Nick Hackworth

Ideal home show, Gimpel Fils

Essays & Reviews Evening Standard

Never before has the concept of the ideal home been more important to us. As society becomes increasingly atomised, so the theory goes, we shy away from the public and the local, and instead retreat into the womb-like comfort of our own homes. It would seem to be a perfect moment, then, for an exhibition that aimed to upset our preconceived notions of domesticity.

Unfortunately this show does nothing of the sort. The 40 pieces on display, several supplied by big-name artists such as Richard Hamilton, Rachel Whiteread and Jeff Koons, generally attempt to shake up our concepts of homeliness by being “uncanny”. That which is superficially familiar but on closer inspection is abnormal, is meant to disturb us far more than some object that is alien to our experience. Mona consisting of two nondescript white saucers morphed together like Siamese twins, is an attractive work but fails to disturb any preconceptions whatsoever. Similarly, Jeff Koons’s Ice Bucket, which is, uncannily enough, a stainless-steel ice bucket, fails to disguise its deeply conservative nature with a poorly applied veneer of witty irony. In our image-saturated age there are few images that can, by themselves, truly shock or disturb.

The best work on show is by less-established artists and the most impressive is Callum Morton’s White Light White Sleep. A simple life-sized bed is fixed above head height to the end gallery wall. Partially visible the bed is a sleeping figure, hidden underneath an institutional grey blanket, that rustles from side to side and occasionally groans. After a minute’s silence, just when you’re looking at another piece of art, the groans return, which not only serves to create a creepy atmosphere but also saves you the bother of having to groan at the other artwork yourself.

There are artists who have produced work that genuinely challenges our notions of domesticity. Kurt Schwitters, who during the Twenties and Thirties turned his house in Hanover into a sinister labyrinth, would be one. Gregor Schneider, whose work people had to crawl through to enter the recent Apocalypse exhibition at the Royal Academy, would be another. Uncannily enough however, work of that type would be harder to sell.

Until 8 September. Gimpel Fils, 30 Davies Street, W1 (020 7493 2488)