I rather love the work of Martin Creed. There’s a manly sort of whimsy to much of it, leaving aside his more-realist-than-needs-be Sick and Sex films, which I encountered for the first time at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham in 2008 while studying for my MA. There are times when an image really shouldn’t get stuck in your head…
But there’s a deftness too in the way he ascribes art amongst the ordinary and everyday and a sense of amusement too, more than perhaps humour. I’m not sure if you would call it conceptual art punctured by an unpretentious realism or realist art with a witty and knowing surrealist bent.
Creed is perhaps most famous for winning the Turner Prize in 2001 for his Work No.227 – the infamous room with the lights that turned themselves on and off. But I’m thinking of his 2008 Duveen Commission for Tate Britain, Work no. 850, where an athlete ran the length of the Duveen Galleries, full pelt, every 30 seconds, every day from July to November and Work No. 409 (2005), that’s now installed in the JCB lift at the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank. Here, a recording plays every time the lift is used: a group of singers’ voices rise and fall as the lift ascends and descends. It’s both theatrically daggy and unapologetically it is what it is that you can’t help but like it.
Creed’s latest work can be found at Sketch on Conduit St. Sketch is many things – all of them achingly cool – but in amongst the kinetic sculptures, past the members bars with its impressive cocktail list - there’s also a restaurant. I’d been to Sketch once before, to the bar with someone who knew someone who worked on the door, and I glimpsed the restaurant then on my way to their infamous bathrooms (google them.) At the time, the restaurant had video art wallpaper, with deer ambling their way across the walls. Now, the restaurant has Martin Creed.
Specifically, it has Work No. 1343 and Work No. 1347, two works specially commissioned in the first of a programme of artist-conceived restaurants at Sketch. The commission is to create an environment that is “at once an exhibition, an artwork and a restaurant” and that was all I needed to know to make a booking (the things we do in the name of art...)
Creed’s two works take in the floor, Work No. 1347; 96 different types of earthy coloured marble from around the world, arranged in zigzag formation across the room and; Work No. 1343 – basically everything else.
Creed has taken out the tables, chairs, cutlery, glassware, crockery, light fittings, lamps, bar stools and video art and replaced everything with something unique. It’s a dazzling partnership of art and function as handmade meets mass-produced with antiques, contemporary design and junk store chic coming together across decades and continents to create a dynamic, colourful, clever but resolutely unpretentious space where no two objects are the same.
We were sat at a yellow Formica table, my seat an old wooden swivel chair with inlaid designs and a horse embroidered cushion, my wine glass a memento from the Willesden West Rotary Club. The gentleman at the table next to us was sitting in one of those lecture hall seats with the attached desk while across the room another chair was covered entirely in what looked like leather post-it notes. Each wall had its own large-scale work of art and only the bar staff matched in their smart black and white striped shirts.
It was such an engaged, lively, lovely environment to be in, with the mishmash of lights overhead washing the space in a warm, intimate light, and the way in which the outdoor furniture negated the ostentatious Chanel jewellery of its sitter across the room. Our waiter told us that every evening the room is rearranged so no two experiences are the same. It’s like that childhood birthday game where you move amongst the chairs in time to the music but instead of one being removed, it’s simply replaced. And happily, no one goes without cake.
Refreshingly, given the whole set up, the service was totally without pretension and the staff were as informed about Creed’s work as they were about the menu. Broadbean soup with goats cheese for entree, veal blanquette for main and sorbet and macaroons for dessert, the food was a perfect mix of interesting and delicious and I can still taste the bubblegum in my companion’s dessert, something called a Malabar, featuring Bourbon vanilla-infused milk, strawberry mousse, bubble gum ice cream and marshmallow. Bloody hell it was good.
As an art experience, it was joyous – humorous, democratic, memorable. As a food experience, it was sophisticated and fun. I’m not sure what else you can ask for, but my admiration for Creed continues, as does my love for non-traditional art-filled, art-fuelled environs.
It was such a special night, one of those crazy truly London-only moments, reinforced by the amble home down Regents St to Piccadilly Circus tube. I have to confess it wasn’t a cheap night but then, only Damien Hirst puts a price on art right?
- Nov 23, 2018 Artist texts: Clare Thackway Nov 23, 2018
- Oct 29, 2018 Announcement of Churchill Fellowship 2018 Oct 29, 2018
- Sep 30, 2018 Frida Kahlo at the Victoria & Albert Museum Sep 30, 2018
- Sep 7, 2018 Elizabeth Willing profile for Art Collector magazine Sep 7, 2018
- Aug 2, 2018 Beyond Community Engagement: Transforming Dialogues in Art, Education and the Cultural Sphere Aug 2, 2018
- Jun 21, 2018 Spotlight on MCA Young Guides Jun 21, 2018
- Jul 26, 2017 Te Tuhi Talks Jul 26, 2017
- Apr 2, 2017 New role: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia Apr 2, 2017
- Jan 19, 2017 Louise Paramor profile for Art Collector magazine, issue 78 Jan 19, 2017
- Dec 1, 2016 Craft Council UK – Make:Shift conference, Manchester, 10-11 Nov, 2016 Dec 1, 2016
- Oct 30, 2016 Alison Croggon on the arts funding crisis and the importance of criticism Oct 30, 2016
- Apr 27, 2016 Lottie Consalvo: mid-fall, Alaska Projects Apr 27, 2016
- Mar 18, 2016 20th Biennale of Sydney: The future is here it's just not evenly distributed Mar 18, 2016
- Nov 22, 2015 Celeste Boursier-Mougenot at the NGV Nov 22, 2015
- Sep 22, 2015 Educating People Like Us Sep 22, 2015
- Aug 2, 2015 What It Means to be Me, Western Plains Cultural Centre, Dubbo, 26 July 2015 Aug 2, 2015
- Jul 12, 2015 More Marina Magic Jul 12, 2015
- Jul 12, 2015 Art Collector cover story Jul 12, 2015
- Jun 25, 2015 Lessons learnt: Kaldor regional progress report Jun 25, 2015
- May 5, 2015 Kaldor pilots regional engagement project May 5, 2015
- Aug 21, 2014 Melbourne Art Fair 2014 Aug 21, 2014
- Jun 24, 2014 Fresh Faces Symposium: Art Gallery of New South Wales Jun 24, 2014
- May 24, 2014 REVIEW: Sleepers Awake, MCA C3West Project, Bungaribee May 24, 2014
- Feb 20, 2014 Kevin Chin profile for Art Collector magazine Feb 20, 2014
- Feb 9, 2014 Artlink review: 21st Century Portraits Feb 9, 2014
- Jan 12, 2014 REVIEW: Christian Boltanski, Chance, Carriageworks Jan 12, 2014
- Sep 20, 2013 The problem with 'Australia' Sep 20, 2013
- Sep 4, 2013 Margate: An away day and a visit to Turner Contemporary Sep 4, 2013
- Jul 28, 2013 A round-up: Miles Aldridge, Somerset House; Katharina Fritsch, Fourth Plinth, Trafalgar Square; Michael Landy, ‘Saints Alive’, National Gallery Jul 28, 2013
- Jul 21, 2013 Peckham weekends Jul 21, 2013
- Jul 11, 2013 Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik Jul 11, 2013
- Jun 4, 2013 St Paul-de-Vence Jun 4, 2013
- May 30, 2013 A visit to Paul Cezanne's studio May 30, 2013
- Oct 30, 2012 REVIEW: dOCUMENTA 13, Kassel, Germany Oct 30, 2012
- Oct 28, 2012 Tino Sehgal, These Associations, Tate Modern, London Oct 28, 2012
- Aug 4, 2012 Jeremy Deller, Sacrilege, Burgess Park, London Aug 4, 2012
- Apr 14, 2012 REVIEW: Martin Creed, Sketch Nightclub, London Apr 14, 2012
- Jul 19, 2010 Christian Boltanski, Les archives du coeur, Serpentine Gallery, London Jul 19, 2010
- Jul 9, 2010 REVIEW: 1:1 Architects Build Small Spaces, Victoria & Albert Museum, London Jul 9, 2010
- Jul 5, 2010 REVIEW: EXPOSED: Voyeurism, Surveillance & the Camera, Tate Modern, London Jul 5, 2010
- Jun 21, 2010 REVIEW: Sean Scully New Work, Timothy Taylor Gallery, London Jun 21, 2010
- Jun 14, 2010 Yinka Shonibare MBE, “Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle”, Fourth Plinth, Trafalgar Square Jun 14, 2010
- May 20, 2010 REVIEW: Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, Barbican Centre, London May 20, 2010
- May 16, 2010 REVIEW: Decode: Digital Design Sensation, Victoria & Albert Museum, London May 16, 2010
- May 9, 2010 REVIEW: Olafur Eliasson: Take Your Time, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney May 9, 2010
- Sep 17, 2008 REVIEW: Suzanne Treister, ALCHEMY, Annely Juda Fine Art Sep 17, 2008