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Friday, 8 August 2014

#hipstermuseums: Beating the heat at the Fan Museum

When you are sweltering in the London summer, a cool serene museum or gallery can seem like just the place to idle away the hot days. Well, that is until you try and squeeze yourself into a blockbuster exhibition and find yourself trapped in a sea of tourists and school children. There couldn't be a more opportune time to get out there and explore some of London's lesser-known museums. So in celebration of the sunny weather, we have picked Greenwich's Fan Museum as our next #hipstermuseum.

You have probably heard of the Fan Museum before - it's one of those places everyone seems to know about and rarely make the trek to. I mean, Greenwich is a bit far out from Central. Or so I thought- really it's only about 15 minutes on the DLR from Bank, so no excuses. If you have been to the Fan Museum, you were probably bringing your granny to tea in the Orangerie. And to be fair, just look at their tea room. Why haven't you brought your mum here on Mother's Day?

But the Fan Museum is far more than just a destination for ladies who lunch. We have to admit after a trip around their galleries, we emerged with the realisation that fans are actually pretty cool. No pun intended.
Are you a Gauguin fan? Hah, I crack myself up.
No but really this is a fan by Gauguin, Whut.
First of all, fans are seriously like... art. Honestly. The first galleries contain examples of painted fans from the 17th century, helpfully displayed next to the paintings or prints which inspired them. These painted scenes were then laid on to a structure to create a decorative fan. Pretty high culture for a fashion accessory. The downstairs is pretty much what you might expect something like the Fan Museum to be like. Historic fans, displays about the cultural significance of fans, fan production and even a few contemporary fans just for giggles.
Obsessed with these cases. So stately, so cute. 
Upstairs brings you to the temporary exhibition space, which is easily as big if not bigger than the permanent displays downstairs. If you thought the first few cases seemed old fashioned, the upstairs certainly does not. Beautifully kept and fitted with state of the art cases, the temporary exhibition proves that the Fan Museum is not to be scoffed at. Most small museums would sell their curator to get their hands on display materials this nice. And filling them is an absolutely fascinating exhibition about fans, advertising and fashion in the Art Deco era.
Tip top standard for such a tiny museum!

Seduced! Fans and the Art of Advertising explores the big brands who were making use of this fashion accessory in the 1920s and 1930s. Luxury brands from champagne to fashion houses, hotels and shipping lines made sure their messages were heard via the fan. We particularly enjoyed the Moet & Chandon fans which made use of the age's most popular commercial artist to produce unique designs.

When you think about it, it's actually relatively recently that fans stopped being an essentially part of our wardrobe. Really into the 1920s and 30s, fans would have been an important accessory in a noble tradition dating back to 3000BC. There's no surprise then that fans seem to be making their own come back in the sweaty Tube cars of London - a new hipster trend perhaps? Well if you are feeling behind the times, you can always pick yourself up on in the Fan Museum gift shop!

Seduced! Fans and the Art of Advertising is on at the Fan Museum until the 28th of September. 

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