Artworks Phase II at the Town Hall Hotel
If you were to walk alongside the scruffy newsagents and takeaways which gaudily decorate the roads which lead to Town Hall Hotel, you would be forgiven for asking yourself a question upon entering this building: Have I somehow stumbled blindly through a wormhole?
The hotel is a vast castle of luxury: an opulent cacophony of Edwardian, Art Deco and modern architectural elements which occasionally jars to a deafening crescendo of dissonance. What does this well-heeled institution seek to gain from supporting contemporary art?
The title Phase II refers to the second phase of artwork commissions of which the exhibition consists.
For this particular series, Artsadmin encouraged local artists to thematically explore works that convey the future, embracing exuberance, desire and the notion of hotels as transitory and utopian sites of pleasure and mobility.
“It’s rare to be given so much freedom in a commissioning project and exciting to be involved as curators of artwork in a public building from the construction stage onwards. Rather than adding in some art almost as an afterthought, we are able to work on a long lead-in time with the artists, architects and building team to make sure that the artworks are sensitive to the context of the hotel, explore the rich history of the Town Hall building and Bethnal Green, and looks to the future embracing the local and the global,” say Manick Govinda and Nikki Tomlinson of Artsadmin.
Works more or less respond to the architectural particularities of the hotel, from Bethan Lloyd Worthington’s constellations of laminated glass designs affixed to a series of doors, to the pale artificial plants of Corinne Felgate which flank archways throughout the site.
Felgate’s other piece Uber Achiever achieves a satirical, biting quality alongside its lavish surroundings through its display of flashy infantile excess. It consists of a large board which has been completely obscured by concentric layers of small gold star stickers, the kind seen in pre- schools which represent a particularly questionable form of success.
Another memorable work is Toby Christian’s poetic Finger (VI). A white, torso-sized marble digit lies on a stairwell, a black marble wall border serves to visually emphasise the pale piece. While the quality of the traditional craft techniques involved are clear, I find the intrigue of the piece lies in the evocative qualities of this disembodied appendage which leads one to wonder whether its “owner”, perhaps some colossal sculpture, is hidden in the complex of this luxurious hotel.
The issue with exhibiting works in a venue such as the Town Hall Hotel is that the artworks around the building will be seen most often by the rich hotel residents, who may or may not be interested in contemporary art. While there are some notable exceptions (Kristian De La Riva’s impish animations), a few too many pieces seem inclined towards a particularly mild kind of prettiness.
Phase II features the artists Kristian De La Riva, Sarah Baker, Corinne Felgate, Bethan Lloyd Worthington, Toby Christian, Bernd Behr, Michaela Nettell and Peter Liversidge.