Flat C is the newest art gallery in London. But far from being yet another white cube in an expensive street, Flat C is inside the founder’s home in Stoke Newington. The inaugural exhibition Pink Does Not Exist re-evaluates the relationship between perception and reality, and the problems of observation and representation. If pink does not have its own frequency in the colour spectrum, how do we see it? Is it real? Eight artists explore what this conundrum means to us, and we ask curator and Flat C dweller Crystal Bennes some equally pressing questions…
What’s different about showing these works in a private flat?
Everything and nothing. We tend to think about art in one of two ways: a multi-million pound Michelangelo or Twombly on a white-washed museum wall, or £10 Ikea poster crap for our own walls. There are so many peculiar contradictions in the art world. The important stuff is Art with a capital A and the general consensus is that these works are too big to belong to any one person. Even if they do belong to one person, we see them in museums. And with many of the big-name contemporary art galleries twisting themselves into knots to appear more like museums than commercial operations, art still seems like something that belongs more to a museum/gallery environment than your own home. But this is where the contradiction comes in: what happens when you buy a piece by someone just starting out and they later go on to win prizes and become important? Is there a point when the work becomes too big for a private house? I like showing works in a home because that’s where I think they belong.
Is exhibiting in a private flat a London-specific choice – is that directly related to the London art scene right now? Or is the decision applicable elsewhere?
The London art scene is in a very interesting place right now. East London galleries are moving to Fitzrovia and central London in spades, so clearly they aren’t hurting financially. When I first started doing exhibitions in vacant properties, in 2009, it was much easier to negotiate the use of a space. But now, there are more empty shops and office buildings than ever; there’s been so much London-wide talk about high street revitalisation programmes to do things like waive business rates for art projects, etc., but talk only goes so far. In the last year, I’ve been close to signing a lease for a space with various developers or councils, but at the last minute it falls through. The whole rigmarole of disappointed hopes was too much – I like doing things, not spending eight months in meetings talking about doing things. Eventually, I decided I’d had enough of meetings, and since the one space I did have to hand was my flat, I just thought, ‘well, why not?’ I’m not in the slightest bit commercially motivated. I’ve never cared about making money; I care about the art and the artists and the ideas, and since so many artists themselves are under a lot of financial pressure I think they often feel quite liberated by being able to do something a bit different.
Of all the pieces on show, which ones are most ‘at home’ in a private flat? Which ones are more unusual and jarring in this context?
The great thing about doing a show in a flat is that everything feels at home; even the crazy stuff. Ben Woodeson’s electric-fence sculpture has been in the hallway for a week already – it’s not on, of course, but we have to scrunch up and step through it every time we walk down the corridor. And yet, it somehow feels totally at home, as if it’s always been there. Nick Love’s collages of transgenic tadpoles are pretty bizarre, though, and we don’t normally keep works of art in our bathroom cabinet, but it’s fun to do a few oddball installations for the exhibition. For me, as much as for the artists, it’s a chance to experiment.
Do you have advice for visitors on what they should and shouldn’t do at the exhibition, considering it’s also a private home? How does gallery etiquette differ for Pink Does Not Exist?
I’m quite curious to see whether people will be able to tell what’s in the show and what’s just in the flat. I still haven’t made up my mind whether to have a list of works or not – I enjoy the ambiguity. People are spoon-fed so much crap these days that I prefer not to insult their intelligence by telling them everything. I want people to make up their own minds. My advice would be: come with an open mind, and watch as much of Ross Sutherland’s film as possible. Also, don’t forget to sign the liability waiver before coming inside…
Where else would you like to mount a show in London? What would be your ideal place for your next show?
I love the character of buildings in London: it never ceases to delight me how often I find myself inside a stunning space that looks rather drab, if not downright ugly, from the outside. These are the kind of places I like to put on exhibitions. I don’t subscribe to the white box ideology when it comes to the display of art, that always struck me as a mis-guided attempt to get back to some kind of clean slate and art doesn’t exist in a vacuum, as my art history teacher always used to say. I like a space with character, with personality, with a story that adds another layer to the enjoyment of looking at art. But not too much enjoyment. Otherwise, you might as well just leave the building alone and look at that. It’s a balancing act. Anyway, if anyone has a sweet empty building laying about…
Pink Does Not Exist is at Flat C until 2 June, 12pm to 6pm each day. Call or email to arrange your visit and get the address.