Have you spotted an Emin on your way to work? Or a Turner on the underground?
I ask because magnificent examples of British art were yesterday unveiled in some 20,000 locations across the country, printed large and conspicuously displayed on billboards and buses, on the underground and in taxis, as part of the Art Fund’s Art Everywhere project.
Don’t worry – I haven’t yet spotted one for myself either!
However, according to those coordinating this epic curatorial task, the odds are that we will bear witness to this triumphant nationwide exhibition for ourselves. You, me, and 90% of the British public. It seems ambitious to me too! But at the time of writing, the crowd-funded project has only been live for 24 hours and both the twitter-sphere and national press have been electric with talk of the project. I can’t wait to spot my first blown up masterpiece*. Whilst the artworks are spread across the nation, the curators’ focus has been undeniably London-centric, so I’m confident I won’t be hunting long!
But I’m not just writing about Art Everywhere in the abstract – it has been at the centre of my attention this week, as my internship in the Gallery’s Communications department continues. As one might expect, Dulwich shares an intimate history with a few of the works of art which have been voted as the nation’s favourites, and are therefore being put on display. I was pleasantly surprised to discover one of Spencer’s works making the prestigious cut. Of course, Spencer is one of the big names at the heart of the Gallery’s current show, along with Paul Nash, whose ‘Landscape of the vernal equinox’ also took its place amongst the elected 57 works. Following this discovery, it was my responsibility to promote the fact, to write copy for our social media outlets, and generally spread the word (which I suppose I am continuing here too. But let me assure you this is not under duress – I am telling you about Art Everywhere because I’m genuinely inspired by its ambition.)
Projects such as this are a pleasure to work on, as they offer a chance to consider the work that goes on at Dulwich in the grander context of the art world at large. Institutions across the country have been getting behind Art Everywhere, promoting their own individual connections with the art works being discussed and displayed. To some this might seem a cynical publicity ploy on the part of these institutions, and I may well have become a little immured in the mindset of the arts marketeer. However, to me it’s heartening to see widespread support of a project in which individuals (members of the public, institutions, donors) are encouraged to stake their claim to a priceless work of art.
They are OUR Nashs and OUR Spencers. As indeed they are, not just in the context of this temporary project, but in the sense that the original paintings are housed in our nation’s public collections. We can see them anytime we want (albeit not always on the side of a bus).
I sincerely hope that in the next two weeks Art Everywhere can succeed in highlighting this enormous privilege in which we all share.
* Cornelia Parker’s Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View is included in the list of works on display, so I feel this to be quite an appropriate phrase.