Martin Creed at Hayward Gallery or the WTF effect


Martin Creed gives us the stick with which to beat him by entitling his exhibition at Hayward Gallery What’s the point of it?. Or he anticipated the public’s reaction to a survey of “Martin Creed’s playful, thought-provoking art”. Martin Creed was awarded the Turner Prize in 2001 for his neon pieces such as Work # 203: Everything is going to be alright and Work # 232: The whole world + the work = the whole world, as well as his contribution to the Turner Prize exhibition Work No. 227: The lights going on and off.

It was my last exhibition of the day after spending a few hours at the National Gallery and the last hour and a half looking at German Renaissance paintings (Strange Beauty). Entering Hayward Gallery, I was welcomed by a giant neon sign Mothers (Work No. 1092) rotating at high speed. I smiled, thinking what a change of scene from the National Gallery, and how diverse my taste in art is. I was open to discover the “art” of Martin Creed.

Martin Creed does as he pleases, pigheadedly. He presents crumpled ball of paper as art in a vitrine, a framed white sheet with a few words “f*** off”, doodles, etc. He surely enjoyed himself creating his pieces and presenting them. I was amused by his piano which came with instructions and was being played by security employees who became performance artists. He had a few good drawings, which made me think he could draw – was he simply being lazy presenting white sheets of paper or rather was he making a statement of some kind by presenting blank sheets?

When asked to categorise his art, Creed responded: “Whether you’re answering a phone in a call centre or making a piece of sculpture […], it’s creative. People express themselves in everything they do.” (Mr Creed, this is nonsensical, I worked several years in a call centre in my student days and there is nothing creative about it.)

Some will think he’s a conceptual artist, I get it, but he doesn’t believe in conceptual art as he “can’t separate ideas from feelings”… He has a go at everything: he also created Light art, Sound art – he has a sound installation of Blowing a raspberry! He may also be a Duchamp-ion piling boxes, chairs, wood plinths. He developed further versions of his Work No. 227 from The lights going on and off to a door opening and closing and curtains opening and closing.

I smiled less when I saw his video Work No 503. Seeing visitors laughing when exiting the film room piqued my curiosity… Spoiler: the film shows a young woman defecating and people vomiting. I believe provoking for the sake of it up to the point of disgust is not art. The video enchanted children, one screamed “that’s the best art I’ve ever seen!”, to which another kid answered “what’s the point of this?”! Phew, our young visitors can still discern art from non-art.

The video is purposely controversial and thought provoking on the question of what is art. Overall, the entire exhibition – and not just THAT video – left a bad taste in the mouth. I felt for the other Turner Prize nominees in 2001 (Richard Billingham, Isaac Julien and Mike Nelson), who lost out and were in my opinion more deserving, as the jury praised Martin Creed’s deftness and breadth of his work, audacity, engaging, wide-ranging and fresh qualities. I am glad I saw the show or I might have regretted not finding out for myself that there is no point – not to Creed’s latest retrospective at least. Open until 5 May.


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