currently the subject of a major retrospective at Tate Modern.

Mima confirm the impression that this was a decade of contradictions, stating: "Alongside austerity, rationing and the lasting trauma of war were optimism and a sense of progress and change.

"Many artists of this time recorded a sense of apprehension and anger in their work while the Festival of Britain and designers of homewares and advertising were embracing the new."

Curator Alix Collingwood says the idea for an exhibition started to take shape when mima was offered an archive by the second Lord Crathorne, Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire and a longtime supporter of the arts. …

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