Re-Imagining the Avant-Garde

Betts Project presents ‘a new exhibition that explores the ongoing importance of the work of Architects associated with the Avant-Garde of the 1960s and 1970s for today’s designers and artists.  
The exhibition has been developed as a companion to the recently published special issue of Architectural Design (AD) edited by Matthew Butcher and Luke Pearson entitled ‘Re-imagining the Avant-Garde: Revisiting the Architecture of the 1960s and 1970s’.  

The avant-garde of the 1960s and 70s has been likened to an ‘architectural Big Bang’, such was the intensity of energy and ambition with which it exploded into the post-war world. It produced architectural projects that redefined the discipline and remain highly influential today. In contemporary design, references to the likes of Archizoom, Peter Eisenman, John Hejduk and Superstudio continue to define the approaches of a new wave of practitioners. This avant-garde was highly diverse, and not tied to a single methodology or tendency in its political, formal and cultural preoccupations. It was also geographically divergent – reaching from Europe to North America and Japan. The avant-garde was, however, unified as a critical and experimental force, critiquing contemporary society against the backdrop of extreme social and political upheaval. Those turbulent times mirror today.  

The intention of the exhibition ‘Re-Imagining the Avant-Garde’ is not to create a new history in the typical sense but to highlight the continuing power and relevance of ‘avant-garde projects for contemporary art and architectural practice. It will show a range of artists and designers whose work has developed a clear relationship, formally, spatially and conceptually, with this earlier period.

The diverse works shown in the exhibition all resonate with certain attributes that defined the designs of the 1960s and 1970s. These attributes include an interest in distortions of cartographic representations, an interest in exploiting new media in the representation of architecture, the design of worlds that satirically comment on current political, environmental and social discourse and a desire to readapt historical forms and figures to question contemporary cultural attitudes to taste.  

This exhibition is also accompanied by a series of talks that are taking place throughout November and December at the Sir John Soane’s Museum and at Betts Project. 

Matthew Butcher, Dragged Drawing (Superstudio Grid), 2017
22 November to 21 December 2019
Betts Project
100 Central Street
EC1V 8AJ London, Great Britain
Betts Project