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Are artists taking the fun out of funfairs?

25 May 2017

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

Time was when you’d head to Alton Towers or Thorpe Park for your fix of fairground rides. These days, it seems, you’d be better off visiting a contemporary art show.

This year’s Art Basel fair, for example, is to feature an installation by Swiss artist Claudia Comte, who is transforming the city’s Messeplatz into an ‘immersive funfair’. Entitled ‘NOW I WON’, Comte’s project will incorporate a range of games and activities of her own creation, including ‘Slurp ‘Em Up’ (a booth in which visitors can ‘take part in a number of drinking games’), ‘Drop ‘Em All’ (a bowling alley that substitutes Comte’s own sculptures for normal pins) and ‘Swing it Through’ (‘a mini golf course that has to be completed with a limited number of swings’). Apparently, the whole thing is ‘a playful commentary on the value of art once it enters the art market’.

Comte is not the first artist to co-opt the trappings of the fairground in the name of immersive art. For the 2015 Venice Biennale, Doug Fishbone fielded a mini golf course featuring 10 holes designed by different artists. In case that sounds like too much fun, Rakewell feels obliged to point out that the project was intended as a comment on capitalism and consumer desire.

Meanwhile, in London, visitors to Anish Kapoor’s ArcelorMittal Orbit tower in London’s Olympic Park can of course zip down the helter skelter designed by Carsten Höller, tacked on to the tower last year in an attempt to take the sting out of the structure’s vast running costs. With a ticket for the 40-second slide ride costing nearly £17, this is one funfair artwork with absolutely no interest in critiquing late capitalism…

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.

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