Thursday, 5 March 2015

200words: cotton to gold at two temple place

Cotton, when it is grown by slaves, woven in satanic mills, to be sold to subjects of a vast military empire, becomes gold. It's hard to conceive a more efficient device for the concentration of wealth. And how would you spend it? And what strange lives are lived by those who hold the keys to printing money in this unprecedented way?

This show answers with works of alchemy from a golden age of mechanical reproduction. Bizarre obsessions, hoarded glitter, by delirious monied magpies, stashing precious trinkets that bespeak a fairytale, hearkening to an age of hand-making, pining for a lost land. Two Temple Place, an aptly maximalist frame for the exhibition, aches with excess, the beauty of this jewel box heaves a sigh of earnest intensity, aware of its own garish game of nostalgic distraction, but it does it so fabulously.

Collated and curated here is a distilled array: the dazzling ornamental intricacy of carved ivory, Tiffany pieces capturing an iridescent universe of hues, Millais sketches, Turner watercolours.. It is all exquisite. But at the same time, dead. Dead as the Peruvian huddled in ropes and rags, petrified as chloroformed beetles, static as taxidermy. This clutter of trophies is about power not art; the bequests beg to assuage a bottomless guilt.

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