August 8, 2006 - Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) - Surprise, Surprise
August 8, 2006

Surprise, Surprise

Rodney Graham
Untitled 16 from Picasso, My Master (2005)
Courtesy Johnen/Schöttle, Berlin/Cologne

2 August-10 September 2006

Institute of Contemporary Arts
The Mall
London SW1
Phone: 44 20 7930 3647

Participating Artists: Doug Aitken, John Baldessari, Matthew Barney, Christian Boltanski, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Larry Clark, Martin Creed, John Currin, Thomas Demand, Peter Doig, Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset, Olafur Eliasson, Nan Goldin, Douglas Gordon, Rodney Graham, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Hirschhorn, Damien Hirst, Carsten Höller, Jenny Holzer, Anish Kapoor, Martin Kippenberger, Barbara Kruger, Robert Mapplethorpe, Paul McCarthy, Mariko Mori, Juan Muñoz, Takashi Murakami, Ernesto Neto, Albert Oehlen, Chris Ofili, Raymond Pettibon, Elizabeth Peyton, Richard Prince, Neo Rauch, Ed Ruscha, Tino Sehgal, Cindy Sherman, Santiago Sierra, Wolfgang Tillmans, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Kara Walker (with Klaus Bürgel), Christopher Williams

Curated by: Jens Hoffmann and Rob Bowman
Surprise, Surprise is an exhibition that appears at first glance to be a typical summer blockbuster set to bring crowds flocking in with its promise of wow factor and instant accessibility through a stellar cast of high-profile artists. But, the forty or so acclaimed artists taking part will actually be displaying pieces that are atypical, unrepresentative or even, in some cases, antithetical to the work for which they are best known. By reversing expectations through this presentation of the unexpected, the unfamiliar, the unknown and the one-off, this exhibition is both a revelation and a challenge to the preconceptions we readily impose on exhibitions of contemporary artists work, often before we have actually seen them. Essentially, the aim of Surprise, Surprise is to focus on arts fundamental ability to point out what we do not know, as well as allowing us to recognize what we do.

Contemporary art is certainly not unique in fuelling and trading on expectation through the advance promotion of well-known names. Large-scale group exhibitions and typically the tourist driven epic summer shows tend to play most aggressively to this kind of recognition factor, stimulating interest in the show through the promise that the more established (or celebrity) artists names present. For any exhibition, the circulation of a list of participating artists has a particular function as a way to engage a potential audience even before the works go on display. As a strategy, this highlights the increasing importance attached to an artist as a personality, rather than focusing on their practice or the qualities of their individual pieces of work. Further, if what is exhibited fits expectation, it may only support a somewhat one-dimensional representation of the artists output and conversely reduce interest in further exploration of any alternative style or medium. Compounding this, individual works are often co-opted into thematic exhibitions precisely on the basis that they are both typical of the artist and at the same time validate the exhibitions thesis or idea. It is perhaps then inevitable that these tactics which drive a popular discourse around contemporary art simply reinforce preconceptions rather than open up a wider field of discussion or viewpoint.
Surprise, Surprise is a playful but provocative exhibition, which aims to expose the mechanisms of expectation and reception whilst suggesting ways in which the apparently familiar could confront us with something less expected.

A publication, including a guide to the works on display and further texts by the curators on the participating artists will accompany this exhibition and be available from the ICA.
Surprise, Surprise is curated by Jens Hoffmann, Director of Exhibitions, and Rob Bowman, Curator of Exhibitions, ICA.

Institute of Contemporary Arts
Open daily 12 – 7.30pm
The Mall
London SW1
Phone: 44 20 7930 3647
Fax: 44 20 7306 0122

Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA)
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