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KK Outlet, London
3 - 30 June 2011
Reviewed by: Sam Clift »
‘No names. No titles. No value. Many would not give this exhibition a second glance, as on face value, it does not appear to offer anything. It appears to be the nature of the concept itself surrounding the accompanying work with elements of uncertainty and mysticism, which is the hook.’ On my walk along Old Street as I veered up to KK outlet, these were some of the thoughts running through my head. I had no idea what to expect with a show such as this, as, after all, its not everyday a gallery puts on a show of ‘lost’ artwork, whilst offering artists the opportunity to ‘claim back’ their works, should they visit the show and be reunited with an artwork from a time past.
On entering the gallery space, I was initially surprised at the small scale of many of the works hung on the wall. I then reminded myself that if I had just happened to be carrying a relatively large painting on my tube journey around London, somehow, I don’t think I would lose it! The walls were covered with paintings on canvas and paper, drawings on canvas and paper, some photography and a few mixed media works. As my thoughts suggested earlier, bar one, none of the works are linked to a specifically known artist, or even have titles. So, analysing the works on a deeper theoretical level could prove a little difficult. Where they do all stand though is within the framework which KK outlet has set for the exhibition. The gallery’s Curators visited Transport for London’s (TfL) Lost Property Office, to view their extensive range of unclaimed items, when they stumbled across the many artworks in their possession. They decided to put this exhibition together to showcase the range of styles, abilities and medias amongst all the art works in their possession.
The most intriguing element to this show is the story behind Regis Gautier-Cochfert. Regis is the only known artist in the exhibition, who left the whole of his end of year photography project from his studies at Wimbledon College of Art on the underground, with his name along with it. How or why this happened, I’m not sure, though I know it does add a rather mystical and pivotal factor to why this show exists in the first place. Danielle Pender, KKOutlet’s Gallery Manager, sums this up perfectly ‘the art itself is really intriguing but the stories behind how they came to end up in the Lost Property office and who created them are just as fascinating.’
Sadly the concept itself appears to be of a much stronger appeal than the actual works, but there in lies this show’s success. I have not seen a collection of works such as this in one place in a long time where the quality and integrity of individual works is completely shrouded by the idea of what an exhibition should be, and what it should represent. The platform created by this speaks for itself. If anything, the quality and styles of work are completely irrelevant - I could hand pick any number of works of a similar worth to include in the exhibition and I truly believe the impact would still be the same, and the concept just as strong.
There are many questions which this show conjures up, yet there are no definitive answers, as there is no obvious way of confirming what appears to be purely fictional. So, it is open to interpretation. Initially I was surprised that people even lost their work on the underground – how is this possible? Surely anyone with enough attentiveness and consideration could not cast aside a personal treasure, and, if this should happen, not even reclaim it? What does this say about the artists themselves, and how they value their work? It could be said that many of the works in the exhibition are mediocre, with an essence of kitch, though this could be purely a curatorial decision during the selection process. Or, it could be a reflection on the heightened consumer culture which society has brought about. We live in a society now, in Western Europe at least, where it is cheaper to buy a replacement than it is to have something repaired. The value of a product has dropped drastically, and with that the personal value attached to it. Long gone are the days when one would cherish the very existence and worth of a product that would outstand its years. That sense of value has now gone, and been replaced by a sense of value worthy of a bargain, a moment or an instinctual urge to satisfy an impulse. Do remember though, that this is just my opinion, I’m sure you have your own.
So what does this mean for the artists and the work in the Lost Collection? Well, I shall let you decide, but know this – Regis called in to claim his work.
Sam Clift is an Artist and Curator based in London.
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