November 12, 2010 - The Fruitmarket Gallery - Childish Things
November 12, 2010

Childish Things

Jeff Koons, “Bear and Policeman,” 1988.*

Childish Things
Louise Bourgeois, Helen Chadwick, Robert Gober, Susan Hiller, Mike Kelley, Jeff Koons, Paul McCarthy

Curated by David Hopkins 

19 November 2010 – 23 January 2011

The Fruitmarket Gallery
45 Market Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1DF
Open seven days. Always free.
Opening Hours
Mon—Sat 11am—6pm, Sun 12—5pm
Festive Closure
closed 24 Dec 2010 – 2 Jan 2011 (inclusive).
Normal hours resume 3 January 2011

The Fruitmarket Gallery’s 2010 winter exhibition brings together major sculptures and projections by seven internationally significant artists from Britain and the United States in an exploration of what curator David Hopkins terms the ‘dark poetics’ of childhood.

Centred on the work of British and American artists who came to prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s, the exhibition sets in dialogue a number of seminal works on the theme of toys, childhood, child development and the cultural conditioning of children. The exhibition sets up a series of ‘conversations’ between the objects on display in order to explore a number of interconnected themes: Jeff Koons’ celebrations of kiddy- kitsch are set against Mike Kelley’s and Louise Bourgeois’ evocations of more sinister or abusive parent-child relations; Susan Hiller’s anthropologically-inflected exploration of the aggression underpinning the social conditioning of children is placed in counterpoint to Paul McCarthy’s monstrous consumerist/sexual hybrids and Robert Gober’s playpen is seen alongside Helen Chadwick’s objects which deal with her early adaptive response to playthings.

The exhibition seeks to look at the art of the 1980s and early 1990s art in a new way. The usual critical contexts informing art of this period (postmodernism, post- conceptualism, identity politics) are de- emphasised, and questions about attitudes to childhood, to play and to social conditioning—understood via post-surrealist fantasy idioms—are brought into prominence. The show aims to be playful (on one level, it possesses something of the ambience of a toy-shop or toy museum) but the emphasis is ultimately on a much darker understanding of childhood.

Childish Things is The Fruitmarket Gallery’s second collaboration with David Hopkins, Professor of Art History at the University of Glasgow; acknowledged authority on Marcel Duchamp, dada and surrealism; increasingly renowned writer on contemporary art; and curator of the popular 2006 Fruitmarket Gallery exhibition Dada’s Boys: Identity and Play in Contemporary Art.

The Fruitmarket Gallery has produced a lavishly illustrated publication by David Hopkins to accompany the exhibition which examines the post-dada/surrealist interest in toys as signifiers of what David terms a ‘dark poetics’ of childhood.

The Fruitmarket Gallery is committed to exhibiting contemporary art of the highest quality, bringing the work of artists with both established and emerging international reputations to Scotland and presenting the work of Scottish artists in an international context. The Fruitmarket Gallery’s exhibitions emphasise new work as part of a consistent and developing artistic practice, and seek to engage new and existing audiences through an integrated education, interpretation and publishing programme.


Curator’s talk
Friday 19 November, 6.30pm. Free.
David Hopkins in conversation with Fiona Bradley, Director of The Fruitmarket Gallery.

Artist’s Talk
Wednesday 24 November, 5pm. Free.
Susan Hiller in conversation with Fiona Bradley, Director of The Fruitmarket Gallery.

Childish Things: Playpen Poetry Performance (Minus Toys)
Tuesday 7 December, 6.30–8pm. Free.
Playpen poetry performance (minus toys) by David Hopkins and Kevin Henderson. [Not suitable for children.]

Playing and Reality
Thursday 13 January, 6.30–8pm. Free.
Child psychotherapists Francesca Calvocoressi and Debbie Hindle (co-editor of Personality Development: A Psychoanalytic Perspective) talk about play, children’s drawings, child psychotherapy and the psychotherapist D. W. Winnicott. Chaired by journalist Moira Jeffrey.

Booking is recommended for all talks. 
To book your place call 0131 226 8181 or email

Childish Things Film Screenings
Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 December
The Fruitmarket Gallery have teamed up with Filmhouse cinema to run a short film series over a weekend to tie in with Childish Things. These films by Czech surrealist Jan Svankmajer and his protégés, The Brothers Quay, inhabit a world of nursery nightmares, gothic tales and sinister toys. For more information go to

*Image above:
© Jeff Koons.

The Fruitmarket Gallery
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