The unsung pioneers of Pop Art, DANAD Design, are having a moment in a new exhibition at Paul Smith
DANAD Design, the unsung pioneers of Britain’s Pop Art scene, are having a revival in a vibrant exhibition that traces how their bold, colourful art infiltrated the realm of furniture and everyday surfaces.
In 1958, freshly graduated from the RCA and Slade, artists Peter Blake, Bernard Cohen, Barry Daniels, Tom Adams, Robyn Denny and Edward Wright set up DANAD. “DANAD didn’t want to take art too seriously and democratised it,” says Barry Daniels’ son, Mark. The group’s approach was to bring artwork down off the walls and apply it to tables, lights, room screens and household items – using plastic laminates as a medium. The witty, irreverence of their products gained traction and the group were hailed in the press as ‘prophets of the design revolution in the home’ – eventually stocked by Heals, Liberty and Harrods. They went on to receive commissions at The Royal Bank of Scotland and Baden-Powell House in London.
Much of DANAD’s archive had been locked away for 50 years until Mark discovered it in 2014 in the basement of Marden Hill House, the group’s legendary countryside bolthole that attracted the likes of Mick Jagger, Jimmy Hendrix, Sylvia Plath and Terence Conran into its orbit. “It was an Aladdin’s cave and it took some time to sort out,” Mark says of his efforts to preserve the group’s collection of original paintings, photography, printed illustrations, letters and drawings, most of which are on display.
Tattooed Lady, a low rectangular table featuring a bikini-clad, inked woman, features the group’s first produced laminate, after the original surface art by Peter Blake. Camel Screen, with a Formica laminate, is a reproduction of an original artwork by Barry Daniels – and both are the essence of the revolutionary spirit that the group lived by.
DANAD didn’t want to take art too seriously and democratised it
But their creative energy and vision outstripped their business acumen and DANAD Design broke up in 1962 after just four years. The artists continued to blaze their own trails with Peter Blake designing the cover of the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, Barry Daniels creating textiles for Liberty, Mary Quant and Biba, and several of the others opening their own galleries.
Mark remembers his childhood at Marden Hill fondly: “It was idyllic. We lived in a huge empty ballroom, living hand by mouth. It was bordering on the obsessional but I loved it.”
DANAD – the Art of Pop Design (1958-1962)
Until 10 May. Paul Smith Flagship Store, 9 Albemarle Street, Mayfair, London W1S 4BL