museum of everything 4 at selfridges

23 September 2011 § 4 Comments

The Museum of Everything meets the shop of everything. As I commented a month or so back when this collaborative exhibition was announced, it seemed a rather unlikely-looking marriage of opposites. It appears wrong that those artists working outside the mainstream, perhaps by refusing to be part of society or having been shunned and ignored by it, are here linked up with a long-established shrine to mainstream capitalism.

My suspicions were well-founded. Everything from drawing pads, pens and bags to expensive designer dresses had been merchandised and were being sold in the slick ‘Shop of Everything’. To be fair the MoE has announced the launch of The Workshops of Everything – an ‘initiative to support studios for self-taught artists with developmental and other disabilities’ – but it was far from clear if how much of the profit would go to this venture, or indeed the artists involved in providing the designs used on the products.

There was much artwork in a cleverly-designed network of tiny galleries, that had lots of charm, such as Ruby Bradford’s portraits of assorted royalty, and I would strongly recommend anyone unfamiliar with the MoE pops down and takes a look. Nevertheless the whole exercise showed that outsider art and commercialism do not sit comfortably together. The sooner the MoE gets back to its former, appropriately ramshackle and charming location in Primrose Hill, the better. As my wife commented, the previous exhibitions smelled of childhood, the current one of money.

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§ 4 Responses to museum of everything 4 at selfridges

  • Madge Gill says:

    You guys are so so wrong! Do you know what this show is about? These are not outsider artists – and by the way, the museum never talks about outsider artists – these are people with learning issues, disabilities, they make their work in workshops and the show is all about that process. The exhibition is the main thing and it is INCREDIBLE. Nothing is for sale and the shop is just an extra.Every museum in London has a shop anyway – and Selfridges is a shop itself! Where else do they get money from? They are reaching many people withthis, hundreds and thousands of people. This is such important work, it cannot just be for the few … Why don’t you go back and review the show instead of the store!

    • Hi Madge. You are right – the term ‘outsider’ can be seen as prejudicial, which is why they dont use the term here. However ‘Outsider’ art – however you define it – is actually what MoE do. These guys are of course amazing and produce very special work. This is why I feel that it is wrong to commercialise it. It should be shown in an appropriate space – like at Primrose Hill – where there would be no doubt that the exhibition is about the art – and not the products and commercial space around it! Its an interesting point – but where do we draw the line? Let me ask you a question – what if work from the National Gallery were hung in Harrods? Would the fact that it is reaching thousands of people make it OK? Im sure everyone has a different view – and all are valid!!

  • Madge Gill says:

    It’s a fair point, but the argument starts to become very political if we carry on logically. The museum doesn’t take money from the Arts Council or any other arts organisation – not that they have any money of course! So how do they fund themselves otherwise? Through donations at the door? To me it seems to be a transparent and very honest commercial relationship: a store which looks like a museum hosts the museum and its very modest and weird little store. Surely this is not the crass commercialisation of which you speak! It’s more like a bunch of students making a knitware with grandma, hoping someone will buy it. It’s a cottage industry and certainly a lot more direct and simple than other museums like Tate Modern … BP anyone? The truth is, whether you like it or not, the art world is all about money. The Museum of Everything is being very honest about their relationship with their backers and it certainly is working. This art is precious and important. These are artists who are invisible to humanity and to put them in one of the most populated streets in Britain is a stroke of genius. That the location happens to be a department store is simply a fact of the deal – but without them, no show, no communication, no change of attitude. Do you really want it to remain your personal secret forever?

    • It’s a big topic but to keep it fairly brief …! There is so much commercialism in the art world is it not something to treasure when there is a small corner of creative people working separately from the mainstream? I say lets try and keep it that way – do we want to commercialise everything? Do not ‘Outsider’ artists belong ‘outside’ otherwise they are then manstream? Its hard to complain as businesses do have to earn money – but it doesn’t mean that I approve. Yes – let’s keep it secret!

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