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Some national collections may be sent to Coventry – and its old IKEA awaits them

19 February 2021

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

Two important art collections are being sent to Coventry – or will be, if Coventry Council has its way. As part of Coventry’s stint as UK city of culture, which begins in May, the council is to vote next week on a plan to buy a recently closed five-storey IKEA store in the city centre and turn it into ‘a multi-purpose collections and cultural facility’. It is hoped that the new National Collections centre will put a roof over the head of the Arts Council and British Council art collections and that items not on display in the city’s own Herbert Art Gallery and Museum and the Coventry Transport Museum could be moved to the new centre.

While the idea of curators and conservators progressing along a one-way system of Billy bookcases rather appeals to your roving correspondent, who would currently regard a trip to a store – any store – as a grand day out, perhaps the more artistically inclined and performance-oriented among them might be inspired to add to the roster of IKEA-inspired artworks.

Chief among these is Stealing Beauty, Guy Ben-Ner’s delightfully deadpan film of 2007, which kicks off with the Israeli artist declaring ‘Hi Honey, I’m home!’ as he steps on to the ‘real’ set of a living room in a real IKEA store, and into a parody of nuclear-family life starring his real wife and children. Ben-Ner filmed in stores in three countries, but perhaps even more fun is a guerrilla series set in just the one store. Dave Seger’s Ikea Heights (2009) stays firmly put in a single store in Burbank, California, or as firmly put as it can be when its cast encounters in-store security (episode 5). The seven episodes of the doolally murder mystery in the style of a histrionic daytime soap – with some startling generic twists – are well worth anyone’s time. And, Coventry-Council willing, Rakewell looks forward to more IKEA-related art with a generous helping of Swedish meatballs.

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