There are wigs by the door and turds on the floor. Plastic flies, stink bomb vials and a ‘Shit in a Can’ furnish display cases like prized museum exhibits while, leaning against the walls, gravestones sport Elvis-style sunglasses and an inscribed steaming poo. Alan Kane has titled his exhibition ‘Punk Shop’, partly in homage to Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s ‘Seditionaries’ boutique on the King’s Road. The vibe, however, is pure joke shop.
If you think contemporary art is one big gag, gorged on novelties and pranks, then this show could be your puerile mini-mart of proof. Yet, anyone who knows Kane’s work, particularly his ‘Folk Archive’ created with Jeremy Deller, will recognise the bawdy atmosphere of ‘Punk Shop’ as part of a more complex and engaging exploration of high and low culture and the nebulous boundaries between the two.
And therein lies a funny problem, for what ‘Punk Shop’ recalls on so many levels is upscale, saleable art. From the messy elaborations of contemporary gods such as Paul McCarthy, Thomas Hirschhorn and Isa Genzken, back via the ironic 1980s shop display art of Jeff Koons and Haim Steinbach to Piero Manzoni’s crap in a can, art historical in-jokes engulf the show.
In the narrowest part of what may be the narrowest gallery in London, you are forced to squeeze past a gruesome fake-breasted totem that resembles a pneumatically enhanced version of one of Giacometti’s existentialist stick figures. Those imitation turds, meanwhile, have been dropped as though by a demented minimalist – confusing order with ordure, perhaps. It could come across as glib but Kane treads carefully along his poo-strewn path of association, keeping it crappy but leaving you happy.