The Way in Which It Landed, Tate Britain, London

Revealed: the secrets of the store cupboard

Late in the day and by accident – I'd forgotten it was there – I have just seen Martin Creed's Work No 850. Walking through Tate Britain's Duveen Galleries, I heard the sound of running feet behind me and, being a south Londoner, waited for a blow to the head. Creed's sprinter – one of four on a 30-minute shift – shot past, compact, beautiful, intent. He pounded on, growing smaller, and disappeared through a door at the end of the gallery. Ninety seconds and three sprinters later, he was back again, as self-absorbed as before; and then again, and again.

It was one of the most wonderful things I have seen in the gallery. The Duveen is an intentionally monumental space, designed to hold big art with big ideas: Greek heroes and athletes, discoboli and charioteers. Here, alive and oddly fragile, was the real thing. Abreast, Creed's sprinters seem statuesque, but as they race down the gallery they fade against the Duveen's marbled massiveness. Built into Work No 850 is a sense that one day the runners will no longer be there. But, for the time being, back they come.

This tied in nicely with my reason for being at the Tate, which was the gallery's latest Art Now show, called The Way In Which It Landed and curated by Ryan Gander. Gander is a master of the accident, his most recent having been provided courtesy of the Tate. Like most art museums, the gallery can show only a fraction of its collection at any time. The rest is held at the Tate Store in Southwark, a fabled place to which Gander was given entry.

What interested him was the haphazard way in which the store's contents are hung on screens, a Steven Pippin photo portrait of 1987 below Gwen John's Young Woman Holding a Black Cat; a still life with mushrooms by Sir William Nicholson over a Fifties Richard Hamilton abstract. Gander has made two copies of these screens for one wall of his one-room show, the others being hung with the work of contemporaries he admires.

It's hard to know what to make of Gander's meta-work, and that is its intention. The material he provides is reassuringly familiar, being mostly figurative paintings in academic frames. What else would you expect in an art gallery? And yet Gander's hang, bereft of school or country, theme, era or palette, is disturbingly unreadable.

The point of all this, I'd guess, is to show that art needs mediating. Treat it like wallpaper and that is what it becomes. Standing in front of Gander's replicated Tate Store screens, you feel your brain scrabbling for a way to look – trying to make implausible connections between Stanley Spencer's Terry's Lane, Cookham and François Morellet's Two Warps and Wefts of Short Lines 0° 90°. (Don't bother: there aren't any.)

The lesson we learn is that art is not prime but contingent – that where and how and in what order we see artworks shape what we make of them. If art is handled as if it doesn't matter, then it doesn't. This vaguely melancholic theme is continued into the present with Aurélien Froment's Théâtre de Poche (2007), a video in which a young man arranges postcards on the glass wall. The cards are of artefacts – Egyptian mummies, Bohemian glass, Carl Andre bricks – and, like Gander's Tate Store screens, they are apparently stuck on any old how.

Froment's short film is about haphazardry, and its inclusion in The Way In Which It Landed feels haphazard. Without quite knowing how, you sense Gander pulling the rug out from under your feet: the present and past elide, artistic certainties swept away. In the background is the poignant sense that all art – Froment, Gander, this very work – will one day end up in the Tate Store. The only hope is that it will be rescued by a future conceptualist; that its disappearance, like that of Creed's sprinters, is only temporary.

Tate Britain, London SW1 (020-7887 8888), to 26 Oct

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power