Most of us have art in our homes of one form or another (although a recent YouGov poll revealed that 1 in 25 US citizens are unsure if they own art or not). That art can take many forms – a child’s drawing attached to the fridge door with a fridge magnet,
Low cost printing, mass production and the global trade with workshops in East Asia have enabled a cheap and homogenous market for good quality artworks sold as interior decoration in the UK. These industrially-produced artworks are distant cousins of the contemporary art market. But there are family resemblances.
It would be all too easy to denounce artworks from B&Q or IKEA as some of the lowest products of the culture industry, and their owners as passive victims of a malevolent industrial complex. “The elite always assumes that the public is moulded by the products imposed on it,” writes Michel de Certeau. But that would be to deny the day-to-day enjoyment that people get from their home art collections, and the creative ways in which everyone uses commercial culture to construct a self-image from its fragments. De Certeau redefines cultural consumers as “unrecognized producers, poets of their own acts, silent discoverers of their own paths in the jungle of functionalist rationality”.
Over the last five months, Mark Wilsher and a team of volunteers have been visiting over a hundred and fifty households within two miles of the Minories Galleries. Over two thousand artworks have been documented, and from these a selection of forty have been borrowed from living room and bedroom walls to make up this exhibition.
It is possible to discern some common themes in the selection. Reproductions of famous works by Picasso, Van Gogh and Matisse bring to mind Malraux’s museum without walls. Canvas prints on stretchers emulate the form of traditional easel painting. Posters from children’s bedrooms advertise recent Disney movies and the Minecraft phenomenon.
The exhibition is an anthropological investigation of the aesthetics of a locality, individual tastes and subjectivity filtered through the mechanisms of contemporary capitalism