Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Haunch of Venison III

Haunch of Venison makes me happy. Obviously, I love the way it sounds when you say, 'I'm off to Haunch of Venison', but mostly I love it because it's magnificently inspiring. HOV is doing what the Tate Modern should be doing had they more curatorial gumption: showcasing works by innovative and exciting contemporary artists. I'm pretty clued up when it comes to contemporary art, but every time I go to a new show at HOV, I'm always surprised by work from an artist I've never heard of before.

I went to the private view tonight for the new Thomas Heatherwick Extrusions exhibition which opens just in time for the London Design Festival. Rather appropriate, as (though I haven't quite made up my mind) I'm pretty sure these pieces are process over practice. Not that I'm in any position to gripe, because I'm absolutely fascinated by process, technique, form - all those behind the scenes elements tend only to heighten one's appreciation of the final product - I love a back story. But this only works if the process is merely a contributing factor to the finished product - anything that rests on the laurels of process must be, by its very nature, flawed. So the fact that you can't even sit on Heatherwick's benches means there's something not quite right about them, but does explain why they're in the HOV: these are not benches, they're art. To be fair, as art they're beautiful and immeasurably clever pieces of sculpture, but as benches, frankly they're terrible.

In any event, all was not lost as I stumbled upon something of much more interest on the ground floor: beautiful light sculptures from the early 1970s by the American artist Dan Flavin. This just goes to prove my point. Dan Flavin is one of those artists that you (meaning me, of course) probably should know, but don't. That's what I love about HOV. Everyone knows too much about Picasso, Duchamps, Dali, but even more than too much about Gilbert & George, Emin and Hirst. Most people who rock up to the Tate Modern on the weekend have never heard of Flavin or Coventry or Ghenie - all artists recently shown at HOV. I say this all the time, but it should be the role of an institution like the Tate Modern to expose people to under represented work by significant artists. If the Tate Modern went up in flames tomorrow, I wouldn't miss it for a second - as long as HOV continues programming consistently outstanding exhibitions, I'll look to it for inspirational and innovative thinking in contemporary art.

1 comment:

hamishb said...

I've never been much for the American modernists, or the whole 'visual dazzle' school of thinking about art, but Flavin was (is?) definitely 'other.' The National Gallery of Canada has a bunch of his earlier works, and used to have them installed more-or-less permanently, and, despite myself, I've always kind of loved them. And they're still mighty fine. A full show of his work is usually not a good idea (curators these days are so profligate and tedious), but in the right proportion, and in the right context, he's quite amazing.