The pull towards urban living continues to increase as global populations develop. Reflecting this fact, The London Open 2018, hosted by Whitechapel Gallery, London, selects 22 global artists who live across and are inspired by the 32 London boroughs, showing how, within a hyperactive setting, creativity is thriving. Submissions for the triannual event which began in 1932 echoes the bustle of the city as record-breaking 2600 applications were received.
Previously launching the careers of high-profile practitioners including Anish Kapoor (b. 1954), Grayson Perry (b. 1960), and more recently the likes of Heather Phillipson (b. 1978), Alice Channer (b. 1977) and Rebecca Ackroyd (b. 1987), the exhibition focuses on individual and collective experiences of living in the diverse, global city. This Much I’m Worth (The self-evaluating artwork) (2017), created by 2016 Aesthetica Art Prize winner Rachel Ara (b. 1965), features in this year’s show and reflects the ambiguity of the metropolitan population as well as the high-fortune deals which dominate the capital. The functional object is made up of 83 pieces of red, linear neon which are suspended above a collection of recycled server room equipment and computers. Each night, the electronics independently calculate the artwork’s market value, illuminating the amount through alarming digits above. The work primarily questions concepts of worth and validity, yet also underlines sexuality, race and gender disparity, implied by the glow which is emitted from the technological piece.
Another featured work includes Queer Spirits (2016), created by artist Richard Healy (b. 1980), which combines sculpture and performance to query the limits of identity and human consciousness. A contorted, powder-coated steel rod morphs into a candle holder, nailed to the gallery wall and holding a flickering white candle and an image-covered publication. The spiritual guidebook is bookmarked by the twisted metal and the whole sculpture bathed in a pale pink light, suggesting the importance of enlightenment, awareness and history.
Other artists selected for the showcase include: Larry Achiampong (b. 1984), Gabriella Boyd (b. 1988), Hannah Brown (b. 1977), Rachael Champion (b. 1982), Gary Colclough (b. 1977), George Eksts (b. 1978), Ayan Farah (b. 1978), French & Mottershead (b. 1973; b. 1968), Vikesh Govind (b. 1990), Des Lawrence (b. 1970), Tom Lock (b. 1981), Celine Manz (b. 1981), Uriel Orlow (b. 1973), Rachel Pimm (b. 1984), Renee So (b. 1974), Alexis Teplin (b. 1976), Elisabeth Tomlinson (b. 1991), Jonathan Trayte (b. 1980), Tom Varley (b. 1985) and Andrea Luka Zimmerman (b. 1969).
1. Rachel Ara, This Much I’m Worth (2016).