Five must-see design exhibitions


Bloomsbury Rooms

When Roger Fry set up The Omega Workshop in 1913, the intention was to produce good, affordable design. The problem was that the Bloomsbury artists he employed were not trained craftspeople. As a result, the pots were wonky, the teapots dribbled and the chairs stuck to the seats of people’s trousers. Yet the utopian spirit of the enterprise – a desire to break down boundaries between decorative and fine art remains immensely influential in the history of British art. This exhibition recreates some of the homes The Omega Workshop transformed in their all too brief and brilliant existence.


Noble Prospects: Capability Brown and the Yorkshire Landscape

Described as ‘the Shakespeare of the gardening world’, Capability Brown did more than any designer to transform the rural pastures of Britain. Using only grass, water and trees, he converted even the most unpromising scrub of land into a bucolic Eden. This exhibition, marking the 300th anniversary of the master’s birth, is a comprehensive analysis of Brown’s working practice in Yorkshire featuring sketches, portraits and paintings of the gardens he brought back to nature.

Sanderson 'Mobiles' design

Britain in the Fifties: Design and Aspiration

The 1950s was the make do and mend era, when post-war austerity meant good, functional design with few frills. Yet out of this restrictive period emerged a group of innovative, ambitious designers who pioneered a new modernism that was aspirational and available to all. This exhibition featuring Ken Wood, Lucienne Day and Robert Welch reveals just how much of an impact these revolutionary designers had on Britain’s homes.

Ottavio Missoni, Untitled, 1971

Missoni Art Colour

The colourful high stripes and zig zags of Missoni are so synonymous with the brand it would be difficult to imagine them belonging to anyone else. Yet when Ottavio and Rosita Missoni started their fashion house in 1953, they took their inspiration from modernism, and in particular the dynamic paintings of the Italian Futurists and the colourist Sonia Delaunay. This exhibition showcases the artists who influenced them, revealing in the process, how Missoni’s creations became works of art in their own right.


Shoes: Pleasure and Pain

Charting the cultural significance of shoes throughout history, this exhibition reveals the power of footwear, as a status symbol or a means of seduction. From tiny Chinese slippers for women with bound feet to Parakeet wedges, these extraordinary creations could have been made by elves and worn by princesses. The most contentious being Christian Louboutin’s Ballerina Ultima fetish shoes in which the wearer can only move by crawling.

"Art Fund" is the operating name of the National Art Collections Fund, a charity registered in England and Wales (209174) and Scotland (SC038331)