Tag Archives: Tate


26 Jun

Artist duffle coat, £425.

What better way to celebrate a major* exhibition of Dame Barbara Hepworth’s Modernist art at Tate Britain than spending £1200 in their gift shop to dress like a Hepster? Luckily the costumes clothes don’t have bloody great holes through the middle of them like her sculptures. Rather than a real artist of Hepworth’s vintage, they’re more like the sort of slightly-too-on-point-to-be-real ensembles you’d see worn by a beatnik artist Don Draper was knobbing on Mad Men. They’ve also wisely stuck to mod and steered clear of Babs’ occasional sartorial forays into getting herself up like a forest witch from a Russian folk tale. Designer Margaret Howell says “She was a woman to roll up her sleeves, and a woman who needed pockets – for chisel, pencil, and pebbles from the beach.” Do my eyes deceive me or is this woman actually mansplaining pockets to women? I know this revelation of the true purpose of pockets as places to put things will come as a shock to all you ladies who don’t generally need pockets and didn’t know what pockets are for. Buy a £135 Artist Smock and start getting some pebbles in yer. Maybe get a £1 Barbara Hepworth pencil like what she had for making her sculptures and shit.

You get the pencils from the gift shop, incidentally, and not from the beach where you also get chisels, as Howell’s bad grammar would suggest.

* Damn those pesky minor exhibitions, so pernicious that art museums and galleries constantly need to distinguish their “major” ones from paltry minor ones. Yeah, get the fuck out of here and don’t come back, minor artists with your minor exhibition bullshit.

Anyway, I’ve taken the liberty of virtually modelling some of the gear for you all. Next time I’m in the Crapital I’ll have to pop in to the old mausoleum and wear some of them for real. Or maybe we could all dress up as stereotypical-looking modern artists to storm the place en masse. DM me. I probably shouldn’t have said that. They’ll have printouts of me behind the tills or something: CALL SECURITY. When I have my retrospective at Tate Britain because I’m dead and can’t actually benefit from it, it’s going to be really easy for the gift shop buyers because usually I alternate between an outdoors lumbersexual look and for indoors hikikomori time (which is most of it, frankly) a black or dark blue T-shirt and the same trousers I’ve been wearing all week if I bother to put trousers on at all.



Scarf £195 + artist dungarees [sic] £245 + artist duffle coat [sic] £425 = £865. I’m wearing the artist duffle coat under the artist dungarees because the rules of your uncool square society don’t apply to me, daddio, and hell yeah I’m wearing a headscarf with the Tate logo on it. Half Withnail, half butch lesbian factory worker, all artist, dig?


The twin influences of Cold War nihilism and Modernist utopianism are elegantly expressed in this ensemble of artist apron [sic]– a bargain at £75– charcoal silk scarf (£195) and artist smock [sic] for a mere £135. What do you mean you don’t have an artist smock? What kind of an artist are you? No kind of an artist is the answer, my friend, because all artists need a smock: END OF. Get thee to a gift shoppery.

More jolly violations of dead artists:

Miffy Rembrandt. Norwegian weltschmerz with Hello Kitty. Van Gogh Barbie (cut off earlobe sold separately)

… and further fashion choices for your high net worth art as lifestyle:

Silk trousers £575.


8 Aug

Clockwise from top left: “God in a bottle”, chimney sweep trade mannequin, soldier’s pincushion, boody (broken china) mosaic tray with doll, papier maché meat from a butcher shop, carved bone chicken.

Tate Britain’s British Folk Art exhibition (continues in London until 31 August 2014, then moves to Compton Verney in Warwickshire) is one of the most inspiring collections I’ve seen in this country recently. I dislike terms like “folk art” or “outsider art” because to me if they’re art then they’re just art, but I acknowledge that these terms can have their uses. This is a minor quibble anyway, in the context of a show that clearly celebrates and validates the umtrammeled creativity of ordinary people in an intelligent and unpatronising way that few of our large art institutions would even bother to try. Most of the objects come from the often sorely underappreciated museum collections in places like Beamish, Norwich, or Tunbridge Wells, which I hope will encourage more people to visit them. It becomes terrifyingly clear that the collective memory of society is very short and full of holes. For example, who knew that male soldiers dug needlework so much and were so good at it, even as recently as WWI? Where did all our dressed wells, Obby Osses and Gods in bottles go?

On the day I went there were a lot of delighted and interested people of all ages very vocally and visibly enjoying the items on display. How often does that happen in an art exhibition nowadays? Such a contrast to the arid I-don’t-even-know-if-it’s-conceptual-or-what of Phyllida Barlow in the hall right alongside British Folk Art. Barlow’s work always reminds me of my dad’s penchant for keeping old bits of wood, obsolete plumbing and old tarpaulins stacked up against the back of our house, just in case they were ever needed… which they never were. And they weren’t art, either. Criticising Barlow is apparently a no-no because she’s a professor and she probably taught a lot of artists and so nobody ever does. That good old art world omerta. I’ll assume she’s fine as a human being until I hear anything to the contrary, but I get absolutely nothing from her work, or from the work of her numerous imitators and fellow travellers. What is it saying? Is it saying anything? What am I supposed to think or feel here? I think and feel nothing in front of this work. Worse than nothing, actually, because on balance I’m slightly annoyed by it. I’d enjoy throwing it in a skip and seeing it hauled off by a lorry, but I’m into a good tidy up anyway and I wouldn’t credit Barlow for the pleasure.


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26 Oct

It may surprise some of you to learn that I don’t go out looking for things to annoy me. Since I actually work in the arts and a lot of both my employment and (frankly, sadly) my socialising takes place in galleries and arts organisations, some of the bad work I see is all up in my face whether I actively seek it or not. I would still prefer to like things than not like things. As somebody who works in performance and video I’m particularly invested and interested in– and therefore conflicted about– Tate Modern’s Tanks, which opened a few months ago to provide spaces more suitable than the existing galleries for the presentation of live, ephemeral, performance and interactive art. It took me a while, but I finally got there just before their first programme of work comes to an end, along with Tino Seghal’s long-form live work in the Turbine Hall.

The Tanks are post-industrial, almost science fictional spaces. I wish any architect had recently designed a new, built-from-scratch gallery space in Britain that was anywhere near this inspiring, unique and full of character. The immediate unflattering comparison I’d make is to the dysfunctional Firstsite in Colchester, with its meagre selection of badly planned, sterile, poky spaces that in fact seem inimical to the showing of any and all forms of art, despite it being a purpose built new art gallery. Certainly I never saw anything at Firstsite yet that was flattered by the space rather than having to battle its quirks.

Secondly, I like the fact that the upper echelons of certain parts of the art world are finally waking up to what artists are doing and what they’re interested in now. Thanks for noticing that some of the most interesting, relevant artists around at the moment and in the recent past are once again not (or not just) working with flat objects you can sell and/or nail to a wall. Continue reading


8 Jun

Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God (AKA the diamond-encrusted skull) in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. An overhyped, pointless object that was made by a canny half-wit charlatan, the art industry’s village idiot cowering inside a small, mean, dingy hut built at the heart of an immense void. Missing every point there is to miss, and then missing some that nobody else even thought possible. Obviously they were aiming to awe but instead they accidentally ended up with the perfect quasi-Nietzschean metaphor for art as an empty commodity, for the spiritual and moral vacuum at the heart of the YBA ethos and practice, and for Hirst’s life, career and work itself.


7 Jun


I may have this the wrong way around, or I may not. Kusama is now in her eighties, and she’s been working as an artist since the 1950s, so in one sense a major retrospective of her work is long overdue. Possibly somebody thought it was not only overdue but probably also prudent to do one before she drops off the perch, if only to encourage her to bang out a few more paintings WHICH ARE COINCIDENTALLY FOR SALE AT VICTORIA MIRO CONCURRENTLY WITH THIS HUGE EXHIBITION AT BRITAIN’S LARGEST CONTEMPORARY ART INSTITUTION, AN EXHIBITION THAT WILL SURELY HAVE DRIVEN UP DEMAND AND PRICING FOR KUSAMA’S WORK. Funny, that.

There’s an art world insider story about Victoria Miro– one that may just be a funny story with no basis in fact, but in any case as far as I know it’s a story hitherto unreported to civilians– about the way she’s been known to go up behind potential collectors of an artist’s work and whisper things like she’s an absolute genius! in their ear as a way of encouraging them to buy and/or instilling a sense that they’ll be missing out terribly if they don’t commit now. If the story’s true then her marketing technique is equal parts Jiminy Cricket, Jim Jones, Carphone Warehouse salesperson, and schizophrenic head-voice. I think Victoria should have just gone all out and stood outside Tate Modern with a fluorescent GOLF SALE-type sign pointing at her gallery.


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