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From Britart to Baghdad

By Sebastian Smee   July 2003

“Taste for art in England is at bottom a fashion,” wrote Henry James, “a need of luxury, a tribute… to propriety, not an outgush of productive power.” Could this still be true? Some of the most imaginative work in British galleries goes into exhibition design and, often enough, the exhibits themselves are objects of design. Manolo Blahnik’s stilettos, which seem on such intimate, adoring terms with women’s feet, were glimpsed at the Design Museum earlier this year amid a ceiling-high tunnel of shoe boxes; Mario Testino’s magnified photographs of orgiastic celebrity were crowded erotically together on the walls of the…

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