Making her writing debut for Bobbysix, Alice Parsons tells us about, well, everything...
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Museum of Everything. Having visited their website and rootled around for a bit, I was no closer to knowing exactly what ‘everything’ consisted of and how anyone might hope to fit it into a museum. But I was drawn in by the site's witty, friendly humour and still eager to pay a visit to Selfridges in London for a peek at the unknown.
Tucked away in Selfridge’s Ultralounge, my first impressions of the exhibition were that of entering someone’s slightly crumbly and decrepit old house, packed from floor to ceiling with weird and wonderful creations. Excited by this, I whipped out my camera and gaily started snapping left, right and centre, until eventually noticing the cheeky signs that stated I would be fined £1000 for any photography. (photos: kindly provided by the Museum of Everything, fines: currently unpaid). This set the tone of the one of the quirkiest exhibitions I’ve been to in some time. So what was going on here? We were greeted by a miniature construction site. A row of perfect, tiny cranes dangling their hooks over the banisters of a fake upstairs. Its creator, German artist Roland Kappel, was described by his plaque as a construction site obsessive whose passion for cranes and diggers harks back to his childhood of urban renewal and his own architectural practice.
Continuing through the labyrinth of 400 drawings, paintings and sculptures, I arrived at the spectacular work of Paulus De Groot. These were big, bold acrylic paintings; the type where the paint has been piled up so thick, you could stick your finger in and then lick it. Paulus is inspired by sex and horror movies, I instantly got the horror vibe. Each of his works housed a brightly coloured monster, the FANTASTICALLY named ‘Vampier met bloed aan de tanden’ (go on, say it out loud – it’s fun) aka, vampire with blood on the teeth (above), was easily my favourite piece of the exhibition, with his massive fangs defined by pitch black outlines. I didn’t get the sex bit until the museum’s founder, James Brett, pointed out a craftily disguised (but pretty big) penis attached to one of the monsters
After spending some time reading the artists' information and watching the short movies displayed on iPads in some of the rooms, it became apparent that the artists were working in creative studios dotted around the globe. James told me that, in fact, all of the art in the exhibition had been created by ‘outsider’ artists who have psychological, physical or learning disabilities. He explained that these talented, previously undiscovered creatives were able to produce their work thanks to the support of these studios such as Herenplaats (Netherlands) and Atelier Yamanami (Japan). He had also firmly chosen not to explain this on the website. As, really, should it make any difference to people’s opinions of the art on display? People might bring to the exhibition their preconceptions of how the art would look and what they expected to see there. You wouldn’t think this way before visiting the Tate, so why not turn up and think as you find?
What I found was a range of art, some of which I wasn’t so keen on and some of which I loved. Like the clay figures of Masami Yamagiwa (above), peering out at me from nooks and crevices in a plain brick wall, boring their little eyes into me. A readymade pocket-size tribe ready to pounce. And the work of Japanese artist Shunji Yamagiwa, whose huge inky black, splattery drawings of trucks I would happily bankrupt myself to own. The good news is, you can take a piece of art home with you if you pay a visit to the Shop of Everything on the next floor up. I couldn’t resist grabbing a Paulus de Groot postcard and some exhibition stickers. I haven’t decided where I’ll put them yet, maybe on my desk somewhere so I have something pleasing to look at when I procrastinate. As I left Selfridges, I took in the window display by Stefan Häfner entitled ‘City of the Future’, three sculptures of stacked-up, floating, urban flats of the future (below). Beautifully detailed, carefully made and very inspiring, ladies and gentleman, I give you The Museum of Everything.
The Museum of Everything is open until 25th October 2011 at Selfridges and Co, 400 Oxford ST, London W1U 1AT. Open Monday – Saturday, 9.30am – 8.00pm and Sundays – 11.30am – 6.00pm.
Review by Alice Parsons