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UK Lowbrow–Pop Surrealism exhibition revels in successLatest News
Mon 23 Aug, 2010.
Art From the New World wound up at the Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery yesterday with the expectation that final visitor figures would reach the 60,000 mark – a thrilling success in the eyes of the director of the Los Angeles gallery that curated the exhibition.
Corey Helford Gallery (CHG) director Richard Scarry made no secret of his delight with both the attendance figures and with viewers’ overwhelmingly positive response during a public guided tour of the exhibition on Saturday 21 August. SDk attended this tour and can vouch for the large number of fellow, suitably impressed and appreciative, attendees.
Scarry, who is Bristol-based and flies to Los Angeles for a week or so at a time once a month to attend to his duties in person at CHG, said he was determined to mount Art From the New World in Bristol as a result of the Banksy exhibition held last summer at the same venue. Banksy – Bristol’s most famous ambassador for the city’s thriving independent arts and cultural scene along with the internationally influential “trip-hop” music artists Portishead, Massive Attack and Tricky (also known as “the Bristol sound”) – drew some 300,000 people, many from overseas, to the Banksy versus Bristol Museum exhibition. The Banksy show virtually single-handedly saved Bristol’s hospitality and tourism industries from the ravages of the recession. However, saving the city from recession was probably not on the mind of those who had to queue for up to six hours for entry, and the ultimate results of this unintended, benign effect of the clear popularity of the bandit street artist’s work remains to be seen, as the last word on the UK’s recession has not yet been heard. But we digress.
Forty-nine, mostly American, artists contributed work to Art From the New World, and Scarry pointed out that 17 of these were women – a relatively high proportion by most group exhibition standards. He took clear pleasure in announcing this, and described as “bullshit” a male-dominated art industry attitude that often bestows “hobby” status upon the work of female artists, but regards the output of male artists definitively as “art”.
Scarry also revealed he had told the artists he’d enlisted that Art From the New World would be held in a pop-up gallery so the new work being produced for the exhibition by many of the artists would not be influenced by the knowledge their work would be shown in a major gallery.
Among the other insights Scarry shared on the tour are the following:
- A more precise definition of the work on display, other than the catch-all genre “Lowbrow”, is “pop surrealism–urban–outsider” art; “Lowbrow”, he said, is not inferior art but is “a different sensibility – it’s not academic art”.
- This broad art movement represented an American “reaction against conceptual and abstract art”.
- Much of the work in Art From the New World has sold, including to professional and corporate buyers, and to the world’s biggest pop art collectors; members of the British contemporary music bands Portishead and Muse have bought examples.
- One painting, Fur Girl by Mark Ryden (oil on canvas, 2010), was “the $300,000 piece in the collection” on display in Bristol.
- Sixty percent of the artists represented have classical training; many are self-taught.
- Elizabeth McGrath’s small Cerberus (mixed media with Swarovski crystals & gold leaf, 2010) notably consists of 2,000 hand-placed crystals (and had been purchased by the owner of Nike).
Scarry is active on Bristol’s art scene and gallery circuit, so keep an eye out for him. This is probably best done via the art blog he operates with Chippy Coates, Coates and Scarry.
See our review of Art From the New World in our Latest News section, immediately preceding this posting.
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