This Psychedelic Maze And Fun House Just Opened In Mayfair

Hysterical, Phillips ★★★★☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 47 months ago

Looks like this article is a bit old. Be aware that information may have changed since it was published.

This Psychedelic Maze And Fun House Just Opened In Mayfair Hysterical, Phillips 4
Let the sensory overload commence. Don't forget to look up. Image courtesy of Phillips.

What happens if you cross a fun house and an art exhibition? Wonder no more, because that's exactly what's just opened at Phillips auction house, in a collaboration with artist and set designer Gary Card.

Mayfair auctioneers Phillips are in the business of selling art and they are very good at it. In their plush space on Berkeley Square you normally find pristine art displays, to encourage prospective buyers to open their  very large wallets and spend some serious cash on a Basquiat or a Warhol.

It's colour everywhere, including this dotty doll by Yayoi Kusama. Image courtesy of Phillips.

In this latest exhibition, it's no longer a case of 'Ouch. I can't afford that', but rather 'Where is the art?'

Navigating through a colourful maze, I spend a lot of time staring at things, wondering if they're part of the installation, or separate artworks. Turns out that growling red face on the back of the circular door isn't part of Gary Card's set at all. It's credit to Card that he makes the whole thing blend seamlessly to the point that the spinning flower by Yayoi Kusama — she of the infinity rooms — feels right at home in his trippy world.

Look up to spot some of Card's playful creations including a freakish man with a polygonal head atop a shed, and what looks like a cross between a pickle and Mr Potato Head reclining over the entrance.

After wandering through the colourful plastic curtains and taking in all the smiley faces on the floor, I focus on spotting the individual artworks, and the sensory overload continues, from polka dot dolls to artist Cindy Sherman in one of her trademark alter ego portraits, dressed as a clown.

The highlight is a video triptych by artist collective Smack, based on Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights. The screens depict Eden, Paradise and Hell, each filled with quirky details such as giant cats sleeping in Eden, and a worm with giant lips for a head in Paradise — far more creepy than heavenly. The best is saved for the deliciously dark take on Hell; a giant skeleton with a gavel and judge's wig passes judgements over a land that includes an obese man being force fed humans through a meat grinder, and a pig-headed man writhing around on the floor in agony. Quirky sinful humour abounds in all three screens and we could watch them over again and still spot new things every time.

Don't forget to wave goodbye to this guy on the way out.

I had to regularly remind myself that this exhibition is actually about selling art — high praise to Card and Phillips for ensuring it doesn't come across that way at all. It's fun, accessible and put a smile on my face — definitely not what I was expecting from visiting an auction house.  

Hysterical: hosted by Gard Card is at Phillips in Mayfair, until 21 August 2019. Entrance is free. There's a VR walkthrough that allows you to tour the show remotely.

Last Updated 22 July 2019