Tate Modern Redefines Pop Art

The World Goes Pop at Tate Modern ★★★★☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 31 months ago
Tate Modern Redefines Pop Art The World Goes Pop at Tate Modern 4
An image that blends Eastern and Western influences, showing that the influence of pop art wasn't simply in the Western world. © Ushio and Noriko Shinohara

Think Pop Art and it's easy to limit ourselves to either side of the Atlantic, with Peter Blake and Richard Hamilton in the UK and Warhol and Lichtenstein in the US. But this exhibition is seeking to change our perceptions and claims that pop art was a global phenomenon — not just a movement that highlighted our addiction to consumer imagery and culture.

Visitors may have to take a step back on entering the first room — the brightly coloured walls and imagery of popular brands and warfare are a massive hit to take in. A fighter jet transforms into a gun and Spanish collective Equipo Cronica's work contains pop art imagery with warfare and a portrait of El Greco, in a multi-layered work.

Pop art has always been associated with male artists, clearly highlighted in a work which shows a woman vacuuming a corridor with works by male artists on the wall. The most effective feminist work is a tribute to Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space; however most of the other feminist pieces in the show feel like they've been included to make a point about women being involved in Pop art, rather than for their artistic merit.

The strongest works here are those that focus on politics. A red and white pair of lips is sewn shut to symbolise the suppression of freedom of speech in Poland. There are works depicting police brutality, American soldiers torturing a captured member of the Viet Cong and a large piece where JFK and Khrushchev point in an accusatory manner at each other as West faces off with East.

Not all of the pieces here are effective, with thematic rooms the strongest and displays dedicated to one or two artists often being the weakest. However, it's a riot of colour and ideas in an accessible format. It introduces us to new artists and truly challenges how we define Pop Art, making it an excellent and ground breaking show.

The EY Exhibition: The World Goes Pop is on at Tate Modern until 24 January. Tickets are £16 for adults, concessions £14. It's also the last few weeks to catch the minimalism of Agnes Martin.

Over at Tate Britain are the impressive sculptures of Barbara Hepworth, the great works marred by odd curation in Fighting History and an extension of a few weeks for the experimental Tate Sensorium. For more exciting exhibitions see our top 10 picks for this autumn and September, plus there's still time to catch some of our most talked about exhibitions in August.

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A tribute to the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, Photo: Paul Louis © Evelyne Axell/DACS 2015
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Sex and violence are brought together as magazine friendly red lips give birth to an atomic blast. Photo: Tony Coll © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2015
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Teresa Burga's cubes are stretching the definition of pop art with their inclusion. Photo: Courtesy the artist and Galerie Barbara Thumm © Teresa Burga
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The world's love of violence symbolised by these bombs in love. Kevin Ryan/Kiki Kogelnik Foundation Vienna/New York

Last Updated 21 September 2015

James Guppy

Not another pop art exhibition!