This is my big question when I am thinking about and looking at the art that erupts all over London and sometimes elsewhere. What do I think of it? Should I go and see it?
London has hundreds of exhibitions on every week. I know the agony of being in or curating a show and having to fight for a share of the 11 million +/- 10% that inhabit this city. Although to be fair the actual audience for art is not that big…
So I have developed a few criteria. The first is the old word-of-mouth test. Has someone I know personally recommended it to me? That is usually enough, since I tend not to hand around with people whose taste I despise.
The second is the “would I go across town for that?” test. London’s transport fares are eye-watering. My day out at the Serpentine two weeks ago cost me £4.40 (US $7.22) and I live centrally. So even though the show is free, the excursion costs. Throw in the obligatory coffee, and you’re looking at about a tenner all told. So, “would I go across town for that?” means, it is really worth leaving my house and taking expensive transport, or can I just look at the jpegs online?
I’ll go across town for a master (best show in London in recent years was Miro) and even out of town (to Liverpool for Magritte) but contemporary art?
My Serpentine tour was pretty much worth it, but a large part of that was just having a bracing walk through Hyde Park, and disappointingly the restaurant was closed. The art, as I reviewed it, had some elements of interest but in hindsight was it alone worth the trip?
Closer to home but well worth a trip across town for was the show Modern Panic IV [review here] and I think this was so worthwhile because it has work in it that was unusual, well chosen, intricate and well made (I am big on craft and skill, I have little time for coarse appropriation and “referencing”) and frankly, it was all stuff you just don’t see often in London. Despite London’s size there is a very clear monotony that runs through most of the major museums and spaces including commercial spaces (The Hayward being probably the big exception). Waldemar Janusczak calls it the Tate tendency, but to be fair the monotony stretches far beyond Britain’s flooded shores. Let us instead call it “Internationalist Monotony” and it is the product of a pod mentality of dealers, curators, museum directors, buyers (directed by the former) and academics.
So, would I got across town to be bored to tears, fork out cash for an afternoon of ennui? How about you?
ps.notice the bus is going the wrong way. It’s called detournement. No actually, just some stupid photoshop. really.