‘Have you seen me before?’ asks Whitechapel Gallery with its ‘absurd’ collection

Pivi's rarely-seen chicken-feathered polar bear, going on show at Whitechapel Gallery

Pivi's rarely-seen chicken-feathered polar bear, going on show at Whitechapel Gallery - Credit: Whitechapel Gallery

The Whitechapel Gallery will be asking ‘Have you seen me before?’ with its forthcoming display of Sandretto Re Rebaudengo’s modern art collection bringing international artists together in photography, sculpture and film that play on the absurd.

The answer would probably be ‘no’ to most of us—this being one of the most-important private collections in Europe presented under The Whitechapel’s programme of works rarely seen by the public.

The title ‘Have you seen me before?’ is Paola Pivi’s 2008 centrepiece sculpture of a polar bear covered in yellow chicken feathers.

Pivi’s work often combines familiar images in absurdly strange contexts that prompt a childlike sense of wonder and blurring reality and fiction—like chicken feathers on a polar bear.

Also in the collection is Katharina Fritsch’s 1981 ‘Table with Cheese’ sculpture, punctuated by painstakingly-crafted everyday objects. This over-sized cheese is unsettlingly realistic.


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Another is Philippe Parreno’s 1993 ‘Jean-Luc Godard’ of a Christmas tree surrounded by chairs where viewers sit and listen to a soundtrack of the artist posing for the filmmaker. It warns against a tendency “to believe what we think we see”.

Other works include Tauba Auerbach’s mesmerising 2009 ‘Crumple VII’ flat surface of undulating black dots that suggests, when seen from afar, the three-dimensional shape of crumpled paper, Ceal Floyer’s 1997 ‘Projection’ blending perception and imagination in its image of a nail on a wall and Angela Bulloch’s 1993 ‘Yellow Corner’ with its lights from a pedestrian crossing in the Gallery space.

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The exhibition runs at The Whitechapel from June 18 to September 8. Tube: Aldgate East.

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