Travelling V&A exhibition shows the power of art to change society
A new exhibition coming to the William Morris Gallery looks at a century of posters agitating for political change. From the Suffragette campaigns of the early twentieth century, to the Arab Spring, political activists around the world have used posters to mobilise, educate and organise.
A World to Win: Posters of Protest and Revolution, which opens on 8 October, will present around seventy posters drawn from the national poster collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Showcasing the work of diverse artists, graphic designers and print collectives it will include new acquisitions gathered from recent outbursts of protest in the UK, Russia and the Middle East.
Making or displaying a poster is in itself a means of taking political action, while for many social and political movements posters have represented an important form of cultural output. As a socialist campaigner and designer, Morris understood the immediacy of the printed image and its potential to communicate to a mass audience.
Exhibition highlights include posters by Britain’s most important political artist Peter Kennard, whose imagery has become synonymous with the modern protest movement. Kennard said: “The William Morris Gallery is the perfect place to be showing posters of protest and dissent. Morris was committed to methods of cultural production that could break through the shackles of elitism and polite society.”
“The posters are cheap and available to all, but like Morris their makers believe that whether they are slapped up on hoardings in the street or pinned on factory noticeboards they should be made with the same care and intense creative input as any work of art”.
The show will also feature posters made by the Atelier Populaire during the student protests in Paris in 1968, as well as examples from the Russian, Chinese and Cuban Revolutions. Also on display will be a selection from the Gallery’s collection of Walter Crane’s Cartoons for the Cause. Crane’s early socialist iconography challenged the idea that political struggle was remote from and even destructive of a sense of beauty.
The exhibition at the Council-run Gallery in Walthamstow will also feature locally produced posters from some of the most energetic community led campaigns of recent years.
The exhibition will also host artist Ruth Ewan’s ‘A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World’, an on-going collection of over 2000 idealistic or political songs collated by Ewan and disseminated via a CD jukebox.
8 October 2016 – 15 January 2017
William Morris Gallery Forest Road, London E17 4PP Wednesday to Sunday, 10am – 5pm; admission free www.wmgallery.org.uk