The Artists’ Colouring Book of ABCs at the Serpentine Gallery
Visitors to the Serpentine Gallery last night were ushered through an avenue of singers on their way inside – two rows of voices chanting “A, B, C D…”, their puffs of breath winding into the cold night air. The gallery was hosting the live auction of The Artists’ Colouring Book of ABCs, a project in which 26 international artists took part to support the work of the Kids Company Charity. The brainchild of Charlotte Colbert, Alix Janta and Lauren Jones, and with the generous support of Susanne Ghonouie from the Dig Party Planners, the alphabet pictures have been published in a paperback colouring book – just in time for Christmas.
While Camila Batmanghelidjh waited for the auction to begin, guests were invited to peruse the collection, displayed on easels in one wing of the gallery. It was an interesting and eclectic assortment of drawings – clearer and more amusing with a second view. The roster of artists is impressive: Tracey Emin, Grayson Perry, Alex Katz, Paula Rego and Maggi Hambling are included in the project, while the illustrations themselves are playful.
Emin scrawled a wistful ode to her cat with the letter “A”, Chantal Joffe pictured a girl dreaming in a faraway land in “E” for “Escape” and Paula Rego drew a beautiful monkey wearing beads and a hat for “M”. Grayson Perry depicts a chaotic street scene for “P”, with himself and a punk and a policeman in the foreground. Some entries were quizzical and some gothic; a grid of crossword puzzles containing only the letter “R” by Gavin Turk, “V” for “Vampire” by Paul Fryer, a charming treasure island with “X” marks the spot by Keith Tyson, and a rotting “Zombie Boy” to round off the series in an offering from Marc Quinn.
Recurrent themes of childhood fantasy and escapism were predominant, with a disposition towards gore and all things spooky. It is refreshing to see the childish side of such an esteemed group of artists, and witness collaboration on such a big scale to support the vital work of the Kids Company. That said, the illustrations didn’t feel as careful, coherent or a charismatic as the idea could have yielded. In some pieces the letter itself wasn’t immediately discernible, and they were perhaps on balance too abstract for the children at which they are aimed. One wonders for whom they had been truly created for – the collectors or the kids?
Photos: Marcus Dawes
The Artists’ Colouring Book of ABCs was for one night only at the Serpentine Gallery on 12th December 2013. For further information visit the gallery’s website here.
For further information about the Kids Company Charity visit here.