Written by Tabish Khan
If you’ve ever been to an auction house to see an exhibition of works before a sale, you know the drill. Paintings on the wall, sculpture in the middle of the room, all impeccably lit and accompanied by labels with the estimated auction price. It’s a tried and tested formula from organisations with a track record for selling high value art.
Well Phillips on Berkeley Square in Mayfair have ripped up that rule book with an exhibition that’s more immersive than the exhibitions you could expect to find at major museums.
Smiley faces on the floor, colour everywhere and strange creatures perched atop the walls and the entrance. This walk in acid trip is the brainchild of artist and set designer Gary Card who has been given carte blanche by Phillips to design this exhibition for their auction.
That’s right, there are artworks hidden with this explosively fun maze, but you’ll have to hunt them out as they seamlessly blend in with the décor. The spinning flower by Yayoi Kusama and a photograph of Cindy Sherman dressed as a clown fit in as if they were designed for the exhibition, rather than being consigned pieces for sale.
The highlight is a video triptych inspired by Hieronmyus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights – with each screen presenting Eden, Paradise and Hell. All three are filled with quirky imagery such as Hell containing bodies writhing in pain and an obese man being force fed other bodies — with the whole scene being watched over by a giant skeletal judge passing decrees. Each film is filled with surreal scenes and they can all be watched inside a darkened shed.
While walking through the exhibition it felt like I was more likely to come across a ball pit than a work of art, and it’s refreshing to see auction houses trying something daring. Long may it continue.
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