The contemporary art world gives us many things, but laughter is rarely one of them. Opportunities to squeal? Even rarer. Which is what makes this exhibition at Southwark Park Galleries as precious to behold as a chug wearing a very small hat. If I was the Marie Kondo of art critics, I’d tell you to metaphorically throw out all the other exhibitions because only this one will bring you joy.
The idea’s simple: artworks of dogs chosen by dogs. Fifteen canine curators, to be precise, who all come from artsy households. I actually glimpsed one of them, Agnes the gorgeous bedlington whippet, at the gallery but was too star-struck to strike up meaningful conversation.
As it happens, Agnes is a fan of Joan Jonas’s sprezzatura sketches of her own pointy-nosed pooch. And why not? They’re brilliant. As indeed are many other works on display. The show avoids becoming a bog of whimsy by featuring genuinely good art and all, thank dog, without a soppy Landseer in sight.
Along with Jonas’s works, best-in-show goes to Lucian Freud’s portrait of Pluto the whippet. Which, while we’re here, raises the question: are skinny dogs over-represented in art? I spy long limbs and taut haunches everywhere, but where is the Rubens of dog-painters? Discuss.
Representing the fluffier side of life is Olive, the shih tzu-poodle cross who has selected a variety of portraits by Ryan Brown and Babak Ganjei, all of which look suspiciously similar to her – but it’s hard to fault such vanity after looking into those big, brown puppydog eyes.
The surprising part is that – sorry there’s something in my eye – it’s actually quite moving, particularly Jem Finer’s film ‘Bonzo You Have a New Memory’ selected by artist Marcia Farquhar’s pet Bonzo. (Wo)man’s best friend and all that, it’ll make you want to raise a glass to the world’s best bitches.