“Anyone using this cart?”
“Yeah, just for another minute.”
“That’s okay, I’ll take the carpet dolly. And a ratchet wrench.”
I went away for a week on vacation, and when I came back, ICA’s shows had closed and the museum was full of art installers—or, in this case, de-installers—busily taking everything apart.
Stefan Sagmeister: The Happy Show is going on to enjoy new life in Chicago, Canada, Los Angeles, and France, and the art crate firm Wormwood and Haze has built a flotilla of custom crates, painted Happy Show yellow, to cocoon it on its way.
First Among Equals, as seems fitting given its interest in the fleeting dynamics of collaboration, is gone forever. There are just some Plexiglas stands and iron bars still screwed to the wall suggesting something was here.
It was magical to see his installation come together last April, and I’m sad to see it packed into boxes. “So it’s all over,” I say.
“Yes,” Alex says. “It’s fun.”
“Fun?” I think he’s joking, but he’s not.
“You get to take it apart and see how you can use the parts again in different ways. It’s not precious.” Tugging at some long tubes that had been part of a scaffolding, he adds, “I haven’t thought about these colors for a long time.” He stacks more boxes on the cart and wheels them out to his PhillyCarShare van for the trip back to the studio, while banging noises float in from the gallery, and someone cuts pieces of foam on the screaming band saw. Upstairs on the terrace, the huge Happy Show monkeys lie in great heaps on the concrete, deflated for the final time.
It’s an odd, poignant moment at ICA: the dog days of summer, hot and stormy. Something comes down, something else—not quite known—gets ready to go up. William, counting up the summer attendance, reports that we recently broke a weekday record—250 visitors on a single August Wednesday!
What will fall bring?
Starting September 19, Jeremy Deller: Joy in People—a mid-career retrospective of the unpredictable, vibrant, British, Turner Prize-winning artist—will fill the whole museum. It will include a life-size recreation of Deller’s first show (in his boyhood bedroom in his parents’ house when they were away), a celebration of Goth culture (including an actual Goth brooding on a sofa), banners and videos and a parade float tea room where you can enjoy an actual cup of tea. Also, a section called My Failures.
I have read about Joy in People, seen photographs, even helped draft the press release, yet I can’t quite imagine it—not really—the new environment that’s moving closer like a weather front. Before long I will enter it every day when I come to work, it will become my climate. Which is to say that not only will the environment change, but it will change me too. At least a little bit. At least I hope it will. Isn’t changing us—penetrating us, prying us open like oysters—what we most hope art will do?
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