In Pictures: The British Art Show at the Hayward Gallery

By Ben Miller Published: 16 February 2011

An image of the head of a bald man in the darkness spitting white soap from his mouth
Nathaniel Mellors, The Object (Ourhouse)
Exhibition: British Art Show 7, Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London, until April 17 2011

The British Art Show, the Hayward Gallery’s travelling boutique which journeys around the country every five years, has always had pulling power. More than 114,000 people saw the latest installment, In the Days of the Comets, when it went on show in Nottingham at the end of 2010 (read our review), but its return to the Hayward marks the first time it has appeared in London since 1990.

A photo of a young man sitting naked on a bench in a gallery looking at a flame rising from the opposite end of it
Roger Hiorns, Untitled (2005-2010)© Kieron McCarron
Roger Hiorns’ Untitled, a metal bench which fires off a sporadic flame occasionally tended to by a naked young man, has attracted plenty of attention for the capital chapter of the show. The 2009 Turner Prize nominee has also hung four resin works from the gallery ceiling and a Mercedes engine, protected by the blessings of a prayer group.

A photo of a large square installation in a gallery with a man looking at it
Spartacus Chetwynd, The Folding House (2010)
None of the 39 artists involved could be accused of risking mundanity. Christian Marclay has made an “astonishing” montage of thousands of film clips, Keith Wilson’s steel sculpture was originally commissioned for Hammersmith Station, and Sarah Lucas has stuffed bunches of nylon tights into biomorphic forms.

A photo of strange, sausage-like sculptures on tall plinths inside a white gallery
Sarah Lucas, NUDS (2009-10)© Kieron McCarron
By Spartacus Chetwynd’s indefatigably preposterous standards, her looming architectural whirl of fabric, old windowpanes and discarded materials is relatively restrained. Charles Avery continues his fantasy island dynasty with View of the Port at Onomatopoeia, Nathaniel Mellor develops his fantastical Ourhouse soap opera and Juliette Blightman adds a lamp and net curtain to one of the Southbank’s windows.

A photo of an installation inside a gallery showing various artefacts inside a kind of pop-up shop on wooden flooring
Matthew Darbyshire, An Exhibition for Modern Living (2010)
Many commentators have expressed a concern that this could be the final time such an ambitious show is taken to such a wide audience, derailed by funding cuts. After London, it will head to Glasgow in May 2011 and Plymouth in September.

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