Thursday, 28 July 2011

Serpentine Pavilion and Gallery 2011

Hortus Conclusus, Peter Zumthor's Pavilion for the Serpentine this year is a stern, even exclusive affair. A thick featureless black gauze suggests the entrance to a labyrinth and, once inside, the space resembles a cloister. It's actually rather lovely inside, peaceful and removed if cramped, with plenty of tables at which to sit and have a drink. I'm not sure that the opacity is going to endear it to those used to having a space to complement a gallery visit. I was certainly happier to sit out on the grass, given the good weather.

Inside the gallery is a remarkable, continuous installation by the Italian Michelangelo Pistoletto. At first it looks as if the corrugated cardboard packaging has been left uncleared but this is in fact the basis of the work. Rippling around at just-over-waist-height, one has the sensation of standing beside a chocolate bar, like endless cross-sections of Cadbury's Flakes standing upright. The undulating card gives way to a few select points, all demanding on the theme of sensation: a pair of ear trumpets; a mirror reflecting the ceiling window in a self-perpetuating well of light; a prayer pew in front of a mirror. It makes for an unusual and even entertaining visit, although the volume of the installation means that it makes for a rather corwded viewing experience - the antithesis of the reflection-in-situ that it seeks to promote.

So both inside and outside the Serpentine there is a monkish sensibility but also one of claustrophobia. It's a peculiar sensibility to be bringing to a gallery in the middle of the wide-open space of Hyde Park.

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