The American Dream, pop to the present

John Stevenson, International Training Programme

The American Dream: Displayed from 9th March – 9th June in the Sainsburys Exhibition Gallery at the British Museum.

The American Dream exhibition examines the past six decades of US history, through the medium of pop art and print.


It displays work from: JFK’s assassination, the Vietnam conflict, Apollo 11 to the AIDS crisis, racism and gender politics.

The thought-provoking work begins with the explosion of pop art in the 1960s. The exhibition includes works by the most celebrated American artists –  From Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha, Kara Walker and Julie Mehretu to the enigmatic Andy Warhol.

The latter’s display of ‘the little electric chair’ and the iconic ‘Marilyn’ are just two examples of the diversity and power of this exhibition.


This work is all boldly experimented with printmaking and powerful metaphorical undertones.

Each print tells a story.

Inspiration is taken from the world around them – billboard advertising, global politics, to Hollywood and household objects.

It is thought Printmaking brought their work to a much wider and more diverse audience.

Many of these displays also address the deep divisions in society that continue to resonate with us today. A politically, economically and timeless exhibition – it shows how far the US has progressed in the last six decades, whilst also showing in turn,  how they have come full circle.

This is a poignant, challenging and important exhibition – which is a credit to the museum for displaying an outstanding collection of modern and contemporary prints for the very first time.