Haim Steinbach is an artist who explores the nature of everyday objects in his career, and that’s the central theme in this retrospective. Three green toys are placed on a shelf in a glass cabinet: are they playthings or memorabilia, and what’s the difference between the two?
By placing various novelty salt and pepper shakers along a giant scaffold running throughout the gallery, he questions the nature of kitsch and whether the fact that people have donated them gives them a sense of personal connection to their owners which supersedes their superficial appearance.
By continuing to vary on this theme, Steinbach challenges viewers to imagine the significance of a rusted ball and chain and whether it contains the memories of the many people who have been held captive by it.
On the other side of the Serpentine lake, Martino Gamper explores a similar theme by displaying innocuous objects on shelves, whether they be a collection of wooden spoons, rocks or bricks. But this display is never as intellectually stimulating as Steinbach’s.
In the past the concurrent exhibitions at the ‘classic’ and Sackler galleries have always been very different and this has worked to good effect. By electing to have two very similar shows at both galleries it only serves to indicate how inferior Gamper’s display is to the more challenging and engaging Steinbach exhibition.
Haim Steinbach: once again the world is flat is on at Serpentine Gallery and Martino Gamper: design is a state of mind is on at Serpentine Sackler gallery. Both exhibitions run until 21 April and admission is free.