Heads up: Yoko Ono – To the Light

Cheer up! Yoko wants your smile at the Serpentine

What are we talking about? A new exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, and online, this summer.

 

Elevator pitch Smile! It's Yoko Ono, bringing the world's grins to London.

 

Prime movers Yoko Ono, the artist, filmmaker, poet, peace activist and Beatle-lover.

 

The stars The artworks. There are her Skyladders, step ladders which take you that bit nearer the sky – and originally dedicated to John Lennon – while Apple (the withered fruit on a plinth) is likely to recall her famous other half, too. There are film works, including the queasy making Fly (a pretty literal title here, but recalling her 1971 album of the same name). There's also a large-scale interactive project called Smile, available online as part of the London 2012 festival as well as in the gallery. Anyone is welcome to upload an image of their smirk, to create a "global anthology of portraits".

 

The early buzz Time Out wrote, "Yoko Ono is as famous for her ongoing 50-year career as a multi-media conceptual and performance artist as she is for her marriage to a certain ex-Beatle. Her influence across the arts is celebrated in this exhibition of new and existing installations, films and performances from the 1960s to the present day." The Guardian acknowledges her, somewhat divisive, appeal: "How substantial an artist Yoko Ono is remains a question, though her impact on contemporary art has been described as enormous. She remains an enigmatic, annoying, captivating and charismatic figure, as this exhibition will doubtless confirm."

 

Insider knowledge The Smile project goes way back – Ono's been planning it since the 1960s: "In the last page of my Grapefruit book [from 1964] I asked for people to send in pictures of their smiles ... I thought it might take a while."

 

It's great that ... it'll give the public a chance to actually enjoy her work in its own right – for most people, she's more a name than an artist.

 

It's a shame that ... the Smile project risks just seeming like another cloying element of the Olympic celebrations, with its upbeat, box-ticking, "global spirit".

 

Hit potential A big name, and free entry, should secure a good level of public interest; "upload your smile" may catch the imagination, too.

 

The details Yoko Ono – To the Light is at the Serpentine Gallery, London W2, serpentinegallery.org, 19 Jun to 9 Sep.

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