Curator Kelly Large Discusses The Zabludowicz Collection, YBAs And The Establishment

Curator Kelly

The Zabludowicz Collection is presenting a major exhibition featuring over 30 leading international artists, including eight Turner Prize winners, to celebrate 20 years of the collection. The show brings together significant works, many never before seen in the UK, and reflects the attitude of bold experimentation that defines the Zabludowicz Collection.

The collection was founded by Anita and Poju Zabludowicz in 1994, and has become one of the world’s leading independent contemporary art collections, containing over 3000 works by over 500 artists and is an entity that continues to grow and evolve. ‘Zabludowicz Collection: 20 Years’ celebrates the roots of the collection in 1990s London and the artists who transformed the landscape of contemporary art at the time. The exhibition includes seminal works by Damien Hirst, Rachel Whiteread, Michael Landy, Sarah Lucas and Tracey Emin, and artists from outside the UK such as Sigmar Polke and Isa Genzken rub shoulders with those from a younger generation such as Rachel Harrison, Guyton/Walker and Pamela Rosenkranz.

Kelly Large, the Curator of Public Programs at the Zabludowicz Collection was kind enough to give Artlyst a tour of the highlights of the exhibition, explaining the complexities and relationships presented in this cross-section of an immense collection.

“The front part of the exhibition is a very international space, whereas the rear space is predominantly focused on artists who were originally based in Britain and most of them were probably known as the YBA group of artists who appeared in the late 80’s to early 90’s, which is a counterpoint to the first space. This makes us think about two things: one it makes us think about how global the work has become, in the spread of 20 years the artists in this space were emerging at the same time as the collection began, so it gives a point of reference to that, and the types of practices that were around at the time. But also that now it would be really hard to have a YBA phenomenon because the art world is so international; you don’t have those kind of locational practices in quite the same way.

We have some photographs by the artist Wolfgang Tillmans, these are quite crucial works in his development, and they are very informal documentary-type photographs but also quite abstract – which he took on the tube – they are not composed but as he found people. The works are cropped in such a way as they become quite abstract. They become as much about the shapes and colours – and posture – as they do about the people themselves.

A lot of the work in the second part of this exhibition explores the everyday in lots of ways, whether that’s the overlooked, the poetic of the everyday, turning the everyday into something monumental. So we have a really early work by Gillian Wearing, called ‘Dancing In Peckham’ which is a work that she’s really well known for. It features the artist herself, having memorised a soundtrack of music that she then plays in her mind and dances to in this really public space. The idea of a female figure doing something odd and quite awkward in a public shopping centre – and I think Gillian is known for being very shy – so that would’ve been quite an excruciating thing for her to do. And I suppose another thing about this part of the show is that these artists are all part of the establishment. They are not only established, but are also establishment artists. But twenty years ago they were emerging artists, and hopefully this show enables people to reflect on that.

Now we come to a really early work by Michael Landy, called ‘Appropriation 2’. This is a really simple video work of a greengrocers in Camberwell that we’ve recently discovered still exists. It’s a locked-frame film in which he’s videoing the grocer preparing his display. The work does a number of things – it’s a really slow work – in comparison to other works in the show, and it maybe asks us to think about the equivalence between the grocer’s aesthetic decision-making and decisions that artists make when they’re making work. The work was made in 1990, and at the time it would’ve been very fresh, whereas now it feels quite nostalgic – it actually feels like a piece of social documentary – because it looks old, it’s analogue video, so I think it’s really interesting work in terms of thinking about the collection and how an artwork can change its value and its meaning. Not only does a work change its financial value over time, it might also be read differently, or start to mean different things depending upon the context in which you are viewing it. So I think that this is experienced in a very different way now, than we experienced it in the 1990’s, when video was still a relatively new medium to be working with.

Finally we have the Jim Lambie floor. This is a key feature of the show, and it’s a work that people have really enjoyed seeing in lots of ways. So Jim Lambie is a UK-based artist who lives in Scotland, he’s known for these floor installations that he makes and are always brightly coloured geometrical and striped patterns that are made out of vinyl taped out across the floor. In fact you might think of it as a psychedelic dance floor of sorts, and he is very influenced by music and rhythm. I think the floors are works that attempt to translate the rhythm of music into some sort of visual pattern or energy. So I guess in terms of a tradition he relates very much to the idea of Op Art in lots of ways, and early Modernists like Mondrian, abstracting and dealing with pure colour.

This work is called Zobop, and it’s interesting as it’s an installed worked that in the end of the show the work will be ripped up and chucked in the bin, so the collection owns the work but what we’ve acquired is a pattern with a set of instructions on how it is installed. Even with nine people it took 10 days to install  – you can stand on the work – it becomes a kind of pedestal or a prop for a series of other objects; two concrete sculptures where the artist has cast records from his collection into these concrete blocks, entombing them. So while the floor is energetic, vibrant, light, playful, and colourful work – the sculptures act as weightier forms and something that is often missed is the artist’s Psychedelic Soul Sticks, which are totemic objects, magical wands with a mystical quality and bound together from detritus from the artist’s studio, and colourful thread – encapsulating energy from the studio and bring it into the gallery space and bringing its resonance here.”

Artists: Ed Atkins / Laura Buckley, Haroon Mirza and Dave Maclean / Martin Creed / Alexandre da Cunha / Dexter Dalwood / Tracey Emin / Isa Genzken / Samara Golden / Guyton\Walker / Rachel Harrison / Andy Holden / Damien Hirst / Jim Lambie / Michael Landy / Maria Lassnig / Mark Leckey / Sarah Lucas / Josephine Meckseper / Albert Oehlen / Heather Phillipson / Sigmar Polke / Elizabeth Price / Pamela Rosenkranz / Wolfgang Tillmans / Keith Tyson / Julia Wachtel / Gillian Wearing / Rachel Whiteread / Christopher Wool.

Zabludowicz Collection: 20 Years of Collecting: Between Discovery and Invention – Zabludowicz Collection – until 16 August 2015

Read part one here

Words: Kelly Large with Paul Black. Photos: courtesy of the Zabludowicz Collection © 2015 Artlyst all rights reserved


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