Marlie Mul: This Exhibition Has Been Cancelled (3 stars)

Marlie Mul: This Exhibition Has Been Cancelled

Empty gallery becomes talking point, but not much else

After careful consideration Marlie Mul's exhibition at GoMA has been 'cancelled', turning visitors' attention to the historic context of the building itself while raising searching questions about the role of publicly funded arts organisations today.

The ornate vaulted ceiling and imposing Corinthian columns are certainly impressively grand. A lone exhibition assistant sits in the corner. The echoing emptiness of the space means that more attention falls on this single member of staff. Though they are no doubt used to acting as the main interface between the curious public and the work on show, the mutual awareness between visitor and invigilator is more palpable than usual.

In place of an exhibition text, visitors can pick up a short synopsis of the building's history from its ostentatious beginning as a private mansion, through many stages of commercial use, to its public opening as an art gallery in 1996. Since the building was originally built on the proceeds of the tobacco industry, this seems like an appropriate moment to consider Glasgow's dual legacy as both a colonising power and a colonised people.

Against this historical backdrop, promoting the gallery as a potential site for community use is a generous and democratic act. In practice, the application form that can be filled in and returned at reception undermines this premise. Besides, the proliferation of selfies taken in the space suggests that members of the public are perfectly content looking at themselves as art.

Leaving the gallery empty rather than reworking the exhibition programme could also be a statement about the under-supported nature of working in the arts. The debate about the impact continued austerity is having on the artistic community as a whole is something that should be heard, but artists need work to look at. For the time being, an empty gallery sits at the centre of the city as a talking point. Materials and objects are expensive but talk is cheap.

GoMA, until Sun 29 Oct, free

Marlie Mul: This Exhibition is Cancelled

The artist was going to have her first solo exhibition in the gallery, but after consideration she has cancelled it, and instead the gallery is empty except for large posters proclaiming that the exhibition is cancelled.

Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow

Wed 18 Oct

Free / 0141 287 3050

  • 10:00 – 17:00

Thu 19 Oct

Free / 0141 287 3050

  • 10:00 – 20:00

Fri 20 Oct

Free / 0141 287 3050

  • 11:00 – 17:00
…and 9 more dates until 29 Oct

Gallery of Modern Art

Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow, G1 3AH

Located on Royal Exchange Square, in William Cunninghame of Lainshaw's imposing 1778 townhouse, the Gallery of Modern Art's monumentalism is offset by the traffic cone that's usually perched on the head of the equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington…

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