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Black Eyes and Lemonade: Curating Popular Art, 9 March – 1 September 2013

Whitechapel Press Release

The Whitechapel Gallery presents a new archive display revisiting the
Gallery’s 1951 exhibition Black Eyes and Lemonade. Coinciding with the
Festival of Britain, the exhibition challenged established ideas about the
cultural value attached to particular kinds of objects. Celebrating
everyday items, from the traditional and the handmade to the mass
produced, it included lavishly decorated pub mirrors, an edible model of
St Paul’s Cathedral and a talking lemon advertising Idris lemon squash.


This presentation at the Whitechapel Gallery includes some of the original
exhibits from 1951, including the fireplace in the shape of an Airedale
dog, alongside unseen archive material from the University of Brighton
Design Archives, the Vogue Archives and the Whitechapel Gallery Archive.
Re-examining Black Eyes and Lemonade over half a century after it was
originally staged, the exhibition looks afresh at the presentation and
curation of popular art.

Entitled Black Eyes and Lemonade, after the Thomas Moore poem
Intercepted Letters or The Two-Penny Post Bag (1813), the original
exhibition explored topics including advertising, toys, festivities and
souvenirs and featured ship’s figureheads, old Valentines, quilts and
Salvation Army uniforms. All the exhibits shown were made or
manufactured in Britain.

The 1951 exhibition was organised by artist, designer and writer Barbara
Jones. It was divided into categories such as Home, Birth-Marriage-
Death, Man’s Own Image and Commerce & Industry, reflecting Jones’s
ideas on popular art and museum culture and questioning the cultural
values attached to both handmade and machine made objects. Stating
that ‘the museum eye must be abandoned’, Jones created a provocative
spectacle which posed challenging questions about hierarchies of value,
making and manufacture and consumption while championing the
judgement of makers, collectors and consumers.

Many of the items included in the exhibition came from Jones’ own
collection and were acquired during travels, from bazaars, second-hand
shops, and directly from makers. Further exhibits were sourced during a
road trip in June 1951 that Jones made in a converted London taxi with
her co-organiser Tom Ingram. This presentation features material from
Jones’s surviving studio, highlighting her innovative curatorial approach
and the connections she was able to draw across images and objects.

The exhibition is part of the Whitechapel Gallery’s dedicated programme
looking into archives of individual artists or institutions. The exhibition is
co-curated with director of the Museum of British Folklore, Simon Costin,
design historian Catherine Moriarty and Curator, Archive Gallery,
Whitechapel Gallery, Nayia Yiakoumaki.

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