The New Décor

I’ve talked about the Hayward gallery a lot in this blog — whether you love or hate it, it’s always makes for a good talking point. I’ve seen exhibitions here which have brought me almost to tears in their beauty (Rebecca Horn for instance), and others which have surprised me in their banality. Many artists have taken up the challenge of filling its unique walls, bringing their own take on this amazing space. It’s closure late last year, for refurbishment, left a gap in my world which was hard to fill. It’s now reopened with two main exhibitions, The New Décor on the ground floor and Ernesto Neto’s “The Edges of the World” on the first floor.

Hayward Gallery

The New Décor, a group themed show around the notion of interior design, is spread leisurely around the ground floor. I always have mixed feelings about themed group shows, and this is no exception — the overall effect can be very disparate and you often leave feeling a little disappointed. I tried to like The New Décor, but it just didn’t excite me. Much of the work, like the interior décor it mimics, feels hollow and devoid of emotion. Interior design feels like a rather staid subject for an exhibition, particularly in a venue like the Hayward. I felt like I was walking through an alternate universe IKEA, but not in a particularly positive way.

There were some exceptions of course — Jin Shi’s “1/2 Life” is beautiful and tragic at the same time, provoking mixed feelings of wonder and sadness as you imagine a human living in his 0.5 scale living quarters. Meticulously executed, almost doll-house like, you can only imagine what life must be like at its true human scale.

Tatiana Trouvé

Tatiana Trouvé’s troubled domestic environment suggests events beyond the life of the installation. Clinically clean surfaces and fittings are, on closer inspection, disturbed and disrupted by burn marks of unknown origin. There is a narrative here, and one for our making. Not quite the domestic bliss of our first encounter with this piece. Intriguing.

I loved Jimmie Durham’s “Imbissstammtisch” if only for its playfulness — you’ll wait for the punchline and then move on. His piece “Close it” is similarly amusing, holding the viewer close to the cabinet door as they attempt to work out whether something or someone is either hiding inside, or is being deliberately incarcerated.

Other pieces, such as the chandeliers, are pleasing as objects, ironically overachieving as works of interior décor. It’s an interesting show, but I can’t help but feel that the re-opening of the Hayward deserved something a little more exciting. Perhaps a walk up those lovely concrete stairs…