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JUST WHAT WAS IT . . . ?: THE ART OF RICHARD HAMILTON

Richard Hamilton, Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?, 1956, collage on paper, 10 1/4 x 9 3/4".

RICHARD HAMILTON, who died on September 13 at the age of eighty-nine, did more than anyone else to announce the idea of Pop art, with his famous collage Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?, 1956, a tiny image of a modern interior cluttered with consumer products, media, and people. Originally made for the Whitechapel Gallery show “This Is Tomorrow” (where it served as an illustration in the catalogue), it became, over time, the first emblem of Pop. Equally important was the list of Pop attributes that Hamilton included in a 1957 letter to the architects Peter and Alison Smithson:

Pop Art is:

Popular (designed for a mass audience)

Transient (short-term solution)

Expendable (easily forgotten)

Low cost

Mass produced

Young (aimed at youth)

Witty

Sexy

Gimmicky

Glamorous

Big business.*

To meet all these criteria was nearly impossible (in retrospect, Hamilton

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