Invisible: Art of the Unseen 1957-2012, Hayward Gallery, London
Is “invisible art” just a case of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? Will I be faced with a vast emptiness of vacant plinths and walls mounted with blank pieces of paper? Invisible: Art of the Unseen 1957-2012 is an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. So is there actually anything to see?
It was with some confusion that I read about the invisible art exhibition. Firstly, if the art is invisible, why should I go to see nothing. Secondly, where did they get all the exhibits? Did they borrow them from collectors who paid a fortune for them. Thirdly, what happens if a big bunch of ‘nothing’ is damaged? Is an insurance company laughing out loud every year by taking a large premium for fire, damage and theft of nothing?
The exhibition seem to be roughly divided into two types of ‘work’. Firstly, where the artist appears to have done absolutely nothing, and where the artist has taken a lot of time and effort with absolutely nothing to show for it.
A prime example of the former is Andy Warhol’s infamous plinth of nothing. Or “1,000 hours of staring”. A blank piece of paper which the artist claims to have stared at over a period of 5 years. What is most astounding is the artists statement.
What does this actually mean?
“One of my interests was to create some kinds of communal experience by unifying my process with the viewers process” – Tom Friedman
Exhibition highlights include
- “Untitled” An eleven inch sphere of space “cursed by a witch” hovering eleven inches above a plinth. The artist must have been so exhausted that he didn’t even bother naming the product of his non-labours as it is listed as ‘untitled’
- 1,000 Hour of Staring– This is a blank piece of paper which the artist stared at for 1,000 hours over a 5 year period.
- A statement from an artist which says that he will “make art for 13 years but not show it publicly.
- Erased Centrefold The artist took 3 days to erase a Playboy Centrefold so he could display a blank sheet of paper
So, is an exhibition of invisible art worth experiencing? Surprisingly, yes. Not because the art is earth shattering, or truly profound, but because it’s an anthology of how successful artists have been in marketing to the art collecting world. This may sound critical, but my experience in the consumer goods industry and The City is no different. If you’re in the business of selling anything, you may already be peddling The Emperor’s New Clothes, albeit unwittingly.