Art for Everyone?
There’s a good chance that sometime during the next week you will encounter something beautiful at a bus stop. That may be a fervent wish harboured by all of us as we wait for the number 7, but in this case it might just be true: Art Everywhere has finally arrived.
For a short time (August 12-25), Britain will become an outdoor art gallery, a mass of masterpieces visible to all on billboards, buses, taxis and the underground. In total, there will be more than 22,000 opportunities to see 57 British artworks…of which more anon.
Art Everywhere was conceived by Richard Reed, co-founder of Innocent drinks. He had the idea of making a selection British art available to all on grand and intimate scales in the manner of an advertising campaign. There’s a perception among many that art is impenetrable and elitist but all good art begs to be shared, and the UK has a tradition of making exceptional art available to the public gaze. This stretches back nearly 200 years to 1817 when the Dulwich Picture Gallery first opened in South London. By printing thousands of images of British artworks and displaying them in our streets and on public transport, Art Everywhere is continuing this tradition in a very modern sense.
From the outset, the project has been a truly collaborative one involving business, artists, curators, established art organisations like the Art Fund and the Tate, as well as the public themselves. The man on the street chose the 57 works to be exhibited and donated £30,000 to meet the printing costs.
The result is a remarkable cross-section of Brit Art old and new: Millais, Waterhouse, Bacon, Freud, Constable, Sargent (an honorary Brit of American parentage), Hepworth, Emin, Hurst and Hockney – they are all included. Manchester’s contributions are John William Waterhouse’s beautiful Hylas and the Nymphs (permanent collection, Manchester Art Gallery) and Lucian Freud’s Man’s Head (Self-Portrait I) (permanent collection, Whitworth Art Gallery). Bacon’s Head IV, also selected, is currently on loan at Manchester Art Gallery as part of the Radical Figures exhibition.
Our thanks should go to Richard Reed for bringing Art Everywhere to life. However, there is one black mark to report and that is the frustrating lack of information on the Art Everywhere website concerning the locations of display sites. There’s a map, but it’s a mass of pins that gives no information at street level. The provision of a list of sites searchable by town or postcode seems like common sense and would have been helpful. People like to get involved with this sort of thing; parents and children, for example, might have enjoyed a ‘Spot the Art Everywhere Artwork’ walk around their town or city.
Furthermore, the artworks are not easy to find. I spent a good few hours pounding the streets of Manchester but spotting an image proved elusive. Disappointingly, Manchester Art Gallery couldn’t help either. In addition, many people have requested location information on the Art Everywhere Facebook page but have been met with either silence or vagueness. “Are there any north of Watford?’” asked one man sarcastically, perhaps referring to the London-centric impression initially provided by the Facebook page. “Lots in Hemel Hempstead and St. Albans!” responded Art Everywhere, as if civilisation stops at the border of Hertfordshire.
Eventually, I was tipped-off about a cache of images on display at Manchester Piccadilly train station. In the end I found only one: Hew Locke’s Jungle Queen IV (voted 32nd favourite of the 57 images). After a week of badgering by the public, however, it seems that common sense is beginning to prevail. Art Everywhere is at last responding to requests for locations and providing assurances of producing a user-friendly site map. With only one week to go until the campaign ends, though, this claw-back of common sense is perhaps a little too late and a lost opportunity to involve people in the project.
I suspect this is not the last we’ve seen of Art Everywhere. It is to be hoped that it will return all the wiser for its encounters with yours disgruntled of Manchester, et al.
What: Art Everywhere
When: until August 25, 2013
More info: http://arteverywhere.org.uk/your-top-ten-british-masterpieces/
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