Top left: John Constable, Flatford Mill (Scene on a Navigable River) (1816-17). Jenny Holzer, Protect Me From What I Want, 1991. Richard Billingham, Untitled (Father and dog), (1995). Sigrid Hjertén, Studio Interior (1916).
After being suitably charmed by The Museum of Everything’s show with Peter Blake in Primrose Hill earlier this year, the site of a new exhibition was met with anticipation. The exact site for the show was on the lower ground floor of London’s Selfridges department store and was a little unexpected. However we showed up this week to find the full commercial power of ‘John Selfridge’ getting right behind The Museum. Merchandise galore with all things ‘Everything’ adorning the store. These took the form of a shop, various nic-nacs, bunting and all the window displays showcasing the work of some of the show’s various artists.
Initially the same sense of the museum’s own identity, carried over from the Blake exhibition, was felt when we first entered the gallery. It started to dawn on me however that what really held me with the previous show was its focus and recurring themes. I became aware that this was lacking here. Blake’s selection of works, his curation, call it what you will, made that show revolve around associated subjects such as circuses, freaks, miniatures, imagery and objects connected with his own, and pop’s, creative origins. This I was interested by, but The Selfridges show much less so. The space felt the same but the work itself was far too scattered (which is perhaps the point of the ‘Everything’ part, but if so this is a part I miss altogether).
These self-taught artists, some of which have disabilities, and the charitable work the museum does with them is very inspiring and the little videos of their workshops that are a constant throughout the show are the most interesting part for me. I just felt that to really show these artists’ works off to their best potential they should have treated them as any other artist in an exhibition situation. Instead they were made to seem a bit like a glorified charity project, this needn’t have been the case in my view. With a serious curator thinking about selection, editing, placement of work, presentation and simply taking the artists and their works seriously, then this may have been achieved. The strength of the imagery was undoubted, artists like Matsumoto Kunizo and William Scott shone out for me, but more care and admiration was needed for them and their artworks. In my view this would have helped the overall success of the exhibition.
The images taken are of the window displays as the Museum has a “Photography = £1000” policy, which seemed a little excessive to me.