Black, Nicola Hicks 2009 (Photo courtesy of P. Tucker)
The ninth East Wing Committee of institute students have curated a mix of riotous abundance and restrained cleverness. Seminar rooms are themed and hung with carefully chosen works across mixed media. The Cabinet of Curiosities in the basement is particularly compelling, evoking the 17th century 'wunderkammer' displaying artworks of the natural and fantastical: a cabinet installation of a nightmarish wasps' net with butterflies and other insects in grotesque permutations and a scrap metal prawn particularly capturing our attention. You'll find a Hirst spot painting in the ground floor bar facing a Grayson Perry tapestry, a robot making paintings in the canteen and eclectic rooms focusing on distance and perception, material boundaries, reproduction and the concept of the private collection.
Stumbling across the back staircase by fluke we were awestruck and confused by the prolific hang flanking the stairs. Coming at it from the top, we thought the tutors had missed the planning meeting and the kids had gone hang nuts. Dazed, descending we finally clicked towards the bottom that this was the "Academy Hang", which in context is a nicely thought out response to the historic Royal Academy shows, the first of which took place at Somerset House. Mollified, we resurveyed the jam packed walls more appreciatively. Top tip: a sign at the top of the stairs would really help and failing that, do avail yourself of a map at the front door.
Exhibitionism at the East Wing, Courtauld Institute of Art at Somerset House is open to the public the first weekend of each month starting 6 February 2010 to July 2011. Admission free. Check the website for opening hours and special events.