This Is Tomorrow

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
A sculpture wall by Sarah Jackson from This is Tomorrow.

This Is Tomorrow was a seminal art exhibition in August 1956 at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, facilitated by curator Bryan Robertson. The core of the exhibition was the ICA Independent Group.


This is Tomorrow was conceived by architectural critic Theo Crosby, who was the technical editor of Architectural Design magazine, and a member of the ICA. Theo Crosby had attended a congress in Paris in 1954 on the drawing together of fine and applied arts, and was later approached about a similar concept to This Is Tomorrow by representatives of Groupe Espace in London.

The This Is Tomorrow exhibition included artists, architects, musicians and graphic designers working together in 12 teams — referred to as "groups" — an example of multi-disciplinary collaboration that was still unusual. Each group took as their starting point the human senses and the theme of habitation.

Group 2[edit]

The exhibition's most remembered exhibit was the room created by Group 2, comprising Richard Hamilton, John Voelcker and John McHale, though with help from Magda Cordell and Frank Cordell. It included the Op Art dazzle panels,[1] collage Space modules, and pop art readymade of a Marilyn Monroe poster, the Van Gogh Sunflowers poster, a film advertising billboard of the Forbidden Planet, Robby the Robot, a Jukebox, the strawberry perfumed carpet, an endless reel of film depicting the Royal Navy Fleet at sea, large Guinness beer bottles, a Marlon Brando poster image and a 'CinemaScope' collage mural design, and the design of the Pop art collage poster that were all provided by John McHale.[2]

Frank Cordell assisted McHale with accessing the film posters such as Julius Caesar (1953) for the collage murals, the Forbidden Planet items, the juke box, and installing the film projector, and installing the Duchamp rotor discs given to McHale by Marcel Duchamp in New York.[3] Frank Cordell also installed the electronic amplifier and microphone enabling the ambient sounds from audience cybernetic feedback. The Senses panel with arrows featuring Tito was a joint collaboration between Hamilton and McHale, and the version [2] (this link no longer works!!) reproduced in the catalogue was slightly different in wording to alter the optical perception of viewers. Hamilton later produced a third version depicting the Senses panel in an interior collage depicting the TIT, but he changed the face to Pierre Mendès France, and changed the Guinness beer bottles and altered other visual details in the mural. McHale and Hamilton collaborated on the Spectrum diagram [3] (this link no longer works!!) reproduced in the exhibition catalogue, and McHale later produced a modified version of this in his Man Plus section in his book on the Future of the Future.

The Pop art poster Just What Is It that Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?, was designed by Hamilton for Group 2. A second poster, comprising intersecting arrows and swirls was designed by McHale and taken to the silk screen stage by Hamilton.[4] McHale also supplied a third separate designed poster to Hamilton with an arrow, containing the formula E=MC2 which was a Pop art '"mass" consumer' reference to the Albert Einstein famous mass-energy equivalence relativity formula. But Hamilton chose not to collaborate on the third poster, and expend the 'creative "energy"' to bring the E=MC2 to final completion at the TIT.

Catalogue and guides[edit]

The exhibition catalogue featured essays by Reyner Banham and Lawrence Alloway. McHale wrote the text for the page Are they Cultured? [4] and it was intended to be featured with the McHale designed collage [5] that got mispaginated in the catalogue.

Colin St John Wilson designed the exhibition guide. The graphic designer Edward Wright (1912–88), who taught typography at the Central School of Art from 1950 to 1955 and then the Royal College of Art, designed the catalogue for This Is Tomorrow. Theo Crosby found the money for it, and it was printed by Lund Humphries. The director of Lund Humphries, Peter Gregory along with Peter Watson were among the original founding patrons of the ICA.


This is Tomorrow is now considered a watershed in post-war British Art and in some respects kick started the development of the British arm of Pop Art. The 1977 song "This is Tomorrow" from In Your Mind by Bryan Ferry, a student of Richard Hamilton's, took its title from the name of the show.

Parts of This Is Tomorrow were recreated in 1990 for an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts.

Artist Teams in Exhibition[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ A photo of the Dazzle Panels produced by John McHale is provided on page 139 of The Independent Group by Robbins, and a description is provided in Warholstars [1]
  2. ^ A good deal of the visual material was provided by John McHale when he returned in late May from his academic year-long fellowship at Yale page 139, David Robbins, Aesthetics of Plenty, MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-18139-8
  3. ^ Projectors , gramophone motors for moving the Duchamp rotoreliefs, film posters,and probably the juke box,were supplied by Frank Cordell, Robbins page 139
  4. ^ John-Paul Stonard (2007), "Pop in the Age of Boom: Richard Hamilton's ‘Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?’" PDF, The Burlington Magazine, September 2007