Another Box pondering.Today I was volunteering in North Hall. Originally the main entrance/ foyer of the old museum and now the hub of the museum. Everyone passes through North Hall and many people do exactly that, they pass through North Hall , noses buried deep in their museum plan, anxious to get to the gallery of their choice. Some pause for nostalgia remembering this hall as children or as the parents of children, revisiting the memories of the old museum. North Hall currently holds a piece of Contemporary Sculpture named Figurehead II by its creator Alexandre du Cunha. To not pay it attention is a waste of a revealing art moment.
From the picture above it is hard to even see a piece of contemporary art. And yet this picture really simply shows a relationship between contemporary art, craftsmanship, and decorative art.
I want to call Figurehead II a monolith, but it is not in one piece and not truly made of stone. It is Monolithesque and created from 4 mass produced concrete drainage pipes. It is an ordinary object repurposed as a sculpture , repurposed because it has holes gauged out of the sides of the segments of drainage pipe and a sculpture because it stands, out of context, within an art gallery. It is a ready made piece of art like Deschamps Urinal entitled Fountain, just a little further down the drain chain. It can never be a drainage pipe again. Set within the original Victorian entrance foyer and stairway, the sculpture captures attention. In some ways incongruous but actually a dominating, beautiful concrete tower. Tactile and interactive it invites visitors to explore it with hands and eyes. It teases the adventurously minded to clamber in and pose for companions to photograph them, framed by it’s grey concrete edges. It directs your eyes to the Victorian staircase and landing and in some views the circles pick up the detail of a fifteenth century ceiling panel.
Here is my humble opinion as to why this is such a simple art lesson. Explaining where this piece of contemporary art sits with decorative art and crafsmanship. The concrete pipe is a mass produced manufactured item. Where the holes have been carved out you can see the construction ingredients of stones and cement. Sitting, as it does, on the original museums Victorian decorative floor. It is immediately obvious how similar in construction the two things are, and yet the decorative floor just ‘ is’ a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Intriguingly the concrete pipe occludes the markings that gave the decorative star a purpose. It is actually the points of a compass but without the letters denoting direction being visible it has been stripped of any usefulness. Without purpose it doesn’t exactly excite your mind to think around it. Figurehead II , love it or loath it, makes you think in all sorts of ways and that,in my opinion, is the point of this piece of contemporary art.