|Abstract or Description:
This major V&A Museum exhibition, co-curated by Adamson and Pavitt (RCA), surveyed two decades of art and design under the heading of ‘postmodernism’, a contentious and theoretically complex topic that presented challenges in curatorial method. The exhibition traversed many genres of production, including architecture, crafts, fashion, graphics, performance, photography and sculpture. This synthetic approach permitted comparison between apparently unlike phenomena – for example, architectural historicism, hip hop sampling, and cut-and-paste graphic design.
Adamson originated and co-curated the exhibition with Pavitt. They shared intellectual ownership of the project and equal responsibility for writing and editing the accompanying 320-page book (including a 40,000-word jointly written introduction), but divided research responsibilities according to geography and subject. The research was conducted over four years, with Adamson leading on American and Japanese material. This involved interviewing artists, designers and architects active in the period and working with collections and archives in the USA and Japan.
‘Postmodernism’ was critically reviewed worldwide. For the Independent, ‘bright ideas abound at the V&A’s lucid show’ (2011). The exhibition was considered and discussed in newspapers (e.g. New York Times, Telegraph, Wall Street Journal), popular media (including BBC television and radio), review publications (e.g. TLS, Aesthetica, Spectator), magazines (e.g. Country Life, i-D, Artforum) and academic periodicals (e.g. Journal of the Society of Art Historians, CAA Reviews). The show served as a platform for an unusually rich and informed public discourse about the legacy of recent design history. It attracted 115,000 visitors at the V&A (15% over the Museum’s target) and travelled in 2012 to MART Rovereto, Italy (50,000 visitors) and Landesmuseum Zürich, Switzerland (70,000 visitors).
Adamson was invited to lecture on postmodernism at over 50 venues, including Cheltenham Literary Festival, MIT, Powerhouse Museum (Sydney) and Yale University. He published a retrospective assessment in the journal on curatorial practice, The Exhibitionist (2012).