Review: ‘A Journey Through London Subculture: 1980s to Now’ by the ICA


The Institute of Contemporary Art have gone slightly rogue this September and

October; they are currently exhibiting thirty years worth of London subculture at

the Old Selfridges Hotel.


The Old Selfridges Hotel is actually in the same building as the Selfridges we all

know and love (you enter through a staircase adjacent to the food hall entrance).

The abandoned part of the building is open-plan, unfurnished, and its ceiling

is strewn with pipes. This derelict interior, contrasted with the posh, pristine

exterior of Selfridges, makes the perfect transgressive setting for an exploration

of subculture.


80s posters

The various artists commissioned by the ICA to produce an insight into London’s

underground world in the last thirty years have used different mediums for their

contribution. Most artists filled a vitrine with memorabilia from the subversive

worlds of fashion, clubbing, music, and art. Some of my personal favourites focused

on the crazy clubbing of the eighties, including photos and posters of people

with giant hair, colourful clothes, and insane make-up. Why wasn’t I alive in the

eighties? Why!?


Other artists had opted to make videos, which I have to admit went right over my

head (this art was slightly too contemporary for me…) – it was just a lot of noise

that seemed to make no sense whatsoever in relation to what was on the screen.

I spent a pretty long time in that abandoned room somewhere in the labyrinth

that is Selfridges. I would recommend it to anyone in that area of London; it’s

free and interesting, though prepare yourself to be completely jealous of how fun life

was in the eighties, especially for the cool subversive hipsters.




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