Space Shifters review

4 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
(3user reviews)
Space Shifters review
02 Installation view of Richard Wilson_ 20_50, (1987) at Space Shifters, Hayward Gallery 2018. Photo_ Mark Blower

If I had a penny for every time I heard about the importance of light in art I’d have a shitload of pennies. From Caravaggio’s dramatic chiaroscuro to Turner’s swirling dusky seascapes and Monet’s shimmering waterlilies, light has been a necessary obsession in art for centuries. But it wasn’t until the 1960s and the birth of minimalism that artists really started using and messing with light, rather than just attempting to capture it.

This show of art that teases and toys with light and space is an eye-bending journey into the brightest recesses of minimalism. And you’re a part of it. From the minute you walk in, you’re reflected and doubled and twisted and turned.

Anish Kapoor’s big silver phone box blobs and blabs your reflection like a funfair house of mirrors. Opposite it, Jeppe Hein’s giant rotating mirrors constantly cut and re-cut the space; Alicja Kwade’s mirror and rock installation makes you question what’s solid and what’s air. Just three works into the show, your mind is melty and your eyes are achey.

And you’ve still got Larry Bell’s smoke and reflections corridor to come, then Fred Eversley’s purple lozenge and a whole installation of Yayoi Kusama’s little metal balls before you even get to the visceral ultra-sensory shock of Richard Wilson’s famous room of crude oil.

What eventually hits you is that the works here don’t just exist in space, they exist through it. They cut and reorganise rooms, they double the light or suck it away, expand the space or shrink it. Some make you reconsider your environment, some make you think about your own narcissism, but all of them show you the brain-tingling power of letting light be the star.

Sure, some of the works here look like really fancy hotel mirrors. And some – like the Leonor Antunes brass piece or Monika Sosnowska’s twisting rail – barely seem to fit the brief. But when Richard Wilson’s oil bifurcates the room and stings your nostrils, when Roni Horn’s glass fruit pastille begs you to find out if it’s liquid, you realise you don’t always need paintings of Greek allegories or conceptual installations about post-Deleuzian approaches to entropy. Sometimes, you just need light.


Average User Rating

2.7 / 5

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Thought this would be some inspiring art to take the kids to. Couldn't have been more wrong. I walked into the exhibition with my 3 and 7 year old girls not knowing if we could touch anything, or where you could stand, but you learnt quickly from the cross looking hostesses who were ready and waiting if you put your foot over one of the black lines, ok got it, 5 minutes in, 5 telling offs. Next room, I was standing right next to my 7 year old who was quietly looking at something, when I heard someone say to her "where is your grown up?". Ahh thanks for your concern, I'm right here looking at the same thing! I was so nervous in the room with the silver balls with hawk eyes on my kids, constantly repeating to them not to touch anything (which they weren't) that I bumped into a shiny ball, only to faced with a scornful look from the guard of the room. Whoops. I only felt slightly less like the worst mum of the worst children when I witnessed a grown well behaved looking man gazing into one of the optical illusions, deep in concentration, not realising his pinky toe was over a black line on the floor and his nose a little too close to the mirror only to be scolded and have that zen look wiped completely off his face.

The exhibits themselves were ok, I wish we had all been much more relaxed to enjoy it, not sure it was worth the £16. But hey, the kids were free, and they chucked in some parenting lessons too! First one being, NEVER RETURN HERE. 


Space Shifters is a great concept – promising to alter your perception of space and make you question your surroundings. 

Walking around, I did feel that there were some really great pieces that did that and cleverly made use of light and materials! The standouts for me included the instagram-esque Magic Mirrors made from shattered glass and doing clever things with colour; Roni Horn's (aptly nicknamed) fruit pastille, which plays with the properties of glass; and the masterful, interactive WeltenLinie, best appreciated by walking around and through it! Other pieces felt a bit repetitive and I agree that the show could have had a little more to it, but I did enjoy it, and would recommend to anyone who has an interest in illusions!

Oh and Yayoi Kusama's thought-provoking Narcissus Garden is also on show here – minus the queues and time limit ;) 


Space shifters is a really interesting concept as this exhibition intends to alter our perception of space. The oil room was fascinating as engine oil creates a mirrored canvas that presents the illusion of an infinite space. Make sure you head to this room first as the queues get really long and only one person is allowed in at a time. 

There were other interesting elements of the exhibition like the shattered glass creating a mirror and the gold and silver chains which offered a truly sensory experience.

However, other than these highlights I thought that the exhibition was lacking the amazement my £15 entry would have hopefully promised. I think they went a tad too far with the idea of mirrors to the point of repetition and in a way becoming quite dull, and they could have used the theme to explore other forms of illusion. It's not a bad exhibition, but I felt it needed more.