New Order: Art, Product, Image 1976 – 1995 review

3 out of 5 stars
New Order: Art, Product, Image 1976 – 1995 review
Karen Knorr Olivier Richon, Punks, 1977. © Karen Knorr Olivier Richon. Courtesy of the Artist.

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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The title of this show is a promise, but not one that anyone ever managed to keep. ‘New Order’ refers to the band, obviously, but also to the era. 1976-1995 represented a time of hefty culture-shifting. There was the arrival and subsequent evolution of punk, the death of Thatcherism and the birth of Blairism. Caught across these works is the promise of things changing, of cultural revolution.

It kicks off with four YBA videos. Angus Fairhurst stomps about in a gorilla suit, Gary Hume sits in a bath with a Burger King crown, Fairhurst and Damien Hirst show up as clowns eating another clown and Sam Taylor-Johnson films a nude man dancing with slow-motion abandon. Downstairs, Gillian Wearing dances silently in Peckham Shopping Centre. This is artists doing whatever, however: sniggering, laughing, partying in a new Britain.

Upstairs, Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon’s photos of London punks lead to a Hirst medicine cabinet and some gorgeous Richard Hamilton collages. In the middle of it all, Peter Saville’s iconic design for New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’ single sits in a glass case. Putting a record on a pedestal like that, in an art gallery, when it’s something designed for mass consumption is a bit of duff move if you ask me.

The best works are Knorr’s portraits of Belgravia elites, coupled with quotes about how the price of gold will plunge if hostages get released, and how privilege is a high price you have to pay, etc. Myopic poshos living in their million-pound bubbles.

The show is a big old confluence of commerce, design, freedom, rebellion, money and identity. But there’s a nostalgic edge to this that makes me a bit queasy. It’s like the show is asking you to bask in the glow of this new order, of this brilliant revolutionary time. But what’s actually changed since then? We still have those poshos, we still have those punks, we still have that wild abandon and that crushing despair. The revolutions keep happening, and nothing changes. A nostalgic look back through a bunch of works you’ve probably already seen is a lot of fun, but it’s not half as revolutionary as it thinks it is.


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