Tropical Modernism at the V&A

From Saturday March 2nd, the sun will be shining at London’s V&A Museum as they launch their latest exhibition, Tropical Modernism: Architecture and Independence.

Tropical Modernism is a distinctive architectural style born in West Africa during the 1940s, soon spreading to other hot countries like India and Ghana when they gained independence from British colonial rule.

With its modernist design, and incorporation of the natural environment, Tropical Modernism is not only the epitome of style, but is seen as a symbol of progressiveness.

In honour of the exhibition, in today’s blog we’re taking a closer look at this envy-inducing architectural style, and how it’s become a firm favourite with some of Enter Gallery’s artists.

Poolside Gossip by Slim Aarons | Enter Gallery

Visionary Design

From Bali to Brazil, Tropical Modernism is a mid-century style attributed to pioneering architects such as Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Oscar Niemeyer, and Geoffrey Bawa.

Primarily found in steamy locales, the style employs a unique approach to design taking into account the specific environmental and cultural conditions of the property.

In practice, this means plenty of outdoor spaces, bringing nature inside the home, and using materials that don’t just look good but that also work with the demands of the climate.  

California Dreaming by Paul Fuentes | Enter Gallery

Summer Loving

With all its exotic and romantic associations, Tropical Modernism has seduced many an artist but there are three in particular that spring to mind…

First off is Slim Aarons – an ex-war photographer who carved himself a reputation as one of the most exciting photographers of the 20th century.

His oeuvre is characterised by beautiful people captured in even more beautiful locations, most of which are bathed in golden sunshine.

Acapulco Pool art print by Slim Aarons | Enter Gallery

His most infamous artwork, Poolside Gossip, is a prime example of how Aarons was inspired by Tropical Modernism. This piece captures a group of well-dressed women chatting beside a home characterised by modern design, and lush natural surroundings.

Similarly, works like Clifftop Pool, Poolside in Arizona and Acapulco Pool all demonstrate the aesthetic magic of pairing clean lines with hints of nature and impossibly blue skies.

Timeless, stylish and a wonderful dose of escapism, it’s little wonder Slim Aarons’ artworks are some of the most popular at Enter Gallery.

Poolside In Arizona art print by Slim Aarons | Enter Gallery

Shop artworks by Slim Aarons.


Pastel Palaces

Next, we have Paul Fuentes - a contemporary artist who also can't get enough of mid-century America, and the Tropical Modernist architecture that characterises the era.

Camino Sur art print by Paul Fuentes | Enter Gallery

Whether it’s works inspired by David Hockey, or his pastel portrayals of Palm Springs palaces, Fuentes looks to this architectural style for the backdrops to his fierce portraits.

Palm Springs Tigers art print by Paul Fuentes | Enter Gallery

Shop artworks by Paul Fuentes.


Architectural Auteur

When you look at the artworks of Brighton artist, Bonnie and Clyde, there are several repeat motifs, including rich greenery and modern architecture, that suggest Tropical Modernism has provided major inspiration. 

Pivot, Framed Original by Bonnie and Clyde | Enter Gallery


Bonnie and Clyde’s work exudes a sense of steamy summer days, with her turning to photography from her own travels to create her otherworldly collages.

In artworks like Pivot and A Quiet Neighbourhood we see Bonnie and Clyde team architecture with the palm trees and cacti associated with the tropics. The pleasing result of this artist’s carefully chosen pairings is that we’re reminded of the dreamy days of our favourite holidays, when life really feels as good as it gets.

 A Quiet Neighbourhood art print by Bonnie and Clyde | Enter Gallery


Shop artworks by Bonnie and Clyde.

Tropical Modernism: Architecture and Independence opens on March 2nd at the V&A.

Browse our Architecture collection here.