The Museum of Everything: Exhibition #3

Posted on January 7, 2011

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This article was originally written for MouthLondon magazine

Snuggled in amongst the gastro-pubs, the mock bohemian coffee shops and the learn-to-stitch (-and-bitch) studios on the picture perfect postcard streets of Primrose Hill the Museum of Everything awaits discovery. In this, Exhibition #3, the Museum’s founder James Brett has collaborated with the innovator of British Pop Art and renowned collector Peter Blake. The exhibition presents, for the first time, the outcome of Blake’s lifetime habit of collecting objects of his own fascination. It is a unique insight into the mind of the artist and will surely prove fascinating for anyone with an interest in his work.

Illustration by Abi Daker

The warehouse-style space, a former dairy, has been constructed into a network of corridors, small intimate rooms and a large hall; these spaces intertwine and span two levels in a way that will confuse your orientation but also achieves the sense of exploration they were surely going for. The spaces are pieced together from stripped wood, nails and the odd splash of paint. The interior aesthetic draws a sharp contrast to the affluent neighborhood it is situated in and also to the typical visitor. However, it is fitting with the content in that it represents the haphazard collecting of an artistic mind.

The walls are adorned with posters and photographs of circus and music hall entertainers, carnival memorabilia is arranged on a fake grass turf and cabinets are filled with collections of dolls, puppets, taxidermy, boxes covered in shells and paper flowers. These objects, if encountered singularly, would likely be considered in bad taste, kitsch even. However, in mass-quantities Blake’s objects speak of the one common detectable theme that unites them – mass popular entertainment and production, mostly from the 19th Century. It is unsurprising that Blake’s collection can be related to popular culture given this is the genre of his life’s work – some of his most well known artworks have been record sleeves, for bands such as the Beatles and The Who, and he often used cultural icons and logos.

This multifaceted exhibition is being presented, by the Museum of Everything, as a singular piece of installation art. However this proposal is problematic. Peter Blake was quoted by journalist Helen Sumpterthree weeks before opening as saying:

“In a way it’s a conceptual art piece, we’re just not quite sure what the concept is yet.”

And although there is a sense of unity to the collection the lack of accompanying literature suggest a lack of thought; perhaps they never figured out the ‘concept’.

There are implications to many of the objects in this exhibition, for example gollywog dolls and images that suggest the exploitation of so-called ‘freaks’. Given the presentation of the objects within an environment that plays upon the art worlds’ fascination with the chaotic creativity of the artist, and contemporary societies tendency to romanticise the past, and without providing any additional critique of the objects, it would seem that the Museum of Everything is taking historical spectacles and transforming them into spectacles for the modern day. Yet, acknowledging this, you cannot dispute the Museum of Everything’s ability to be on-trend and there is much to discover and enjoy in this diverse collection.

Exhibition #3 will be running until the 13th February.

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