The things people throw away.
The pleasures and pitfalls of a culture fix with kids
It's Summer, it's occasionally sunny, so where better to take a short walk with a pram than the Serpentine Gallery?
The Serpentine has long been one of our favourite London galleries: it’s free, it’s intimate, and we once saw a miniature bird skeleton there that was crafted entirely from nail clippings.
But it's Jeff Koons' work we’ve come to see today, and its proximity to the fountain is rather apt, because the pop artist has brought a collection of inflatable pool toys to the Serpentine
At least they look like inflatable toys, but as with much of Koons’ work, The Sinbad Series belies its appearance. Take a pair of inflatable turtles - the likeness is so uncanny, the gaudy matte paint and pinched seams so evocative, that it’s only the fact that they’re punched through a chainlink fence that gives away that they’re cast from aluminium.
This is clearly one of the Serpentine’s most popular shows ever, and the gallery staff have never had to work so hard - there’s even a special “no touching” briefing at the door.
Whether it’s Koons’ express wishes or simply fears for the popularity of the pieces, the rule does add an extra dimension to the show. The works become an exercise in faith - can they really be made from metal when they seem ready to burst?
The littlest isn’t bothered by musings on faith and deception, she just loves the colours, and soon little fingers are groping for a sea lion’s flipper. A gallery assistant circles warily as we execute a swift turn straight into a bright blue dolphin hanging from a tow hook.
Alongside the physical works are large mixed-media canvases. Pride of place goes to a pair of pneumatic blondes in bikinis - their proximity to so many other artificially inflated objects is surely no coincidence.
Outside, this year’s Serpentine Pavilion is the perfect partner to Koons. An uber-polished single roof rendered in aluminium sheet, it rises and falls in gloopy fingers, reflecting visitors, rabbit-eared chairs and the gently falling rain of summer 2009.
Not only is it a great temporary space, you’re also more than welcome to touch. In fact, judging by the number of little tongues being applied to the cool, reflective surfaces, it’s probably this season’s must-have immunity boost.
Jeff Koons: Popeye Series at the Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens
London W2 3XA until 13th September. The Serpentine Pavilion is open until 18 October.
By Tom Gray