In the second instalment of defining the style of this decade, Nick Coleman talks to the director of the Whitechapel Gallery and Tina Brown, among others ...
From INTELLIGENT LIFE Magazine, Autumn 2009
ANDY BECKETT, Journalist and author of “When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies”
Most teen styles in this decade looked back to earlier trends: skinny trousers were originally a 1960s working-class style that cropped up again in the 1970s new wave; emos were really just a re-working of the 1980s goth. But the hoodie belonged to the Noughties. I don’t believe it was just about the ASBO generation hiding their faces from CCTV, either. It’s more practical than that. If you spend all your time hanging around on the street in a coldish, wettish country, a hood will keep you warm, and stops the rain spoiling your hairstyle. Plus it creates a safe anonymity for a teenage boy to hide in: if you’re a skinny, pimply 14-year-old who has to deal with a lot of confrontation, putting your hood up means that, from behind at least, someone might take you for something more dangerous than you really are. Interestingly, it’s one of the few examples of working-class style that crossed all class boundaries: though I don’t think you’d catch him in huge, hip-hop sweatpants, even Prince Harry has been seen in a hoodie.
JULIA PEYTON-JONES, Director of the Serpentine Gallery, London
Apple. Instant landmarks. Price tags
On any future film set seeking to represent the decade, technology, and in particular Apple, would have to be central. Architecture too. It’s not that no one was aware of architecture or design technology before, but it was in this decade that these things became embedded in our lives. Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Sir Norman Foster: landmarks for eternity appeared worldwide. Think of Dubai and what it represents: the idea that things can appear out of nowhere as if ready-made: it didn’t exist a moment ago and now here it is, fully formed. And what underpins this is the thing that underpins everything else: the pound or dollar sign. This was the decade when it became completely acceptable that there was a price tag for everything.
TOM HUNTER, Photographer
Pixellated images are a very important part of the look of this decade. With the twin towers, Abu Graib and so on, most of the images we saw were very pixellated: a lot of them were shot at distance on video cameras or cellphones. These were not the Hasselblad images we got back from the surface of the Moon in the 1960s. Plus everyone has a phone on them now and everyone is recording stuff all the time, so the low-res, heavily pixellated image is very much the means by which we see things. Imagery is no longer the preserve of professional image-makers.
ILSE CRAWFORD, Interior designer
The Design Academy Eindhoven is an integrated school in the Netherlands. It’s become really quite cult in the design world; it’s often described in the press as being the best design school in the world. Many people who have surfaced in the past ten years have studied there: Tord Boontje, who famously did the blossom chandelier, or Hella Jongerius, who started a rapprochement between industry and craft. They’re people who substantially changed the face of not just design, but retail and the way things are presented—moving from a controlled, very functional look to something that is emotional, expressive and poetic, that has a connection with craft. So I’d say the DAE sums up the “look” of the decade—but then I would say that, because I teach there.
IWONA BLAZWICK, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery, London
Art in the Noughties is like the 1960s, you get a crossover between art, music and film. It’s very interdisciplinary. There’s a lot of sliding around in the spaces between. Plus you see the power of the market, embodied by ArtForum and Frieze magazines. Their look is very sophisticated, very polished; gorgeous and sparkly and beautiful. It’s quite different from the slightly scabby, DIY street-aesthetic of the 1990s.
STEPHEN BAYLEY, Design commentator
You could characterise the first decade of the 21st century in terms of style, architecture and products and so on—in which case the iPod is an obvious thing to mention. But the iPod is significant not for the way it looks but for the way it changes the way we think. Equally, e-mail means we write more—not on paper, I grant you, but we do write more. And these seem to me to be the significant things of this decade. And Google, which is immaterial, is quite the most significant thing of all.
I do think we’re coming to the end of a sort of sinusoidal wave, which began just after the second world war, in which life was all about making more, consuming more and so on. In architecture this is quite clear. The Chelsea Barracks is the last gasp of the Richard Rogers school of modernism. And much as I admire Rogers, he is now as much an historical anachronism as Quinlan Terry.
TINA BROWN, Editor of the Daily Beast
Bernie Madoff’s smile
Madoff represents an era on trial. Because even when we didn’t know what was going on, it was going on; and his 150-year sentence represents the frustration and the fury that we all feel at how many high-rollers made out like bandits. The sight of that greedy little smirk pasted on Madoff’s face throughout every one of his hearings sums up the past ten years: he is the icon of the Noughties.
Picture Credit: JasonRogersFotographie
(Nick Coleman is former arts editor of the Independent.)