The American Dream: Pop to the Present


Museums & Galleries


All ages


British Museum

British Museum, Great Russell Street , WC1B

9 March – 18 June

Tickets: £16.50 adults, under 16s go free

The American Dream: Pop to the Present


American Gumball Machine British Museum

The past six decades have been among the most dynamic and turbulent in US history, from JFK’s assassination, Apollo 11 and Vietnam to the AIDS crisis, racism and gender politics. Responding to the changing times, American artists have produced prints unprecedented in their scale and ambition.

Taking inspiration from the world around them – billboard advertising, global politics, Hollywood and household objects – American artists created highly original prints to rival their paintings and sculptures. Printmaking brought their work to a much wider and more diverse audience.

a&u review

"The British Museum might be the last place you would expect to go for an array of 20th century images of the USA, but that is what you will get. In spades. From the first room of Warhol's iconic Marilyn screen prints facing his series of eerie images of the electric chair, this is a visual representation of half a century of modern American culture. Lots of the images have become part of popular culture and are immediately recognisable but this is not an in your face exhibition. It is about printmaking, the process (there is some great video footage of them being made) and the results. Often they are gentler versions of well known canvases - Wayne Theibaud's' series of food and cakes and his gumball machine have a retro 50s' feel to them; Hockney and Bechtle's California landscapes are softer. Race, gender, AIDS, economic success are all here though.

Don't miss the excellent 4 minute video of key events in history: the assassination of Kennedy, Martin Luther King's 'I Had a Dream' speech, Klu Klux Klan burnings, Obama's inauguration, interspersed with daily American life over the period. On the adjacent wall the narrative is paralleled in a slide show of images from the show. It works brilliantly."

Make sure to collect a family activity pack at the exhibition entrance, designed to help kids and families look at the artworks together. The pack consists of a series of cards explaining that printmaking is all about layering and combining different colours, shapes and materials. 

Use the cards to explore the exhibition:
Match them to the artworks. Which colours, shapes or surfaces can you find?
Look through them at the artworks - and then at each other. What do you notice? 
Combine them to make different colours, effects and images.  What discoveries do you make?

Tickets: £16.50 adults, under 16s free. Click here to book.


9 March – 18 June

Tickets: £16.50 adults, under 16s go free


British Museum, Great Russell Street , WC1B

Venue phone:

020 7323 8299

Venue website:

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