Going Public: International Art Collectors in Sheffield by Madeleine Walton

Sol LeWitt, Serial Project. Image courtesy of Pace Gallery.

Going Public: International Art Collectors in Sheffield showcases superb exhibits from four leading European private collections. Highlights from the dslcollection, the Cattelain Collection, the Marzona Collection, and the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Collection are currently on display in the SIA Gallery, the Site Gallery, the Millenium Gallery, the Graves Gallery, and Sheffield Cathedral. Madeleine Walton finds herself in the Cathedral on a Thursday morning; a group of toddlers, also looking around, add a surreal nature to what seems such an unlikely art space…

Filling the Cathedral
Across the main nave I can see a spectacular banner by Goshka Macuga: Plus Ultra, which illustrates the ever-present issue of migration. It shows a boatload of people off the coast of Europe while politicians look on indifferently to their plight.

Beyond the banner, shines Cerith Wyn Evans’ circular suspended neon work illuminating the way to the altar. And to the right, Pae White’s huge tapestry Still Untitled alters the structure of the cathedral as smoke appears to cascade outward.

Two screens show Douglas Gordon’s A Divided Self(I and II), evoking R.D.Laing’s influential writings on mental health: they show two disembodied arms wrestling with one another. While on the other side of the nave, Marthe by Berlinde de Bruyckere is an unsettling sculpture reminiscent of crucifixions and flagellations.

Fiona-Tan-Saint-Sebastian-2001 Courtesy the artist and Frith Street Gallery and Fondazione Sandretto Rebaudengo, Turin

FionaTan, Saint Sebastian 2001. Image courtesy of Frith Street Gallery and Fondazione Sandretto Rebaudengo, Turin

In Fiona Tan’s powerful two-screen piece Saint Sebastian we see the faces of Japanese women taking part in an initiation ceremony. Steely-eyed faces fill the screens as their determined concentration shows them releasing arrows to an unseen destination.

I cannot enter the Chapel of the Holy Spirit but in the far corner I see Jake & Dinos Chapman’s Cyber Iconic Man. The distance increases the power of the image as does the altarpiece behind, with the twelve apostles.

Don’t miss Your Hidden Sound by Micol Assael in the crypt. The sound of a bird trapped in Assael’s studio amplifies our personal fears of being trapped in such a claustrophobic and windowless space. And as you leave the cathedral listen out for Susan Philipsz’ sound piece There is Nothing Left Here.

Art and people successfully animate the cathedral to create an impressive exhibition and if you can only make it to one of the five venues that make up this citywide exhibition this is the one to visit.

Dada in the Graves Gallery
It can sometimes feel a bit of a climb to the Graves Gallery but it’s worth it to see the magnificent avant-garde collection there: original works by Marcel Duchamp, André Breton, Man Ray, Kurt Schwitter and many more is a real treat.

My personal favourite from this extensive collection of Dada and related works is a work by Sophie Taeuber-Arp from 1920 entitled simply Dada, the striking shapes and vibrant colours remind me of works by Sonia Delaunay. The collection’s posters, photographs, books, magazines and art works of the Dada period give a fascinating insight into a movement that changed art irrevocably and gave birth to the contemporary art seen in the other three venues.

Looks Conceptual in the Millenium Gallery

Dan Flavin. Monument for V.Tatlin 1969-70 Courtesy the artist and DACS

Dan Flavin, Monument for V.Tatlin 1969-70. Image courtesy of DACS.

In the Millennium Gallery I see a contemporary collection in a white box gallery. The star of the collection Wielandstr 18, 12159 Berlin 2011 by Do Ho Suh, takes centre stage but is now cordoned off, despite the catalogue entreating me to walk through the work. When I question the invigilator I am informed that people were destroying the work so they’ve had to stop any interaction. I can’t help but think better invigilation could have allowed interactive viewing. I’m alone in the gallery and not allowed to enter as the artist bids. Instead I content myself with tantalising glimpses of the doors, light switches and wall mounted phones woven into the polyester fabric on a metal frame.

Overlooking the exhibition are the words of Stefan Bruggemann LOOKS CONCEPTUAL which sum up succinctly the majority of the art works at the Millennium Gallery.

Texting in the Site Gallery
The Site Gallery has quite a minimal look. In the first room are some books and a photograph (A Cruel Diary of Youth where a woman on a Chinese building site is texting). In the adjoining room is an alarming video piece 1,2,3,4 by Zhou Tao showing workers in China being drilled like soldiers, illustrating the sort of behaviour that Jeremy Hunt wants us to emulate as he urges us to be more like the Chinese.

SIA Gallery Opens Up An Imaginary World
Finally, SIA gallery is a proliferation of mostly video pieces. Most disturbing is Planting Geese by Zheng Guogu where geese are put into holes on the points of a huge star (marked out on the ground) and doused with what looks like oil until they ‘appear’ to die.

En route to the second half of the SIA Gallery upstairs, I find a surprisingly affecting video by Zheng Guogu: Deep Fried Tanks where toy tanks are deep fried and placed in rows. In the upstairs gallery RMB City is an imaginary world created by Cao Fei. Laptops are available to explore this cyber world.

Going Public is not to be missed and is on until 12th December. More info at www.goingpublicsheffield.org.