Nick Hackworth

State of Play, Serpentine Gallery

Essays & Reviews Evening Standard

Why did the chicken cross the road? Apparently to get into the art gallery, where it could pretend to be a funny work of art. State of Play brings together 13 international artists to highlight an increasingly noticable trend in contemporary art: playfulness. It is a tendency that stretches from work that toys with artistic conventions to work that is, literally, a joke.

Most of the pieces here hail from the jokey end of that particular spectrum. For example, Martin Creed, who won the Turner Prize with an empty room in which the lights flashed on and off, presents Work No 100: On a Tiled Floor, in an Awkward Place, a Cubic Stack of Tiles Built on Top of One of the Existing Tiles, which is just that.

German artist Andreas Slominski shows a wall of breeze blocks built, we are told, from the top down. Another German, Christian Jankowski, screens a video of a mock academic conference peopled by characters from the Muppets and Sesame Street, Bjørn Melhus shows his video, Weeping, in which he assumes the role of a telly evangelist, and British artist David Shrigley exhibits a selection of his quirky low-fi drawings and visual puns.

All of which would be hilarious, if only it were funny. But, once again, contemporary artists have exploited the expanded cultural role that they now enjoy to stray into territory in which, to put it kindly, their skill-sets do not equip them for survival.

Pathetic political art by politically ignorant artists is just about palatable, but unfunny art by unfunny artists is not. Worse still, such work, being low entertainment posing as high culture, exposes the long hidden truth that high culture is a poor substitute for low entertainment. Visitors will soon realise this and galleries will be forced into a war of escalation with cinemas, clubs and playgrounds, in the hope of maintaining their meagre share of the entertainment market.

In this nightmare scenario, it will be only a matter of time before, in a desperate bid to shore up visitor numbers, curators execute their artists, who are mere amateurs in this entertainment game, and begin strewing fake turds about the place and hiring Eddie Izzard to stand in the corner of their galleries.

Which, come to think of it, would be a welcome development.

Until 28 March. Information: 020 7402 6075.