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The Collective, The House of St. Barnabas

Jason Yen
Avenir Magazine
October 2013
 

The Collective at The House of St. Barnabas (HOSB) features works by more than 50 emerging and established artists such as Chris Levine, Cornelia Parker, Damien Hirst, Gilbert & George, Jeff Koons, Kieth Harring, Martin Creed, and Tracy Emin. Over 170 artworks were showcased throughout the historical Georgian building, creating a dialogue between old and new. Reopened in 2006 as a private member’s charity club, HOSB aims to promote awareness to homelessness and raise funds through the nonprofit club; with The Collective, the club works with gallerists, curators and artists that loaned, donated and displayed works of art for sale.

Upon entrance, visitors will see the glimmering Chrysalis (2013) by Haberdashery London, a large scale (6-metre long) lighting sculpture commissioned for the show which gives off a sense of lavishness, emanating golden, lustrous rays in the reception room and the staircase. While the project aims to be inclusive, contrary to the norm in the artworld, the opening night on November 8th was inevitably exclusive to some, due to capacity and health and safety issues. “We’re lucky in that we can get away with mixing it all up because it’s for charity.” Says Katie Heller, the curator of The Collective, in her interview with Zing Tsjeng.

On the way upstairs, the audience will encounter Nicola Samori’s Seer (2010), a life size ghost-like sculpture, the figure seems weary and distraught, poetically reminiscent to the cause of the club, as if welcoming one’s presence in this avant-garde art feast. On the Rococo style plastered walls, Alan Rankle’s Untitled Painting VII and Untitled Painting VIII (Both 2013) work perfectly, as if the extravagant and romantic Rococo style was meant to be part of the artwork. This mixture of contemporary art in a traditional setting is indeed refreshing.

The most impressive room was perhaps the chapel, in the corridor leading to the place of worship, there’s Andrew Hancock’s Coffee and Cigarettes (Lunar Composition) (2013), inside the chapel, Frédérique Morrel’s Visitor My Dear stands ominously in the centre in front of the altar.

 Highlights of the show include Whitney McVeigh’s Fallen (2006), a large piece on paper displayed in the Bazalgette Room. Dutch Artist Jan Maarten Voskuil’s There Is No Point In Permanent Yellow and Pointless Cornered Perspective Orange (Both 2012) and Flat-out Pointless Black Perspective (2011) can be found hung high up delightfully in the Library Bar together with works by Gilbert & George and Hew Locke.

 Art is constantly changing and so is the presentation of art. How art is presented affects greatly on how it is perceived, interpreted and understood. Instead of displaying art in a white cube, The Collective at HOSB would be a fine example of putting art in context. There are still debates of whether or not it would be the ideal way of presenting art, how much is adequate? The Collective shows a wide variety of art and medium, oddly enough, it somehow works as a whole. Does one display have to be totally sterile to prevent confusion? The answer is no. The Collective may seem chaotic at first glance, but all in all, it is an interesting and bold curatorial statement.

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