Yinka Shonibare: POP! & Thatcheristic

This week I went to see two exhibitions which I thought gelled amazingly well together and are very topical. The first was ‘Thatcheristic’ curated by Art Below and is being displayed in the basement of Gallery Different. The show features works by ten different artists and will be running for ten days, this I imagine is probably a conscious decision to not milk the hype around the death of The Iron Lady, although given that it was an impromptu show they probably are a little guilty of doing this. But is there anything wrong with that?

Some of the artists’ work had been made around the time of Thatcher’s premiership in the 1980s which to a young 20-something person like myself made it interesting to see the varied views towards Britain’s first female prime minister. Work such as, Maple’s made specifically for the exhibition is probably a stark reminder of the view many of my contemporaries probably hold about her today. Rather than reading how vile or glorious she was in the papers, which I had been doing quite a lot recently, this exhibition gave me the opportunity to experience views from real people who lived throughout her reign. As an outsider to the whole Thatcher experience and reading what I had read in the papers, I was expecting this exhibition to be quite vicious, aggressive and spiteful in it’s approach. To my surprise, I found it somewhat gentle, celebratory and praiseful for the most of it. It gave a very rounded and human (no I’m not being sarcastic here) approach to a woman who apparently detested the arts and did all she could do deter it within education but as I have learnt in spite of all that she has inspired so much of contemporary art in Britain from the 1980s to today and will probably go on to do so in the future.

Sarah Maple, 2013 ‘Who the Hell is Margaret Thatcher’

 

Gallery Different

What resonated most with me from this show is Art Below director Ben Moore’s view that “…we all grew up as Thatcher’s children.” Of course I’m not really an outsider to what she did, I still live in the society she left behind. A society in which regulations were lax on the economy and bankers thrived and created a culture where the everyday person loathed them and their lavish lifestyles which brings me to Yinka Shonibare.

Yinka Shonibare, whose recent public commission includes ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’ installed on Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth, exhibit at the Stephen Friedman Gallery is a comment on everybody’s favourite person: THE BANKER! The installation focuses on the hedonistic lifestyle, the excess, the greed and the corruption that has led to our current economic crises. The main focus point of the exhibition is the large-scale installation mimicking Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’. Headless men and women, a recurring theme in Shonibare’s work to negate any association with race, are cavorted around the table with no care for tomorrow and dressed as though they’re Victorian Dandies. Through out this exhibition we continually face an attack towards these people. ‘Champagne Kids’ with bottles of Moet to celebrate downfalls of certain economies and a dapper gentleman stimulating the act of masturbation with more champagne.

 

‘B(w)anker’

I find myself questioning are they really all like this? Is this just not a cliched representation of a small minority of people and somehow it’s spiraled into joe public hating everyone of them? Maybe I am being a little biased, they do seem like obsessed, egotistical meglomaniacs who have a fetish for money. But the institutions they work for are most likely the very institutions who give funding to art galleries. There are so many competitions, prizes and awards galleries hold that are funded by banks and there are just as many priceless pieces of artworks that have saved a bank (cough cough, RBS) Doesn’t that just demonstrate we need them as much as they need “us”? It’s always good to critique each other every once in a while…

Thatcheristic is running until April 28th 2013
Yinka Shonibare: POP! is running until April 20th 2013
Admission is free to both shows

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