Further musings on The Great Exhibition 1851

The Great Exhibition was all about standardizing a style to aspire to – ‘high’ Victorian design. A way to show off the British Empire, re-enforcing Britain’s place in the world as an industrial nation. Perhaps it showed an insecurity in maintaining that image, and that position.
The exhibition had two results:

  • Designers were influenced by the international exhibits they saw there (oriental, Indian etc).
  • Some had a more reactionary response, and rebelled against any attempts to impose a design ‘standard’ – an aesthetic to inspire to.

There still are smaller ‘great’ exhibitions now. For example the Tent exhibition in London in September. Do such ‘displays’ of design attempt to put a stamp of standard on the design of the day? Is it just simply part of a nation’s culture, a normal part of human behaviour, to emulate, copy, aspire to, be inspired by whatever is regarded as stylish at the time?

Can the ideas of an era’s style by linked to wealth, and in fact are we just always equating wealth with happiness? Or on the contrary are the happiest individuals those that have their own style, those that rebel against the trends and what is regarded as ‘high’ fashion or the lifestyle to have?

Are designers conforming to the trend in order to appeal to this idea of wealth equals style in order to get recognition (and wealth) themselves, or the opposite, aiming to set a new trend in order to get fame?

I think that we are a lot more varied and original these days in terms of design and style. At least this is true compared to the Victorians.

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