June 24, 2009 / 3:48 PM / 10 years ago

Tate show takes wry look at habits of collecting

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The first of seven rooms containing a new exhibition at London’s Tate Britain museum is filled with the loud clackety-clack of 39 metronomes placed around its perimeter.

The racket from Martin Creed’s installation, cryptically titled “Work No. 112” and created over a nine-year period between 1995 and 2004, introduces the eclecticism of “Classified,” on show until August 23.

Works by 15 contemporary artists including Damien Hirst, Simon Starling, Rebecca Warren, Jake and Dinos Chapman, feature mundane objects from everyday life, with their meaning and significance reinterpreted in the gallery setting.

“It’s about the order of things and how artists make sense of the world around them to accomplish that,” said Clarrie Wallis, a curator of contemporary British art.

“It is about collecting and how you group things together.”

Hirst’s “Pharmacy,” a self-contained room featuring glass-enclosed cabinets of medicine, makes a connection between the method of organizing medicine with the display of art.

“He draws links between belief systems and our relationship to medicine,” Wallis said.

“There is also the sense of us trying to make sense of the world — there’s an irony about it.”

The exhibit also highlights the museum’s own role in collecting, classifying and displaying art objects, particularly with 34 wooden carvings in “The Chapman Family Collection.”

Incense wafts amid the carvings, which sit on individual plinths to give the installation the mood of a traditional display of ethnographic objects in a museum at first glance.

It soon becomes apparent that the exhibit is a parody.

A carved representation of Ronald McDonald, the mascot of restaurant chain McDonald’s, pokes fun at the exploitation of so-called primitive art and methods of displaying it in a museum setting purely for its aesthetic value — distanced from its sociological and religious function.

Starling’s “Work, Made-ready, Les Baux de Provence (Mountain Bike)” shows steps in the process of constructing an aluminum mountain bike, drawing attention to modernist notions of the alienating affect of mass production.

Reporting by Julie Mollins; Editing by Steve Addison

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