Tabish Khan the @LondonArtCritic loves art and visits hundreds of exhibitions a year. But every now and then he comes across something in the art world that doesn’t meet his approval.
Commercial galleries have been open for a few weeks and people have come flooding back. Now with museums and art institutions openings less than a week ago it’s safe to say we’re all hyped to be back again.
To encourage everyone to get on board the Mayor of London’s office has started the #LetsDoLondon campaign to get us all involved, a wonderful initiative. And as part of that campaign we get this … wait, what?
Now at first, I thought this was a lovely initiative to get primary school children to draw the iconic transport for London roundel to show that art is for everyone. But no, it’s the work of legendary British artist David Hockney on display at Piccadilly Circus station.
Well, let’s hope this isn’t a sign of his upcoming Royal Academy show or we’re in for some serious disappointment. There doesn’t even seem to be any justification for this badly drawn artwork in the press release or from the artist, not even an attempt to justify it in some conceptual round(el)about way.
It definitely feels like Hockney is phoning it in here – less Let’s Do London, more Let’s Don’t London. Less Hockney, more Hack-ney. Now it’s worth noting I don’t know what’s happened behind the scenes here, whether Hockney insisted on the design, how much time he was given or whether the organisers pushed back at all so it would be wrong to place all the blame on a single party without knowing the details.
When the arts are facing more and more cuts this just acts as justification for doing so, and is ammunition for all those who think contemporary art is nonsense – and in one of the most public spaces in the country.
Yes this naive art style is very en vogue within the contemporary art world right now, a trend that I’m not a fan of, but this is the face art is projecting out to all Londoners and potential visitors to London’s galleries and museums. The wider world, outside of art world insiders, are the main audience for this campaign and I can’t imagine this will be well received — a quick glance on Twitter suggests it is not going down well.
What’s doubly insulting is all the other less well-known artists who would love to have a crack at this commission and would do a much better job. Plus they’d have multiple ideas rather than something hastily drawn on an iPad. Even the simple tweak of having a shortlist of artists would have guaranteed a few options to pick from, instead, they put all their roundel shaped eggs in one Hockney shaped basket.
I know why people go with big-name artists as it’s guaranteed star power that will probably get them lots of press coverage. Plus it’s easy to get the green light for a commission when you have a big name on board. But often the big names can be unwilling to bend and you get something that doesn’t fulfil what’s required – another example being Maggi Hambling’s hideous Mary Wollstonecraft statue.
London’s galleries and museums are ready to come roaring back with a fantastic line up of exhibitions, and they deserve better than this.
For more in this series, see my thoughts on art finds a way, art being free, Online exhibitions, Turner Prize 2019, artist’s request for feedback, the reaction to the shredded Banksy, #FriezeWeek, Blockchain hype, Finding art, Private views, Art itself, Appointment only exhibitions, Artificial Intelligence replacing artists, Everyone’s a Critic, Photo London, The Turner Prize, Art for art’s sake, Conceptual art is complicated, Condo, How performance art is presented in museums, Frieze week floozies, too much respect for an artist’s legacy, opinions not being welcome, an exhibition across three countries, tackling race and gender in art, artist-curators, art fair hype, top 5s and top 10s, our political art is terrible, gap left by Brian Sewell, how art never learned from the Simpsons, why artspeak won’t die, so-called reviews, bad reviews are bad for business, the $179m dollar headline, art fairs appealing to the masses, false opening hours, size matters and what’s wrong with video art.