Frank Cohen has been nicknamed ‘the Saatchi of the North’ for his vast and impressive art collection. So when he opened a gallery in London in a former dairy in Bloomsbury, it was met with much fanfare and expectation. The opening event was a rather mediocre solo show of John Armleder’s work but this latest exhibition is a group show and showcases the diversity of Cohen’s collection.
This show containing works of over 40 artists is loosely based around Aldous Huxley’s novel ‘Island’ — a utopian counterpart to the more renowned ‘Brave New World’. While the exhibition does stick to this theme to a degree, it serves more as an opportunity to show off a set of vibrant and diverse works.
Political works are present including Ai Weiwei’s map of China made from Qing dynasty wood, a knock at China’s rapid industrialisation and a perceived dismissal of its heritage. While Cyprien Gillard overlays landscapes with the symbol of the Cleveland Indians baseball team — currently at the centre of a row as to whether the sign is racist or not. It’s both a reference to the commercialism of America and the displacement of its native peoples.
The theme of man-made intervention with nature is also strong here with Sylvie Fleury’s mushrooms covered with a petrol-like sheen and Douglas White’s dystopian tree made from burst tyres. The humour of Laure Prouvost lightens the tone with a comical sign that simply reads ‘Ideally here would be an image of you’.
This is an impressive exhibition of works and marks this gallery out as a major rival for Saatchi’s collection of contemporary art. If this show is a representative sample of the Dairy Art Centre’s collection, we look forward to equally impressive future shows.
Island in on at The Dairy Art Centre, 7a Wakefield St, WC1N 1PG until 8 December. Admission is free.