Art Review: Martin Creed at the Hayward Gallery

The retrospective from Martin Creed at the Hayward Gallery is definitely the most fun you can have in a gallery without being asked to leave

Modern Art exhibitions have an image problem.  No matter what the content, a large proportion of the public are still immediately turned off by the prospect of spending an hour or two wandering quietly round a gallery on their day off.

Art is too often described as reflecting important ‘themes’ and ‘issues’, which makes the experience too elitist for the average person to care about.  It just isn’t seen as fun…

The Hayward Gallery is trying to change all that by hosting What’s The Point Of It? the new retrospective from Martin Creed.  It would be highly unlikely that anyone other than the most hardened cynic could spend 90 minutes exploring the exhibition and not agree that it is a lot of fun.

Creed caused an uproar in 2001 by winning the Turner Prize with Work No. 227: The Lights Going On And Off, which was a large empty room that was lit up and reduced to darkness every 30 seconds – a somewhat controversial honour for such a simple idea, but one that has to be experienced and not judged for afar.

What’s The Point Of It? Features a variation of Work No. 227 as well as arguably his second most famous work, Work No. 200: Half The Air In A Given Space – a room entirely filled with white balloons that you can enter and walk amongst.  When I went, there were children running around amongst the balloons enjoying their hair turning static and giving each other mini static shocks by touching each other.  I’ve never heard a gallery so filled with happiness and laughter.

Other treats was a (real) man sat at a piano playing every note once chromatically up and down the instrument; a room of metronomes all playing at different speeds and creating a chaotic cacophony; and a Ford Focus up on the roof that surprises you by doing something unexpected…

The retrospective is a complete success in proving that Creed is no one-trick artist, ranging from strange little instances of art on the corners of walls to 30 foot moving neon sculptures that demand attention.

It would be unfair to say that there are no big ideas behind Creed’s art, but the important point is that there is enough joy and playfulness to not need a lofty explanation to enjoy it.  As always, there are periodic explanations of pieces written on the walls of the gallery that give you a minor insight into his thinking, but they are less important than at more ‘serious’ exhibitions.

If you haven’t been to an exhibition in a while, drop in and give it a visit; and if you’re looking for a day out for children or modern art virgins, then drop in and give it a visit; and if you hate modern art and think this all sounds pretentious, then stay away and let the fun people enjoy themselves…

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