Pasta comes in hundreds of shapes and sizes and is covered by thousands of sauces. It is fast food but good food, as unambiguous as a symbol of Italy as a Vespa or Fellini. It is also the most universal dish on the planet.

Pasta has myth and magic. Marco Polo brought noodles back from China to Venice. Grand Tourists of the eighteenth century returning to England were known as ‘macaronis’ as they affected Italian style and manners. The Futurist Marinetti denounced pasta as a source of Italian lethargy. For Elizabeth David, pasta offered glorious access to the southern way of life so craved by the English after World War II.

Pasta has also inspired visually delicious commercial art. This unique exhibition examined the phenomenon of pasta, using original posters, packaging and menu cards from the Barilla Archive in Parma. Part cultural history, part design, part gastronomy, the exhibition explained the shapes, decoded the messages and looked to the future of this staple food. A leading young product designer was invited to design a new pasta shape for the future.

The exhibition was curated by Stephen Bayley, the author and design consultant known for his groundbreaking exhibitions at the Boilerhouse, V&A, and Design Museum.

Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau on the set of La Notte by Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960 © Sergio Strizzi Photography

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Pasquarosa, Vase of Flowers, c. 1916

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