ADAM NEATE: The London Show
As dusk falls on Friday 14th November, Adam Neate will be claiming the streets of London as his gallery by leaving 1000 artworks scattered across the city.
Old habits die hard, even the most conceptual ones.
In a one-off art happening of characteristic generosity, one thousand hand screenprinted paintings by Adam Neate will be left on the streets of London through the night of 14th November 2008. Teams of distributors will begin under cover of darkness at the furthest edges of the capital, working their way towards the centre by day break randomly distributing individually numbered ‘unique’ multiples.
For one night only, The London Show adopts the whole capital as its gallery space and rethinks the idea of the ‘private view’. There won’t be any queues to see the work, no chilled wine, the artist himself won’t necessarily be present – just one thousand chance encounters that make up a conceptually pre-meditated potlatch.
“The whole concept when I started the free art thing was challenging the notion of art as a commodity and its worth in society. Now I’m taking that to another level, testing the viability of separating art from commerce.”
Adam Neate reckons to have left around 6,000 paintings on cardboard on the city’s streets over a period dating back many years. But that was at the height of his anonymity and now, with his star in its ascendancy in the British contemporary art scene, his distinctive style has become an instantly recognisable.
Taking a tip from Andy Warhol’s Factory, Neate has worked with a silkscreen printer to ‘mass-produce’ the same number of paintings in a couple of weeks that it would have taken him a year to make by hand.
“I’m interested in that Warhol idea of the brand as assisted readymade. Apart from creating the master image in stencil, I haven’t had to touch these works at any point in their production, even the signature is rubber-stamped – and although they’re multiples, each one is compositionally unique.”
Printed on cardboard and shrink-wrapped in cellophane, there’s a deliberate attempt to blur the boundary between painting, print and product.
“I remember as a kid going into Woolworths and seeing laminated prints of that famous Tretchikoff painting ‘The Chinese Girl’ and thinking it was great that people could have that iconic image at home for next to nothing. I’m hoping that for some people who come across one of these new paintings, they’ll pick it up not because they recognise it as one of mine, but just because they connect with the image and would like to hang it on their wall.”
When they get it home, each new owner can decide whether their chance acquisition of an art work by Adam Neate has greater value with the shrink wrap left on (pure product), or taken off (pure painting). Whichever they decide, they still own one thousandth of an extraordinary public art project.
Ben Jones, art historian 31 Oct 2008