The Tower of Babel by Barnaby Barford

V&A Project

19 — 27 Sept 2015

Art / Collectibles

Victoria & Albert Museum

Cromwell Road



A major sculptural installation created for the V&A by artist Barnaby Barford, The Tower of Babel, told an array of stories about our capital city, our society and economy and ourselves as consumers.

Standing an imposing six metres high, the Tower comprised of 3,000 bone china shops, each one unique, each depicting a real London shop photographed by the artist. At its base the shops are derelict, while at its pinnacle are the crème-de-la-crème of London’s exclusive boutiques and galleries. Standing as a monument to the great British pastime of shopping, Barford’s apparently precarious Tower playfully likened our efforts to find fulfilment through retail with the biblical Tower of Babel’s attempt to reach heaven. Explicitly blurring the boundaries of art and commerce, each shop in the Tower was for sale during the exhibition. With more prestigious but less affordable properties higher in the Tower, Barford confronted visitors with the choices we ourselves make as consumers, through necessity or desire. The development and creation process involved Barford cycling over 1,000 miles to photograph shop facades from each of London’s postcodes, which culminated in him manufacturing 3,000 bone china shops in Stoke-on-Trent.