For all the views you might have on the uselessness of government, it is an important art collector. And Whitechapel Gallery has invited various curators to bring this massive collection to life over the next year or so, with the Government Art collection.
First up is Whitechapel favourite Cornelia Parker, an artist, herself and her take on the collection can be seen until December. But we’ve also got Simon Schama’s picks (December to February 2012) and even staff from 10 Downing Street (March to June).
Parker takes the mnemonic Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain as her inspiration and the one-room show really will shake up your gallery visiting experiences. For a start she has chosen the simple idea – some would say gimmick – of arranging her favourite pieces by their main colour to make the whole collection work as one. It hits you as you walk in and slowly realise, turning from one coloured section to another what is going on.
And that’s the other thing, there’s just tons of art crammed onto the Whitechapel walls – it looks messy and I loved it. It’s just not something I’m used to seeing in galleries and I’d love to see more of it.
The locations of the pieces themselves, noted in the (free) booklet guide that accompanies the (free) exhibition, are really intriguing. Double Deathshead from the ‘Screen portfolio’ by the Chapman brothers is a screenprint with two skulls, one bulging 3D eye each on a blood-red background – and it’s come straight from the Cabinet office.
And Grayson Perry’s fantastic Print for a Politician etching, which details whereabouts in an imaginary settlement all the ‘wankers’, ‘blacks’, ‘students’ and ‘rockers’ live must raise a few eyebrows at the HM Treasury where it usually hangs.
Also worth a peek at the Whitechapel Gallery are the mini exhibition-on-an-exhibition Rothko in Britain upstairs and Josiah McElheny installation on the ground floor. It’s all free but the gallery asks for a £2 donation.