Barnaby Barford’s Tower of Babel

In 2015, Barnaby Barford created a 6 meter (18 feet) high sculpture out of 3,000 individual ceramic pieces for the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Each individual bone china unit contains photographs of an existing, particular London retail shop, transferred onto ceramic surface prior to firing.

Collectively, the sculpture is a monument to consumer culture, reflecting not just stores that sell consumer products, but also documenting architectural styles at a point in time and reflecting hierarchies of purchasing and consumption in modern British society. Barford placed outdated, closed shops at the bottom of his Tower, more modern, typical shops (such as local butchers and stationary shops) above those lower layers, more expensive and exclusive shops above that, and topped the Tower off with fine art galleries and auction houses such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

Individual sculptural items were (and still are) listed for sale at various prices at the V&A Shop, ranging from modest £90 to extremely expensive £6,000 – prices rising for shops placed higher on the Tower’s structure.

More information about the Tower of Babel is available on the V&A’s website. Information on Barnaby Barford himself can be found on his website.

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