Everybody's Serpentine

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The Independent Culture
It was William Morris who first defined the dictum of Art For All. "I don't want art for a few," he declared, "any more than education for a few or freedom for a few." It was an intoxicating idea, but obviously flawed and doomed to fall prey to the economics which underpin the elitist base of all art. Now, however, it appears that at least part of Morris's dream might have been realised in a show which opens today at the Serpentine Gallery.

Young Swiss curator Hans Ulrich Obrist has invited 12 European and US artists to show works which, in his words, "invite active participation (from) or are executed and completed by members of the public". In theory the artists are acting merely as a catalyst for public creativity. Involvement ranges from the opportunity to purchase the books "selected" by artist Maria Eichorn or Jef Gey's fruit and veg, to a chance to decorate the walls of the gallery using Lawrence Weiner's stencils. You can even walk out with a plastic bag filled with second-hand clothes, plucked from the pile (sorry "sculpture") installed by Christian Boltanski.

The show's title "Take me (I'm Yours)" says it all. Obrist hopes that his initiative will offer visitors "the opportunity to do everything that is normally prohibited" and, with the "services" and "products" available ranging from a massage and a love potion to a "genial swing", a certain element of the risqu is inevitable. But this only serves to emphasise Obrist's aim to decontextualise art from its usual museum context; to break down barriers and undermine conventional elitism. Paradoxically though, such debunking does not necessarily imply de-mystification; curator and artists have simply established their own art on another level of equally esoteric interpretation. Morris would have smiled.

Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, SW7, today to 30 April

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