In Depth

British Museum: The American Dream

From Pop Art to modern day, a new exhibition explores how dynamic events of the past six decades have shaped American art

Once considered a collector's item, to be tucked away behind closed doors and in private hands, fine art prints underwent a revolution in America in the mid-20th century. With developing technologies and the rise of print studios came a wealth of creativity from artists who were exploring the new potential of the art form. In the decades that followed, the practice became more affordable and accessible than ever before - both to create works and for a burgeoning middle-class audience to purchase them - providing a far-reaching vessel to carry messages of personal, societal and political dissent, alongside insightful commentaries on the pop culture of the time.

A new exhibition at the British Museum, The American Dream: Pop to the Present, will trace this bold art form, from the explosion of Pop Art on the New York and West Coast scenes in the early 1960s, the Minimalist and Photorealist movements of the 1970s right through to its importance to today's turbulent political scene. Bringing together loans from New York's Museum of Modern Art and the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, as well as the museum's own collections, this landmark exhibition encompasses more than 200 works by 70 seminal artists, including Jasper Johns, Ed Ruscha, Chuck Close and Louise Bourgeois.

Andy Warhol is perhaps printmaking's most famous proponent, and his iconic Marilyn will be on display among other large-scale pieces, designed to be seen en masse, such as Willie Cole's 1997 work Stowage, a poignant examination of the legacy of slavery. Robert Rauschenberg's Sky Garden, from his Stoned Moon Series commissioned by NASA, captures the excitement and trepidation surrounding the moon landings of 1969. Other works on display focus on more challenging themes - including the struggle for civil rights and issues surrounding gender and identity that continue to resonate in the modern age.

The American Dream: Pop to the Present runs from 9 March to 18 June 2017 at the British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG; britishmuseum.org

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