What’s the point of it? Martin Creed 17.03.14

Martin Creed won the Turner Prize in 2001. What’s the point of it? at the Southbank Centre’s Hayward Gallery is the first retrospective of his work which is described as playful, thought-provoking, surprising, humorous, uplifting and joyous. It is all of those but its also a bit all over the place. There’s a lot to see. Creed uses all the mediums – painting, drawing, sculpture, assemblage, installation, film, sound, music, performance, big and small. The exhibition leaflet says that his minimalist approach strips away the unnecessary… I’m not sure it does. Is a stack of tiles necessary? Is a massive spinning neon MOTHERS necessary? Are hundreds of framed broccoli prints necessary? or a room filled with balloons?

Creed acknowledges this with the exhibition title. He challenges the viewer to confront his work and make what sense of it they can or will. Art is not “necessary”, but of course without it life would be a bit dull, no fun. “Fun” is the essence of Creed’s work. Lots of different iterations of fun. It is un-pretentious and un-afraid of failure – “don’t get it? no problem, here’s something else.” It is controversial. Not controversial in the sacrilegious or explicit sense, but controversial in that it makes jokes to provoke discussion about what art is, or can be, and to have a good time in the process. The balloon room is great fun. The possessed car on the roof is fun. The opening and closing curtain and door, and the art in the toilet are good fun. “Is it art? i don’t know… but i like it” said Jack Nicholson’s Joker.

The marketing does a great job and supports the attitude of the show with a balloon campaign – London taxi cabs filled with “Martin Creed – what’s the point of it” branded balloons, balloons filling telephone boxes and tied to bicycles, railings and sign posts.