May 30, 2018

The director of the V&A is defending an exhibition that displays part of a demolished London housing project.

“Robin Hood Gardens: A Ruin In Reverse” opened this week as part of the Applied Arts Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale. The exhibit includes a fragment of the Robin Hood Gardens housing project that was demolished last year to make way for a £300 million development. The Telegraph reports that the large chunk of the former edifice—which the V&A acquired last year, calling the building “a nationally important and internationally recognised work of Brutalist architecture”—is plunked down in the Biennale for visitors to walk through and explore, leading critics to put the show on blast as a “fetishisation of working-class ways of living” and an “act of poverty tourism.”
V&A director Tristram Hunt forcefully rejected such arguments in op-ed in The Art Newspaper that attacked those who accused him of “artwashing” issues of the lower class by placing part of the building in Venice as an exhibit. He claimed that his curatorial decisions may not be popular with everyone, but that he has to “think beyond fashion.” “We will still be there long after the keyboard warriors and 'art-wash' agitators have moved on,” he wrote. There have been protests on the grounds of the Biennale, which has not yet commented on the fracas.