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BARBICAN – Folk Art Special

Two artists dismayed by the Millennium Dome’s corporate presentation of Britain have created their own snapshot of British artistic creativity. Five years after the Dome presented its shiny, clean vision of Britain, there is now a smaller, cheaper and more democratic snapshot of the UK on show at the Barbican Gallery.

A life-size mechanical elephant from Oswestry, trades union banners, snack shop signs, paintings on vans and hot pants from the Notting Hill Carnival can be seen in the gallery as part of a collection looking at the state of British creativity.

Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller and artist Alan Kane are the masterminds behind the show, which tries to update what we understand as folk art. They have collected images from around the country which are not normally considered art, or shown in galleries.

Some of the works are rooted in the past such as Devon’s Tar Barrel Rolling celebrations or “Well Dressing” from Derbyshire. Others are entirely modern such as homemade web page designs or a collection of fake parking tickets which are left on the windows of unwelcome 4×4 vehicles.

The exhibition reflects Deller’s work as an ‘enabler’ and curator of other people’s work. His staging of a re-enactment of the Battle of Orgreave, the most dramatic conflict between miners and police during the miners’ strike in the 1980s, was one of his most celebrated works.
As an artist who freely accepts he can neither draw nor paint, Deller says his work is to document, enable and “re-direct the flow” of other people’s work. His main work in the year he won the Turner Prize was Memory Bucket, a video documentary of a trip through George Bush’s Texas.

Some of the pieces in the exhibition have appeared before, but much of it is new. It is a reappraisal of the “overlooked and undervalued” objects which have been created by people simply for the love of making something beautiful rather than making a profit.

The Barbican’s Contemporary Popular Art from the UK exhibition runs to 24 July.

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