British Institute of Industrial Art

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(BIIA) (1920–33)

This design promotional body was incorporated in 1920 with the aim of raising standards of design in British manufacturing industry in tandem with the improvement of public taste. Such notions of design reform underpinned the outlook of many campaigning bodies in Britain (such as the Design and Industries Association, the Council for Art and Industry, and the Design Council) and elsewhere. Supported by government funding for the early stages of its existence, the BIIA established its Exhibition Gallery in Knightsbridge, London. The BIIA also established a Bureau of Information that provided information about design, designers, and design education alongside wider developments in Britain and overseas. A design collection was built up including exemplars of metalwork, ceramics, glass posters, books, and printing, although the organization's commitment to mass‐produced goods was limited in favour of more handcrafted modes of production. However, the gallery eventually proved a casualty of the withdrawal of government funding after 1921 and its collections were moved to the nearby Victoria and Albert Museum. Exhibitions were mounted both at the V&A and in the provinces, often attracting sizeable attendances. Perhaps the most significant BIIA exhibition was the 1929 Industrial Art for the Slender Purse mounted at the V&A. Although government funding had ceased following the economic slump of 1921, the BIIA continued to play a role in national design matters. It sought to influence the quality of the state's commissioning of design through liaising with the Post Office, the Royal Mint, the Stationery Office, and the Boards of Education and Trade. It also contributed to a number of significant reports including the influential Balfour Report on Trade and Industry (1927). Overall, like so many design reform agencies its impact on manufacturing industry was comparatively limited.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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