Until 18th November there is a fabulous pop-up exhibition called Urban Masters at Factory 7 in Shoreditch (13 Hearn Street, EC2A 3LS). The exhibition, organised by The Opera Gallery, showcases street and urban art by some of the greats, including Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Blek le Rat, C215, Sweet Toof, ROA and Ron English, to name just a few of the 33 artists involved. Urban Masters attempts to capture the feelings and experience of the artists who were invited to give their personal interpretation on the marks left by art history-makers. Proceeds from the show’s catalogue go to Anti-Slavery International, the world’s oldest human rights organisation.
Here are some of my favourite pieces in the exhibition:
Here’s a video of the exhibition’s installation and opening night:
Despite my general dislike of exhibitions of street art in galleries, I’m always curious to see if it can work and was quite excited to hear that Paul DON Smith had an upcoming exhibition. I’ve been a fan of DON’s work for a long time now, and walked to the gallery yesterday with my fingers crossed, hoping he wasn’t going to let me down.
I needn’t have worried. Although DON’s work on the streets often works because of the location or surface, his art work is actually perfect for the gallery too. DON paints the most outstanding portraits, and his work really is the kind of art I would want to buy and hang on my walls.
DON’s famous ‘Banker’ image was also in abundance in the gallery…
As well as DON’s usual portraits, there was also a series of star sign themed pieces, with small lights inserted in them:
I prefer his portraits but I can see how these pieces could be popular.
The centrepiece of the exhibition was this curious cupboard which I just couldn’t stop peering in…
I’m not quite sure what the meaning of this piece was, and felt a little self-conscious in the tiny gallery staring into it on my own, but I loved looking at it. I wonder if this is what it looks like inside DON’s head…
My only criticism of the exhibition would be that there wasn’t enough space. I’d love to see DON’s work spread out a little more in a slightly bigger space, like perhaps the Pure Evil gallery or Stolen Space. But other than that – wonderful! DON is one of the hardest working street artists I know of, and he never disappoints.
Every time I’ve come across a piece of Pablo Delgado’s art on the streets I’ve felt excited, because it’s like discovering secrets. His work is tiny, and so easy to miss, which is such a contrast to a lot of street art which seems to be about being bigger and better than the last piece. When I heard that Pablo Delgado was going to be having an exhibition at the Pure Evil Gallery on Leonard Street I wasn’t sure if it would work. I like his art because I have to discover it, so I wondered if having it presented to me in a gallery would take away some of the magic.
I needn’t have worried.
Pablo Delgado’s exhibition is wonderful. In the ground level part of the gallery the work is nicely presented and fun to look at – I love these monkeys:
And the display in the window is pretty cool:
There are cardboard boxes scattered around the exhibition – make sure you look inside them!
But it’s not until you step downstairs into the basement that the fun really begins.
It’s like stepping into a magical world where little people really exist, and they’re everywhere.
A lot of the work retains the feeling of being on the streets, but there are also pieces in different styles, which work perfectly in a gallery. Like these people in vases of water:
And these wonderful reflection pieces:
I was quite fascinated by this dark room containing people in illuminated jars, too:
Delgado has used the gallery space really well, playing to the rough, urban style of the small space and its exposed brickwork. This isn’t an exhibition that would necessarily work in a big, shiny gallery like the Tate Modern, but it seems perfect for the space it’s in.
Pablo Delgado is at Pure Evil Gallery, 108 Leonard Street, London EC2A 4XS until 28th October. For more information visit: pureevilclothing.com. It’s so good, I might go back for seconds…
The big bonus of working in Shoreditch is that I get to pop out to exhibitions in my lunch break. Today I visited The Gallery at 50 Redchurch Street to see the new Ross Watson exhibition.
I have to confess, the main reason I wanted to visit this exhibition was to see one picture – the crowning glory of the exhibition:
The wonderful Stephen Fry is, of course, the star of this picture. The ‘King of Twitter‘ (with 4,822,845 followers at the time of writing), sits clutching his iPad with an intriguing expression on his face. Has he been interrupted while composing a Tweet? Or is he thinking about the scene behind him, in which a young girl receives a letter she most probably had to wait weeks for. In this spectacular picture, Watson makes a comment on today’s technology, and the way in which we are now communicating. Fry, in his eyes alone, adds his own thoughts.
If this had been the only good picture in the exhibition I wouldn’t have minded but, as it turned out, they were all absolutely gorgeous! Here’s a selection:
I do heartily recommend checking out the exhibition for yourself though, if you’re in the area, as the pictures look even better in real life.
Ross Watson was born in Brisbane, Australia in 1962. He has exhibited in many solo and group exhibitions since 1984, including important surveys of Australian and international contemporary art at the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, and in the Toronto and Melbourne International Art Fairs.
Although I had the chance to check out Mr Brainwash‘s London show on Wednesday night, the official opening wasn’t until today. I heard on Saturday that the exhibition was opening at 2pm today, and that the first 250 people would receive signed prints. When I went on Wednesday, people didn’t start queuing until about an hour before, so this morning I got up and spent a lazy morning, thinking I would aim to get down to New Oxford Street at about 1pm. However… I was browsing Facebook while having my breakfast, when I noticed a picture on Mr Brainwash’s Facebook page showing that people were already lining up! It was only 9.40am…
I hesitated, but then figured I didn’t want to miss my chance and decided to get moving. I got to New Oxford Street at about 11.30 – two and a half hours before the doors were due to open.
As I was leaving my house there was an almighty clap of thunder and it started to pour down. By the time I got to New Oxford Street it was raining really heavily and the weather was quite grim. I couldn’t believe people would really be waiting outside the Old Sorting Office in that weather, but they were, and they went right round the building! I followed the queue round and finally found the end, where I waited patiently, read, and chatted with the girls in front of me.
Just before 2pm Mr Brainwash came round to check out the queue:
He then Tweeted that there were at least 1,000 people in the queue!
I had no idea if I was in the first 250 or not, but people kept counting and saying 182, 210, 266… It seemed like the number of people in front of us was going up, and I really hoped the waiting was going to pay off.
Finally, at about 3.20pm, I got in… and I was number 237! Each person got given a Mr Brainwash spray can, which they could later exchange for a print (once Mr Brainwash had finished signing them all!).
I absolutely LOVE my print, and it was well worth waiting about four hours for! People are already selling them on ebay, but mine’s not going anywhere.
There were more pieces on display today than there were on Wednesday night, and the lighting was a bit better so I took a couple of hundred photos in the end. I don’t care what anyone says – I love Mr Brainwash’s work! Here are my top ten pieces, in no particular order:
Mr Brainwash was around the whole time, signing posters and postcards (and pretty much anything you put in front of him), but I just couldn’t bear to queue any more.
I hadn’t eaten, and they’d taken my water off me at the door (they also asked if I had any pens in my bag when I was searched at the door, but luckily they didn’t spot the ones I had stashed at the bottom – hey, I’m a writer!), so after a good look around I decided to call it a day. I think I’ll go back for another round when it’s a bit quieter though, as the exhibition is on until the end of August. You can see my photos from today here, and photos from Wednesday night here.
For more information about Mr Brainwash and his London exhibition, please visit: www.mrbrainwash.com.
If Andy Warhol is the king of pop art, I’d like to declare Mr Brainwash the king of ‘rave art’. I know this will be an unpopular opinion, but I really like what Mr Brainwash is doing, and his new exhibition at the Old Sorting Office in London is unmissable.
I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the opening night of the show – a collaborative event by Mr Brainwash and musician David Guetta. I had no idea what to expect. Was it going to be an exhibition and a simple private view with a bit of music in the background as I wandered around with a free glass of wine? Or was it going to be a full-on rave in a warehouse?
I’m still not sure what it was but, whatever it was, it was incredible (and my ears took a whole day to recover).
The entire ground floor was filled with huge Mr Brainwash artworks, ranging from “life-size” Star Wars figures made out of tyres to huge spray cans that looked like Campbell’s soup.
As I entered the exhibition when the doors opened at 8pm, the first striking piece was a massive set of Olympic rings, made out of paint cans and stuck on the wall. Standing by the rings were men dressed up as members of the Queen’s Guard, and further along were more people dressed as Stormtroopers. Everyone was clutching Burn energy drinks, and judging by the dancing I saw from one of the soldiers later on, I expect they had quite a few! (The event was supported by Burn.)
Club music was playing, and before long the DJ switched and Nicky Romero came on. People started to pay attention to the stage, but everyone was clearly waiting for Mr Brainwash’s co-star for the night, David Guetta, to take his place.
It was after 9pm when David Guetta came on – I lost track of time a bit actually, and it might have even been closer to 10pm – but he played right through until after midnight, when the event was supposed to end, playing just one more, and just one more – the crowd was relentless, and even I (not used to clubbing or staying out past 11pm) could have kept going.
Having been born at the beginning of the 1980s I was too young to appreciate ’80s pop and still slightly too young for the early ’90s rave scene. Instead I got stuck with the late ’90s and early 2000s – not the best period of music history. If I could choose to be 18 at a different time, I would almost definitely go for 1992 – the heart of the rave scene. On Wednesday night I felt I had come the closest to attending a real rave that I probably ever would. Even though the event was all aboveboard and commercially sponsored, I couldn’t help getting a rush of excitement and imaging I was doing something really underground. Not everyone got in – I heard there were around 1,700 people waiting to get in around 9pm and they were operating a one-in-one-out door policy – and I felt like I had been chosen to take part in something really special.
The whole event was filmed for David Guetta’s latest music video which I’ll be keeping an eye out for. I’m not sure when it will be released, but I do hope I might catch a glimpse of myself and my friends (we were at the front all night). Mr Brainwash was, of course, also filming and taking a lot of photographs. I actually saw him on the street before the event and took my picture with him.
I get irritated when people so easily dismiss Mr Brainwash’s work and say it’s rubbish. Often, the reasoning is based on the fact that he doesn’t produce a lot of the work himself (he has an army of people who do all the actual design and making – he’s just the ideas man), but I could name a lot of other artists who have teams working with them in the exact same way he does – Andy Warhol certainly did. The other thing people always say is that his work shows no originality, and that his ideas are clichéd, but that doesn’t bother me. His work is a bit clichéd I guess, but I like his messages – “life is beautiful”, “follow your dreams” and “you’re never too young to dream big”.
For me, right now, this art is relevant. Mr Brainwash is telling us not to take our lives so seriously and to have a bit of fun while pursuing our dreams – what’s wrong with that? As for his images of famous people, such as the massive Kate Moss picture on the side of the Old Sorting Office , what’s not to like:
Or a bit of David Bowie:
Or Obama dressed as Superman:
Mr Brainwash’s work may not be the most original or groundbreaking art of all time, but it certainly gets your attention, if only due to the enormous scale of many of the pieces.
This Artlyst review is worth a read, calling Mr Brainwash’s work “so bad it’s good” and “kitsch multiplied by twenty”. Whatever you think of Mr Brainwash and his art, I think you’d be a fool to miss this much-hyped exhibition, open from 5th – 31st August at the Old Sorting Office, 21-31 New Oxford Street, London WC1 (you can’t miss it – the whole outside of the building is covered in his work!)
And, when you’re feeling cynical and judgemental about what Mr Brainwash is doing, just try to keep one phrase in mind: life is beautiful…
I recently wrote a post about how I wasn’t convinced that street artists ought to exhibit their work in galleries. I’m still not entirely convinced, but I saw an exhibition today which helped me to see that it can work for certain artists. The exhibition I went to see was The Mr Brainwash Summer Show – a pop-up exhibition at the Opera Gallery on New Bond Street, London.
Mr Brainwash, real name Thierry Guetta, is the kind of artist that people either love or hate. There are a lot of negative thoughts out there about him and his work, but personally I’m becoming quite a fan. The first Mr Brainwash pieces I saw “in the flesh” were his recent pieces on the corner of New Oxford Street and Museum Street in London (here & here). These murals are huge, and at the time I couldn’t have imagined seeing them in a gallery, but somehow it works. I think Mr Brainwash’s work is very accessible, and quite commercial. Much like Banksy’s work, Mr Brainwash’s work is suitable for posters, postcards and other items one might buy in a gift shop. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, although I know some people would see it as a negative. But I think it’s this commercial aspect that makes Mr Brainwash’s paintings (and sculptures) work so well in the gallery space. Some artists work well in the wild – I think Mr Brainwash works better here in the gallery…
Here’s some more about the artist, from the Opera Gallery:
Thierry’s love of art and film led him to follow the lives of some of the most prolific street artists of our time as he made it his mission to shadow, record and question those who dominated the streets. This led to an unexpected collaboration; the elusive Banksy utilised Thierry’s street art footage and eventually turned the camera on the only man who had ever filmed him.
Their collaboration resulted in a remarkable documentary coined as part personal journey and part exposé of the art world with its mind-altering mix of hot air and hype.
Now an artist in his own right – his very alias ‘Brainwash’ suggesting a tongue-in-cheek jibe at the street-art world he has seemingly so easily and successfully infiltrated and mastered, Thierry has adopted a pop-art style which is now coveted world over.
Approached by Madonna to create the cover for her greatest hits album, Celebration, Thierry then went on to be commissioned by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers to direct the campaign for their latest album. Future collaborations are tipped to be none other than Justin Bieber! And with Kate Moss, The Beatles and Queen Elizabeth amongst his loyal subjects, it seems that the UK has offered Mr Brainwash some of his greatest muses to date.
Personally, I would like to own art like this. What do you think?
There seems to be a growing trend for graffiti artists to make their way into galleries. I’ve seen a few exhibitions of street artists’ work in galleries recently, and still remain unsure as to whether or not I like it. In the case of the two artists I’m going to mention below, both are artists whose work I respect. Both work to large-scale and, for me, part of the joy in seeing their work is thinking “how on earth did they get away with that?”. Street art isn’t always about the most intricate detail or mastered technique – sometimes it’s about the time and place.
Stik usually paints on walls and doors around London, and is famous for his simple stick man character and brightly coloured backgrounds.
His work which was on display in the gallery was similar, but for me it lacked something.
The character was the same, and the playfulness was certainly there, but the atmosphere of the gallery and the fact that these pieces were now considered pieces of art to be bought and sold, altered my impression of the work.
ROA usually paints huge-scale animals on the sides of buildings. In fact, the same day I went to the exhibition I happened to see him at work:
The exhibition consisted of pieces which the viewer was encouraged to touch and move. I liked this, but I found his work much less interesting than I had hoped.
The scale was, naturally, much smaller, but I found the quality lacking in these imaginative yet macabre pieces.
So, I’m still not sure what I think of graffiti artists presenting their work in gallery spaces. In a way, I think I prefer to see their work on the streets. I like the excitement of ‘discovering’ a new piece when I’m walking around Shoreditch, and that excitement is somewhat taken away when the work is in a gallery constrained by four walls. Another thing I like about the work on the streets is that it has this element of roughness about it. Often these pieces are illegal, and the artist has to rush a bit to get it finished before being caught. The pieces displayed in galleries are 100% legal, and that takes a bit of the fun away, doesn’t it? Also, the rough surfaces that graffiti artists often paint on bring something to the pieces – whether it’s a wall, a door, or something else, it becomes part of the art. In the case of Stik’s work, the smooth canvases almost ruin the piece for me. ROA has obviously tried to keep some of the roughness, but I’m not convinced it works.
What do you think? Would you rather see this:
Have your say below, and don’t forget to leave a comment in the comments section!
I’ve been thinking a lot about legacies recently. Without wanting to sound morbid, I’ve been thinking about what is left behind when we die.
Last weekend I visited one of my best friends, who has just had her first baby. Something she said made me realise that, in having a baby and starting a family of her own, she had created her legacy.
Not wanting to have children of my own, I started thinking about how, when I died, there would be nothing left of my name… unless I found some other way to leave my legacy.
Tonight I went to a special Time Out event at The Museum of Everything in Selfridges. All of the artwork featured was by people with some kind of disability. The featured artist of Exhibition #4.1, Judith Scott, had down syndrome and no verbal way of communication because she was deaf and dumb. However, she found a way of communicating through art. She told stories with intricately hand-woven bundles of yarn and found objects. And, once she started, nothing and no one could stop her. Only death. Now her work is hung in a gallery for people to discuss as they swig from free bottles if beer and munch on pop corn from red and white striped bags.
The museum’s founder, James Brett, commented that “we’re here to make stuff“. He added, “perhaps if we don’t make anything, we weren’t here at all“.
This comment stuck with me and my thoughts about legacies. My friend made a family. Judith Scott made objects we can now call art. I have always said that I write because I have to, because I can’t not write. I’m here to make stuff with words, otherwise there’ll be nothing of me left behind.
The Museum of Everything is at Selfridges until 25th October. If you need inspiring, it’s the place to be. Exhibition #4 is on the Lower Ground floor of Selfridges and Exhibition #4.1 (Judith Scott) is upstairs in the old Selfridges Hotel. Both spaces are incredibly designed and worth visiting for their utter uniqueness.
***UPDATE: Exhibition #4.1 at the old Selfridges Hotel has been extended until November 6th, so please check it out!***