Mike Nelson Selects from the V-A-C Collection at Whitechapel Gallery
Mike Nelson is the first of four prevalent artists to be invited to select and curate an exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery from the V-A-C Collection. A Russian not-for-profit organisation founded in Moscow in 2009, V-A-C is part of an ongoing association with the gallery.
The British artist is renowned for his ambitious and enveloping installations, interestingly made and almost exclusively figurative sculptural choices. Iconic names like Constantin Brancusi, Alberto Giacometti, Louise Bourgeois, Henri Moore and Willem de Kooning are represented in Nelson’s selection. Spaced and raised slightly from the viewers level on a plinth of rustic flooring, Nelson intended to emulate the feel of an artists’ studio to reconnect the prestigious objects back to their birth place.
Using space in a way that echoes his recent piece More Things (to the memory of Honoré de Blazac) 2013, the pieces were placed randomly and spaced to occupy the entire platform. Additionally, Ognisko (Camp-fire) (2012) by Pawel Althamers particularly resonates with Nelson’s own practice holding the shared theme of “the campfire” in the chalky white-bandaged figures.
The obvious relationships between the works don’t seem to have reason much beyond their sharing figurative subject, the wooden plinth or their common belonging to the V-A-C Collection. In an accompanying text Nelson describes it as “a levelling…questioning how we look at objects”, and while the wooden unit functions as a unifier of the varied sculptural amassing, whether or not it questions our object perception is less certain. If Nelson wished to question the way we look at individual pieces differently, it is successful due to the fact they are equally distanced from the public. They are raised, and that the viewer is not permitted to walk in among the works puts them on a pedestal in a different way – they are together and perhaps equal, but they are still out of reach.
It’s an impressive array of some prestigious choices and a rare opportunity to see some less famed pieces by great artists, but on the whole is no more or less remarkable than any other celebration of 20th century sculpture. As it is only one installment of the programme of selections that will run into 2015, with Fiona Banner’s contribution being revealed this December, it is worth a visit if only to be able to compare it with the other artist’s forthcoming displays.
Mike Nelson Selects from the V-A-C Collection is at Whitechapel Gallery from 30th November 2014, for further information visit here.