Have you ever wondered what’s next in the arts now that Young British Artists – also infamously known as YBAs – have long passed the bar of middle-age? V22’s Young London is the exhibition to provide you with answers.
V22 itself is an intriguing proposition in the contemporary art world. A bit of a consortium, V22 is an organisation founded in 2006 that has since accumulated a growing collection of contemporary art, artists’ studio and workshop complexes and an ambitious programme of exhibitions, events and community projects. It is also interesting to know that V22 is structured as a traded, public limited company in which artists and investor-patrons own shares, thus taking a clear stance towards recognising art as a commodity like any other without being dependant on public funding or compromising their vision.
This looks like a winning approach so far as V22 occupies an immense workspace with a 141,838 sq ft gallery, studio and workshop complex at The Biscuit Factory in the Bermondsey area of South London. Are a gigantic space and a clever strategy enough to guarantee their success? Not quite. There remains the art and the curating and that’s where V22’s strategy appears to fall short.
As tempting as it is to embrace the “bigger is better” approach to displaying art in disused industrial spaces, the scale does not always suit the works, leaving the art that was not created with this scale in mind looking dwarfed into insignificance. That is sadly the case for Alex Virji’s Respawn painting which would stand out anywhere else for its patchy use of oil and its subtle low-relief. In order to avoid this, of course, most of the works selected are not only big but they also appear to mimic the architecture and aesthetic of the building, resulting in what appears at a superficial glance to be mostly modernist sculptures and installations. Adam Thompson’s Untitled (Components & Variables) and George Henry Longly’s Kenneth, for all their grey tones and imposing proportions, are almost indistinguishable from their environment. It is quite obvious that many of the works were produced for the exhibition in accordance to a certain idea that V22 has of cutting-edge contemporary art. But what is this idea exactly?
If we are to believe V22’s version of Young London artists’ “new spirit in the making and exhibition of art”, the future will be very grey and hard indeed. On the one hand, the exhibition seeks to differentiate itself from “the YBA hangover, the morass of the ‘altermodern’, the uncertainty, of the last decade”. Yet, it claims to “inevitably recall the Freeze exhibition, a large warehouse show of young and emerging practice, which launched the YBAs 30 years ago.” This tension is illustrated in a selection of works that is cohesive mostly in its references to the functionally placeless and self-referential aspects of modernist sculpture. In other words, not much is new here. At least the YBAs had a sense of humour about it…
(“Young London” is now being exhibited @ V22 until July 30th)