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An American Dream?

Art, Exhibition, London, ReviewKate Marsden

I had a very early start yesterday... I was lucky enough to be invited to attend a preview of a new exhibition which opens at The British Museum tomorrow (Thursday 9 March) - The American Dream: Pop to the Present.

I jumped at the chance to go to the preview, and then started wondering if it could possibly live up to the exhibition I always go back to... my first ever experience of a major London exhibition (American Art in the 20th Century at the Royal Academy in 1993 - yes, I really am that old). Well, 24 years have passed, and maybe it's a little cliched to like pop art nowadays, but I'm not ashamed to say I do. Never really been one to follow trends after all...! Oh, and there was one other thing on my mind - what was this exhibition doing in the British Museum of all places?

Well, it promises something a little different as it's approached from a printmaking angle - so none of the big canvasses - but some jolly large prints. The exhibition was conceived following a popular show of early 20th century prints at the museum nearly a decade ago - the team spent the next few years building a collection of American prints from the 1960s onwards - many of which were so large in scale they had to wait for new refurbished gallery space to be completed before holding an exhibition, but I think it was worth the wait.

So it's absolutely not just about pop art - although you do launch straight in with that in quite a big way. I love how the spaces have been put together, with bold colours on the walls and cut out windows giving a glimpse into the other parts of the gallery - it's definitely a must for fans of colour. Lots of printmaking techniques on display too, which is great to see - there's even a little screen printing demo video (projected onto a table so you're looking down on it, as you would be if you were doing it yourself).

The exhibition feels quite timely as we're all so focused on the US at the moment - for me in particular as it ties in with my new collection (and as I visited twice last autumn). For once I watched a whole video (I'm not a massive fan of video in exhibitions, not really sure why) and it was fantastic in both capturing the spirit of the exhibition itself and America generally - even if it did leave me a little sad, questioning where things will go next (although I'm sure as always that great art will come out of the current situation).

Allow plenty of time as you'll need it - I spent an hour and a half looking around and could easily (and quite happily) go back again. It's also caused me to view the British Museum a little differently, and I'm assuming that was one of their aims - I don't tend to associate it with modern art exhibitions, but a significant percentage of the works on display are from the museum's collection (albeit that many have been amassed relatively recently). I'm interested to see what future exhibitions they have planned for these rather nice galleries.

The American Dream: Pop to the Present is at The British Museum from 9 March - 18 June 2017. Find our more here.