Nicholas Penny

‘An ace caff with quite a good museum attached’. Some of the stuff there is quite sexy too, the advertisements for the V & A suggested. ‘We have to learn to be more popular without trivialising,’ says the Director. With whom? Certainly not foreign visitors, who found the advertisements very bizarre. Some may suppose that they were designed to captivate the man who enjoys the pin-up in his tabloid paper over a cuppa or a pint in a smoky café or pub, but he might have found the glib parody of Surrealism bewildering – the Indian fertility goddess blended with the model’s busty profile, the varnished nails on the ivory nude. The advertisements were addressing younger and more sophisticated males for whom a caff is as quaint as a cloth cap, reassuring them that it is smart to be philistine if you make smug jokes about it.

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