Disobedient Objects – Edward Lucie-Smith at the Victoria and Albert Museum

A dwarf’s hat, as worn by 10,000 protesters at a 1988 march against communism in Poland

It is understandable that, in current circumstances, major arts institutions should try to ally themselves with the more anarchic, contrarian elements in contemporary culture. Perhaps this is especially true of those dealing with the contemporary visual arts, committed as these still are to the myth of ‘avant-gardism’. One problem that immediately presents itself, of course, is that this myth is not itself contemporary – it is rooted in the very earliest years of the century