Jane Pavitt, design historian
Jane Pavitt was the University of Brighton Principal Research Fellow in Design at the Victoria & Albert Museum from 1997 until 2009; a member of both the Research Centre at the University and the Research Department at the Museum. Her work focused on later 20th century and contemporary design, and particularly on strategies for presenting design through museum exhibitions and collections. To this end, during her time at Brighton she curated 6 design exhibitions for the V&A. She was the curator of Cold War Modern: Design 1945-70 staged at the V&A in 2008. In 2009, this exhibition toured to the Museum of Modern Art in Rovereto, Italy and the National Gallery of Art, Vilnius, Lithuania (closing 6 December 2009). She is currently working on an exhibition entitled Postmodernism: Design 1970-1990, for the V&A in 2011.
Her work on design collections and their uses began at Camberwell College of Arts, London, where she was Subject Leader in the history of decorative arts (1992-7). During this time, she was also appointed as Research Fellow to the Camberwell Collection, a post-war collection of craft and design which had been assembled as a teaching collection by the London County Council beginning in 1951. Pavitt was responsible for initiating a research project into the collection, the result of which was an exhibition, publication and conference on its pedagogical origins in 1996 (Pavitt, Object Lesson: The Camberwell Collection, London Institute, 1996).
In 1997 she was appointed first as Senior Research Fellow at the University of Brighton and the Victoria & Albert Museum. This initial 6-year fellowship was later extended by three years, funded jointly by the University and the British Academy (latterly AHRB) and titled ‘Product Design and Museology: A Framework for the Millenium’.
The fellowship was directed at the development of research, exhibition, interpretation and collecting strategies for product design in the museum. Since then Pavitt has worked in a cross-departmental manner, developing exhibition projects which have led to collecting, and museological research resulting in a number of published papers. In 2003 Pavitt delivered a report to the museum outlining this research, and on issues relating to the future of both contemporary and 20th century design in the museum. She has been an active member of the Contemporary Steering Group and the Spiral Project (1997-2004), as well as various 20th century research initiatives.
Jane Pavitt’s areas of expertise include museum history, theory and practice, design and curatorship, and critical contexts for contemporary design in a museum context. Also, subjects specific to branding, both in terms of design practice and consumer culture. Additionally, research into design culture in a cold war context (in a British or English-language context), and postmodernism and design. Her work while with the University of Brighton presented postmodern design as a set of liberating strategies used to express identity in an age of rapid commodification, during the 1970s and 1980s. An exhibition, the first of its kind to survey the international arts situation, covering architecture, design, fashion, graphics, performance, film and video, tours internationally in 2012, accompanied by a major book, edited by Pavitt and Adamson, and conference in 2011.
Jane Pavitt curated the exhibition Cold War Modern: Design 1945-70, staged in 2008 at the V&A and in 2009 at the Museum of Modern Art, Rovereto (Italy) and the National Gallery of Art, Vilnius (Lithuania). She worked with the show’s consultant, David Crowley from the Royal College of Art on the exhibition and its accompanying book. The exhibition explored the extraordinary international developments in modern art and design, from both sides of the Iron Curtain, in the period. At its core is the thesis that the Cold War can be understood as a ‘competition to be modern’ and that this was made manifest in art, architecture, design and film.