Room 9

Design – Architecture – Products, 1964–79

As well as American products, such as the badge reading SLIP IT TO ME that he enlarged to create the painting Epiphany, Hamilton had long been interested in post-war European design. He particularly admired the German electrical company Braun and its Chief Design Officer Dieter Rams, whose ‘consumer products’, Hamilton wrote, ‘have come to occupy a place in my heart and consciousness that Mont Sainte-Victoire did in Cézanne’s’.

Hamilton began to base works on Braun’s marketing images. For Still-life he enlarged and printed a readymade image of a portable grill; a year later he began work on his first Toaster and related studies and prints. Using highly reflective chromed steel for the face of the toaster and the frame, Hamilton set the sharply reflected image of the viewer/consumer against a strange blur.

Around this time, Hamilton worked on a series of reliefs based on the exterior of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum, which had opened in 1959. Sprayed with cellulose lacquer or coated with gold leaf or metalflake (used in customised cars) these highly seductive reliefs suggest that the iconic appearance of the museum had become as impactful as its collection.

Hamilton’s approach to design could be irreverent and witty: he produced a case and an accompanying TV commercial for a multiple titled The critic laughs, mounting a set of dentures on a hand-held electric toothbrush. Later, in the 1970s, he turned his first name into an advert, and modified the merchandise used for Ricard pastis on ashtrays, signs and carafes.