The Lost Art of the Bar Mat

I grew up in an English pub in Torremolinos on the Costa Del Sol in the 80s amid sun and sea, burnt tourists, English hooligans, bad architecture and gay culture. And bar matts. We had towel varieties that sat on the bar but we also had the seemingly now disappearing single beer mat. I saw this collection in my local pub in Peckham and it reminded me of my childhood. It also reminded of the art of the bar mat (which I am sure is celebrated on some Tumblr blog somewhere).

The bar mats now on the wall in the pub instead of on the bar made me think of how beauty sometimes is hidden by context and usage. Like stuffed birds sitting in glass boxes in the Natural History Museum, their previous undead beauty now painfully apparent, some objects of design cannot be seen for their qualities other than functional ones until they are pinned to a wall or placed in a large hard back coffee table book.

It seems that every decade we discover the beauty under our noses from the last decade. But is it beauty or is it the rapacious appetite of our society for more and more objects to celebrate as an example of our continued creativity as a species?

What will be the current common place object that is next in line to be hoisted up as a design classic imbued with the existential anxieties of a generation in order mark the terrifying passage of time?

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