After looking forward to it for weeks, I finally visited “View Basket: Art Bought Online” at the Hayward. I was expecting the show to resemble something I would curate for myself in my bedroom, but of course it was far more esoteric.
The rules for the exhibition were set by the curator, Tom Morton. He writes, “The rules are simple. Take a modest amount of money (enough for a pretty nice holiday, not enough for a new car), and use it to buy works of art from UK-based sellers on eBay over a ten day period. Wait for the works to arrive at the gallery. Organize them into a show.”
Unfortunately, theme was not central to the rules. The pieces Morton purchased did not seem to say anything forceful about the Internet as an art market. And once you think you’ve found the anchor for the show, it slips just as quickly from your hands.
Venus busts and antique magic lantern slides might say “there are strange and beautiful antiques online.” James Lee Byers calling cards and Andy Warhol perfumes might say “there is a good deal of artist ephemera to be had out there.” But there are primitive dog paintings as well. There are DC Comics, Tank Girl Dolls, Kit-Club-esque portraits, and Tom of Finland brochures.
The greatest appeal of this show is its democratic beginnings. Anyone in Britain may sell art online, and I couldn’t help but wonder if some of the pieces in the show had come from the homes of the other people in the gallery. I eyed the teenage girls next to me, wondering if perhaps it was their mother’s painting of pyramids on the pedestal. And the elderly man with a cane, maybe he made that scrapbook of photos of men in leather chaps or customized the gothic My Little Pony in the glass case.
"View Basket" is a strange experiment in curating. The origins and methodology of the works is interesting, but the culture of the show would be improved if the democratic roots of such an exercise had been emphasized.