Mart for art's sake: Serious 'work' goes in galleries; fun 'products' go in shops, right? Not so fast, says a new exhibition. Robin Dutt fingers the fake furs

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The Independent Culture
Shopping has become the preoccupation of our age. Buy now, pay later has almost become the legend on every family's non-existent crest. You are what you buy.

Artists have realised the link between mass consumerism and art - even worthies such as Joseph Beuys and Andy Warhol. Artist Sarah Staton loves shopping too: her idea was to create a boutique out of a gallery - blurring the edges and presenting chic shock. She invited her friends to submit 'work' to her eclectic selection and opened up selling anything from a single cake of soap to an ironic three-piece survival guide for an armchair anarchist - cardigan, slippers and pipe - all with the familiar anarchy symbol on each. What made these objects different was that they were not on sale in a supermarket but had passed through the hands of artists and been worked in some way - signed, stamped, sold as limited editions or simply juxtaposed with a gallery space to hammer the point home. Irony in this show is nine points of the law.

Part history show, part shop and at times resembling a haphazard market stall from a surrealist drama, 'Supastore boutique' is intended to be amusing and accessible. 'This may be a light way of showing art but it has depth too,' Staton says. 'There's a lot of different work here and I'm not only interested in humour as a tactic.'

Indeed not. Some of the pieces have that tired, leftover quality redolent of those eight- till-late shops on the Holloway Road. But Supastore is not just a visual experience. As you enter, the smell of Hadrian Piggott's 'Gender Soap' hits you square in the face, unpleasantly reminiscent of public showers in changing rooms. A neat pile of blue and pink soaps stamped with 'Boy' and 'Girl' is separated by a similar one in white with a Riddleresque question mark. Each one has been signed by the artist. Yours for only pounds 5 apiece.

A cassette entitled 'Lookin' Good' plays continuously - an unashamed string of 'Mmmm's and 'Aaah's with a male voice encouraging the listener. This is music to make up to.

A box lined with fake fur, a pair of glasses set with glass beads instead of lenses and a selection of candy-coloured T-shirts lends the show a strategically kitsch note. Then of course, you can buy 'Nothing' - the title of Matthew Higgs's acrylic wall drawing for pounds 360 which cheekily does not include 'installation' costs.

These artists are having huge amounts of fun but unlike so many of their drop-dead-chic colleagues, one gets the feeling that they are laughing with and not at their audience. The haphazard mess of the little space looks curiously welcoming - an attractive assault course akin to that of a teenager's bedroom.

What makes an object into art? 'Possibly it's something with no essential function of its own,' Sarah Staton explains. 'Take the mirrored sunglasses - mirrored on both sides, which if you wear them just reflect your eyeballs. They make a severe point about what mirrored sunglasses have come to mean.'

You sort of get the point. At worst, this show is a bit of innocent fun. At best, it is a jewel- box of an installation which forces consideration of mass- market forces - whether on the high street or on the international art circuit. Buy now.

Supastore boutique: Laure Genillard Gallery, 38a Foley Street, W1 (071-436 2300) Tues-Sat to 22 Oct

(Photograph omitted)

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