Martin Creed´s first major survey ”What´s the point of it?” is the new exhibition just opened at the Hayward Gallery. While reading this, it may seem a harsh critique, but this is far from the purpose. The title is just a prelude that it is what it is, ”just stuff”. No more sense or complexity than just the pushing of the art boundaries.

The show is a massive collection of Creed´s work on an overwhelming variety of artistic media. Painting, installation, video, photography and even music are part of the apparent careless work of the British artist. However, premeditation and cynicism hides under the surface. Everything you are about to see could have been done by your two years old child: Doors that open and close, a ball of crumpled paper, pen made scribbles, or even nails on the wall. But then, what’s the point of it?

Beyond Duchamp and his ready-mades or Joseph Beuys and his famous quote ”Anyone can be an artist”, there was hidden meanings that compose the artwork into a visual key for analyse for several issues, and with the ultimate goal of bringing art to life. However, Martin Creed´s proposal is away from these conceptual, political or philosophical interpretations of art and now he presents an exhibition just full of stuff. Is this a strategy to empty the arts meaning? To rethink the art meaning?After the artist himself has said that his art is decoration, and at the point of an artistic context in which the artworks are pretentiously empty and open to whatever interpretation, it could lead us into a much more revolutionary consequence than expected… or not.

The exhibition includes several lyrical abstract paintings, although they are not his most provocative or interesting works, the role they play in the exhibition is more significant than it seems at first. The term ”decorative art” that most artists use to reject has been welcomed by Creed in a provocative act, challenging again the definition of art in the contemporary era. These paintings don’t reflect the intrinsic qualities of colour, composition or the sentimental and metaphysical interpretations that are often associated with lyrical abstraction. The artist has produced a massive amount of pictures properly framed and presented to the public as mere consumer products. A first look at the exhibition already raises suspicions.

This is not the only provocation of Martin Creed to the conventions of the art world. Another issue that is ironically investigated is one of the most recurrent issues of discussion today. The relationship between art and entertainment is part of the cynic proposal by the British artist. Art institutions as places of tourism that don´t generate critical thinking, but only provide with entertainment. Work No. 200 Half the air in a given space, 1998 is a room full of white balloons where people have fun and take some pictures. It hasn´t the purpose to interact with the audience or to analyse certain matter as the artist reject it. It is again just stuff.

After a brief encounter with Creed´s work in exhibit at The Hayward, everything seems familiar, each piece can suspiciously remind us of  Elizabeth Peyton´s portraits, Tracey Emin´s neons or Takashi Murakami´s sculptures. While pushing the concept of art, Martin Creed questions originality using references to some of todays leading artists, something that reveals how Creed focuses on a very specific audience and challenges those who can find the connections. However, he creates from the perspective of the most sceptical, watching from this layer above. The result is both disturbing and funny, but at the end, where can this seemingly naive approach that questions the art establishment lead us?


Martin Creed on now at the Hayward Gallery till the 27 Apirl, 2014.

Alex A. Diaz

2 thoughts on “JUST STUFF: Martin Creed at the Hayward Gallery

  1. I’d like to consider Creed’s work under a different light. When he does not know what to do, he simply does the least or nothing at all. Every piece is doble bounded with themes of obsession and chronical uncertainty, which are at the very base of his clear provocation. Don’t you think that, fow how silly they can appear, each piece succeeds in transmitting the sensation with which is loaded to the public? Even if the feeling that each aim to arouse is not obviously, and purposely, one of the most high-toned.

    • Creed´s provocation is a weapon that can be interpreted in many ways. I agree that this exhibition succeed in the sense of challenge the audience questioning how silly his works may seem. But my analysis on this exhibition (understood as a condensation of the proposals by Creed) focuses on how can this ”seemingly simple provocation” modify our conception of the term art, since I think Creed goes beyond the provocation and tries to push the associations related with art.

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