Dog day afternoon

Canine art is the latest in English eccentricity. In the first ever dog-as-artist exhibition, Kali the golden labrador reveals her 'sculpture' . And for a nation of dog-lovers, the joke's on you.

Ever come across modern art that looks like something the dog dragged in? Well, the stuff in this show really has been. A selling exhibition of nine "sculptures" by a golden labrador bitch called Kali - all done with the teeth - had its opening bash in an artist-run space in Shoreditch, east London, at the end of last week.

The dog's first solo exhibition - the first by any canine, for that matter - caused the sort of stir you might expect from a happening intended to bait people who love dogs more than artists: the BBC sent a television crew, as did two of the big American and Canadian TV networks.

About 100 people crowded in the ground floor gallery in Old Nichol Street, in London's artist quarter. Spotlit in Perspex cases on white plinths were a dismembered pink plastic nail brush and a grey cordless BT telephone handset (some play on dog-and-bone rhyming slang, surely), both displaying Kali's characteristic dentations.

On the wall: three plastic dustpans, yellow, blue and red, chewed beyond repair, a gnawed textbook on the sculptor Brancusi and an audio cassette with corners missing. Prices? Hundreds of pounds - to anyone willing to negotiate.

Kali's first appearance at the opening was on closed-circuit television, snoozing in her favourite armchair in the room next door. A personal appearance, it was feared, might overwhelm the precocious two-year-old. But she ventured in, sporting a new flea-collar, to discover the truth about gallery openings: the wine-bibbing throng faces inwards, backs to the artworks, chattering loudly and trying to avoid catching the artist's eye.

Friendly by nature, Kali pressed her nose against leg after leg without getting a response and was then chased by a cameraman and crew brandishing bright lights. Over-excited, she was led away, tail between her legs.

A woman reporter from Montreal, Murphy Cobbing, confided to me the angle she was after: "English eccentricity at its best." But she was having difficulty finding any English to make fun of. The crowd was mainly French, Italian, Russian and Czech, arty young emigres living and working in London. Even Kali's owner, a woman artist, is Italian. She shares the gallery with a Russian artist. So where was the English joke?

Kali's agent, Anthony Rendall, a car rental employee who is French, came clean: "It's an English joke, all right. You have to allow us foreigners to crack one good English joke in our lives."

No wonder Kali got her nose put out of joint: foreigners prefer artists to dogs. Rendall's opinion of the Brits: "You love your dogs more than any other creature under the sun. On the other hand, you distrust contemporary artists intensely. Given this context, you will understand that Kali's offerings were intended for a British public."

And, while mocking your average Brit, why not mock the British contemporary art scene as well? "London has been branded by the media as the art capital of the world," said Rendall. "Any new name with a new angle gets immediate exposure." Judging by the as-if-scripted quotes from the assembled foreigners, the in-joke had been doing the rounds. The brother of Kali's owner, Giovanni Brighi, 31, portfolio manager at a bank, said: "Everyone should have Kali's relaxed, Buddhist attitude to life. She never struggles to create her art. She is at peace with herself."

Not quite true, as it happens. His sister, who declined to give her name on the grounds that it would distract attention from the artist, admitted she had been concerned that Kali's destructiveness was abnormal. "I've been told that labradors usually stop chewing things up when they are six or eight months old, but she's two-and-a-half and still at it. Now I take the view that she should be allowed to express herself artistically in the way she chooses."

I did manage to ascertain that the name Kali - that of the Vedic goddess of destruction - had not been dreamt up just for the show. But by the end of the evening, after four dozen bottles of wine had been drunk, nothing seemed real. Even the dog - much-loved British breed, playmate of rosy- cheeked children - seemed suspect. Do not labradors come from Newfoundland? Is an alien dog steeped in Eastern culture and owned by foreigners to be trusted? Cave canem, as the Romans used to sayn

Kali Sculpture is at 5, Old Nichol Street, Shoreditch, London E2 to Sun, noon-7pm daily (0171-739 4652)

Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits