Last month, London’s Design Museum was hit by controversy when it was made to pull 30 designers’ pieces from its political and protest art exhibition Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008-18.
The artists signed a petition to have their work removed from the show after it was revealed that the museum had hosted a private event by global arms and defence company Leonardo, with many exhibitors feeling this was hypocritical and at odds with the ethos of the show.
Designers including Jonathan Barnbrook, Shepard Fairey and Fraser Muggeridge were among those who asked for their work to be removed, resulting in a third of the exhibits being removed from the huge Design Museum show on 2 August, before the end of its run. The paid-for show was then subsequently made free entry.
At the time of the artworks being removed, the artists put together a collective statement, which argued that having their work on the walls of the museum while the Leonardo event took place was “completely unacceptable” as it made their art “complicit in the arms trade”.
Following the furore, the Design Museum released a statement confirming that it would not host any private events from defence, fossil fuel or tobacco companies in the immediate future, while it reviews its policies.
In a further act of protest, the abstaining designers then decided to hold their own exhibition of the removed work – except, this time, making it free to view.
From Nope to Hope: Art vs Arms, Oil and Injustice showcases the work of the protesting designers and more, including The Guerrilla Girls, Milton Glaser and Jeremy Deller.
Originally launched at London Design Festival last week, the show has been extended until the 30 September, with the aim of enabling more people to see it.
The updated Nope to Hope show aims to showcase activist art that has “tried to influence politics, call out injustice and make the world a kinder, safer and more beautiful place”, according to the organisers.
Exhibits include the seminal “Hope” Barack Obama US presidential campaign poster, designed by Shepard Fairey, street art condemning police killings, and a giant sea monster puppet criticising the actions of oil and gas company BP.
The organisers say all the art in the show has been “on the frontlines of social justice struggles” across the world to “disrupt, resist, satirise and mobilise”.
Exhibition artist Peter Kennard, adds: “We are living in an age of global emergency. The Design Museum should be at the vanguard of thinking about design for a better future. But no, it is old school, still living in a past that separates art from action.
“I withdrew my work ‘Union Mask’ from exhibition in the Design Museum permanent collection in solidarity with the Hope to Nope artists, who are uncompromising in their belief that the art they make is not separate from the ethical values they hold.”
Charlie Waterhouse, an artist and one of the organisers of From Nope to Hope, says: “From Nope to Hope not only puts [most] of the removed work back on show, it does it for free, and adds a wealth of new material and artists into the mix.
“Furthermore, the show exhibits the work in its activist context. The art here is a by-product of real world, grassroots, do-it-yourself activism, the likes of which the ivory-towered Design Museum can only dream of through an Instagram filter.”
From Nope to Hope: Art vs Arms, Oil and Injustice runs until 30 September at the Brixton Recreation Centre, 27 Brixton Station Road, London SW9 8QQ. Entry is free, but you need to download tickets online. For more information, head here.