Friday, September 21, 2007

Serpentine Gallery Reviews and Interviews

The British press has run a number of articles about Matthew Barney's work to coincide with yesterday's opening of his exhibtion at the Serpentine Gallery.

For some reason, both articles in The Guardian refer to Barney (somewhat derisively) as "the American Damien Hirst." Jonathan Jones's review of the exhibition is fairly negative:

"Barney is only really famous among curators, critics and other artists. The most pop-cultural thing about him is being the boyfriend of the Icelandic singer Björk...[The sculptures at the Serpentine Gallery] relate to Drawing Restraint 9, about to be screened in London, but not at the gallery. It's not that they're bad; you just wonder what they are for. It's the work of an unthinking craftsman, turning out beautifully honed mother-of-pearl objects with no function...The real problem is that Barney's long, beautiful, sterile film Drawing Restraint 9, the source of these works, doesn't itself have the energy of The Cremaster Cycle."

However, Jones does concede, "The Cremaster Cycle, was one of the most striking works of art to come out of America in recent times."

Read the whole article:,,2172992,00.html

The Guardian also published a more in depth (and positive) article about Barney by Sean O'Hagan. In the article, Bjork says:

"Creatively, Matthew and I take opposite approaches that end in the same point,' she says. 'He enjoys restraint and discipline and thrives on it like a sportsman. Growing up, he had the athlete's attitude to limits. I was in a punk band, ignoring all restraints and embracing freedom. I still seek those heightened moments of freedom in my work. He does it the other way around, if that makes sense."

And Barney says of his process:

"The films are narratives, definitely,' he says. 'In fact, the way I put them together is not so different to the way I read other more conventional narratives. I actually find it very hard to read a book beginning to end and go completely inside that narrative. I have to be able to apply my day-to-day life to that narrative for there to be an even fractured understanding of that book. I have read a number of books where I have no idea what they are about in a narrative sense, but I am pretty confident I have a good sense of what the base of the story is."

Read the whole article:,,2163539,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=networkfront

The Times's Morgan Falconer has a mixed opinion of Barney:

"For some, Barney’s success is to have found ways to talk about subjects such as sex and gender through fabulous allegories and slick films. Others are attracted to his persuasive yoking of film and sculpture. But for others, Barney’s work is tediously hermetic and self-indulgent. Had he been at all concerned about such accusations, though, he surely would not have engaged Björk to work on this new film, but he says that it simply made sense."

The article concludes with Barney stating that he has planned a trip down the Nile -- no doubt a chance to research imagery for Guarding the Veil.

Read the whole article:

If any of our British readers have photos from the Serpentine Gallery opening, please email them to us.


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

I think that in no way are hirst and barney similar. its funny that the british tabloids are trying to make a rivalry between "their" art star and "ours."
the guardian even asks the question: "why? what is his work for?" dear god, these people shouldn't have anything to do with art.