Barnaby Barford: The Tower of Babel

A major sculptural installation created for the V&A by artist Barnaby Barford, The Tower of Babel tells an array of stories about our capital city, our society and economy, and ourselves as consumers. Standing an imposing six metres high, the Tower comprises 3000 bone china shops, each one unique, each depicting a real London shop photographed by the artist. At its base the shops are derelict, while at its pinnacle are the crème-de-la-crème of London’s exclusive boutiques and galleries. Standing as a monument to the great British pastime of shopping, Barford’s apparently precarious Tower playfully likens our efforts to find fulfilment through retail with the biblical Tower of Babel’s attempt to reach heaven. Explicitly blurring the boundaries of art and commerce, each shop in the Tower will be for sale during its exhibition. With more prestigious but less affordable properties higher in the Tower, Barford confronts us with the choices we ourselves make as consumers, through necessity or desire. This blog explores The Tower of Babel through its development, creation, exhibition, and sale, processes which will involve the artist cycling over 1000 miles to photograph shop facades from each of London’s postcodes, and the manufacture of 3000 bone china shops in Stoke-on-Trent.