Professor Jane Pavitt


  • Professor Jane Pavitt is the Dean of the School of Humanities. She is a specialist in twentieth-century and contemporary design, with a particular area of expertise and interest in design curation. She worked as a research fellow and exhibition curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum for over ten years, curating a series of exhibitions that broadened the framework of understanding for design practice and history in the museum context; these included Brand.New (2000), an exploration of branding from a historical and contemporary perspective; Cold War Modern: Design 1945–70 (2008); and Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970–1990 (2011). Her current research interests include Design and the Welfare State; design professionalization and pedagogy in post-war Britain, and its international networks. She is also interested in curatorial contexts for design, both historical and in terms of contemporary practice.

  • Biography

  • Jane Pavitt joined the RCA as Head of the History of Design Programme in summer 2010, and was made Dean of the School of Humanities in 2011.

    Previously the University of Brighton Principal Research Fellow at the V&A, she has been responsible for the development of research into twentieth-century and contemporary design and curatorial practices at the V&A since 1997, when she was awarded the University of Brighton Fellowship in conjunction with the British Academy. She completed the principal phase of the Fellowship in 2003, with her report on Product Design and Museology: A Framework for the Millennium, the research for which prepared a new framework for the collection, presentation and interpretation of modern design in the museum.

    During her time at the V&A, she curated a series of exhibitions: Designing the Digital Age (1999); The Shape of Colour: Red (for the Glasgow 1999 Festival of Architecture and Design); Brand.New, an exploration of branding cultures (co-curator with Gareth Williams) (2000); and Brilliant: Contemporary Lights and Lighting (2004). In 2008 she was lead curator for the major international exhibition Cold War Modern: Design 1945–70 (with consultant curator and RCA Professor David Crowley). This exhibition, described in the press as ‘Britain’s finest design exhibition in years’, subsequently toured to MART, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rovereto, Italy, and the National Gallery of Art, Vilnius, Lithuania (2009). In 2011 she was co-curator of Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990 (with Dr Glenn Adamson). This exhibition also toured to Italy and Switzerland in 2012.

    Jane Pavitt graduated from the V&A/RCA History of Design course in 1991. She was Senior Lecturer in Design History at Camberwell College from 1992 to 1997, where she established a BA programme in the History of the Decorative Arts and curated the 1996 exhibition Object Lesson: The Camberwell Collection. Her other varied research interests have included British design post-1945, Czech twentieth-century architecture and the history of curatorial and exhibition practices in design.

    She has published a wide range of books and articles in support of her research over the years, and was editor for the book series V&A Contemporary. She has written for a wide range of journals and design publications, including Blueprint and Design Magazine, and made a number of TV appearances speaking on design issues.

    Alongside her role as Dean of School, she is an occasional tutor on the History of Design Programme, and supervises research students. She is a member of the AHRC Peer Review College.

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  • Practice

  • As well as her work as a curator, lecturer and writer, Professor Jane Pavitt is a regular speaker at international events and conferences organised by museums, academic institutions and design organisations.

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    • External collaborations

    • Professor Jane Pavitt has been external examiner at BA and PhD levels for various institutions, including the National College of Art and Design, Dublin (NCAD), Buckinghamshire University; Central Saint Martins (University of the Arts); Sussex University and the Bartlett (UCL). 

    • Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes

    • Exhibitions

      Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990, V&A Museum September 24th 2011 – 16th January 2012. This exhibition toured to MART (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art), Rovereto, Italy (Spring 2012) and the Landesmuseum Zurich (Summer 2012).

      Cold War Modern: Design 1945-70, V&A Museum September 25th 2008 – January 11th 2009. The exhibition toured to MART, Rovereto, Italy and the National Gallery of Art, Vilnius, Lithuania, in 2009

      Selected Publications

      Books (co-edited and co-authored)

      Pavitt, J. and Adamson, G. (eds) (2011) Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990, London: V&A Publishing. Italian translation of Catalogue, 2012.

      Pavitt, J. and Crowley, D. (eds) (2008) Cold War Modern: Design 1945-1970, London: V&A Publications. Italian translation of Catalogue, 2009.

      Books (sole author)

      Pavitt, J. (2008) Fear and Fashion in the Cold War, London: V&A Publications

      Pavitt, J. (2004) Brilliant, Lights & Lighting, London: V&A Publications

      Pavitt, J. (2000) Buildings of Europe: Prague, Manchester: Manchester University Press

      Selected Articles

      Pavitt, J. (2012) ‘Objects to think with: Gijs Bakker and Emmy van Leersum’Re-View: The Collections of the Stedelijk Museum, museum catalogue, Amsterdam: Stedelijk

      Pavitt, J. (2012) ‘The Future is Possibly Past: The Anxious Spaces of Gaetano Pesce’, in: Robin Schuldenfrei (ed.), Atomic Dwelling: Anxiety, Domesticity and Postwar Architecture, London and New York: Routledge

      Pavitt, J. (2009) ‘Design Client, Patron and Showcase: the Museum and the Creative Industries’, in: Guy Julier and Liz Moor (eds), Design and Creativity: Policy, Management and Practice, London: Berg

      Pavitt, J. (2003) ‘Identita istituzionale e design. Il progetto dell’immagine coordinata aziendale e la sua applicazione nel corso del Ventesimo secolo’, in Anna Lombardi (ed.), Legno, Industria, Design: dagli archivi Fantoni, Milan: Silvana Editoriale, 45–53

      Pavitt, J. (2002) ‘Content and Display: Representing the Contemporary, Nordisk Museologi, vol 2, 101–8

      Pavitt, J. (2001) ‘From Object to Interpretation: The Changing Role of Museums of Design’, in: Per-Uno Agren (ed.), Museums 2000: Confrontation or Challenge, Sweden

      Pavitt, J. (2000) ‘New Bohemians: the Architectural Development of Prague’, in: Art Nouveau, An Architectural Indulgence, New Architecture 6, Winterbourn: Andreas Papadakis Publisher, in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum, 46–51

      Pavitt, J. (1999) ‘From the Garden to the Factory: Urban visions in Czechoslovakia between the Wars’, in: Malcolm Gee, Tim Kirk, and Jill Steward (eds), The City in Central Europe: Culture and Society from 1800 to the Present, Aldershot: Ashgate

      Pavitt, J. (1997) ‘The Camberwell Collection of Applied Arts, Camberwell College of Arts, The London Institute’, Journal of Design History, Special issue: Design, Stalin and the Thaw, 10 (2), 225–29

      Pavitt, J. (1994) ‘The Bata Project: A Social and Industrial Experiment’, Twentieth Century Architecture-The Journal of the Twentieth Century Society, 1 (Summer), 33–44

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    • Awards and Grants

    • The Future is Our Business: A Visual History of Future Expertise

      AHRC Care for the Future Exploratory Award 2012; Co-I for Workshop (Dr Glenn Adamson as Principal Investigator). 

    Selected work