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Pieter Jennes, ‘Lockdown Party’, 2020
Pieter Jennes, ‘Lockdown Party’, 2020

This virtual group show features 50 artists’ response to lockdown

‘No Time Like the Present’ connects artists across the world in isolation

Chris Waywell

If you’ve been moved over the last few weeks to get creative, you’re not alone. Across the world, artists have been responding to lockdown and to having their imaginative stimuli and ways of working constrained or reshaped. Now a new show from Public Gallery called ‘No Time Like the Present’ is bringing 50 of them together in a virtual exhibition to explore some of these ideas.  

There’s a huge diversity of work in the show, from intimate pencil sketches to videos, textiles to sculpture, but a few definite themes emerge: domesticity, showers, working with pets, and food. There are also plenty of pieces that seem to respond to dreams or altered states of consciousness. Rose Nestler’s video ‘The Weird Sisters’ features a pair of creepy disembodied blue hands with the kind of extra nail job that beauty-salon-deprived Londoners would kill for. They writhe and flex in what looks like one of those boxes you get in labs where you stick your hands through two holes and conduct experiments. 

Several artists actively reflect on their situation. Sasha Gordon has a painting in the show, ‘Flirting with No One’, but also a TikTok clip of her dancing in front of another of her works.

Sasha Gordon, ‘Flirting with No One’
Sasha Gordon, ‘Flirting with No One’, 2020

NH Depass creates a totemic pinewood stick adorned with transfers, then presents a jerky stop-frame of himself ritualistically working out with it in a strange tropical glade. Lily Wong’s fried egg leads her into a Gershwin-accompanied reverie about her city under lockdown.

NH Depass, ‘Stick I’, 2020
NH Depass, ‘Stick I’, 2020

This is actually a great exhibition, and I say that as someone who often finds group shows just random and unsatisfying. Sure, it is random, but we all understand why, for once. There is an undeniable shared experience at the heart of it, and it invites you to look at that again, refracted through these artists’ responses.

Finally, there are several pieces that respond to the sheer ludicrousness of creating things at the best of times, never mind now. Even (or especially) if you really really hate art, you should check out Philip Gerald’s video ‘How to Paint with Phil’, in which he’ll introduce you – while chugging beers – to the important artworld concepts of ‘sellability’ and ‘moneyness’, exhort you to always look ‘fucking sick’ and remember that it’s ‘normal to cry’. I assume he’s Canadian. Oh, no, he’s from Dublin. Strange world.

Public Gallery’s ‘No Time Like the Present’ is online now, and it’s free! 

Loads of famous London galleries and museums are doing virtual tours.

Not enough globalness for you? Here are some virtual museums from around the world.


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