Review: Visual Arts: Every dog has his day

Review: VISUAL ARTS Taste King's Cross, London
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The Independent Culture
Young traders in the City are once again getting fat bonuses. So it had to happen - a selling exhibition of contemporary art and design "for people with more money than good taste".

For pounds 2,500, a fibreglass funerary dog statue with neon halo, Fido Died- Oh, by Sean Read of the Nicholas Treadwell Gallery. Or, for a paltry pounds 100, a realistic plastic plant in silver-effect urn by Silk.

Louise McDonnell, the 32-year-old interior designer who mounted the show, "Taste - the Art of Living", in a 3,000-sq ft former gymnasium behind King's Cross station at the weekend, has a boyfriend who is a banker at Credit Suisse. So she knows her market.

"Our whole social group is from banks such as Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank and others I can't pronounce, or accountants such as Ernst & Young. Some trade in derivatives and currency swaps.

"It's not that they have bad taste, but that they have no taste. They work 16 hours a day and when they do get out to shop at weekends, it's down Bond Street, or to Conran, Harrods or Purves & Purves. They don't have time to explore elsewhere."

The show was quickly put together to coincide with Credit Suisse's bonus season - young traders in her circle received windfalls ranging from $50,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. She billed the show as "tailored to meet the needs of stereotypical big spenders who don't know much about art but know what they like".

She calls them "status satiated". To such people, what more can life bring?

"I am trying to bring taste to them," she says. Taste such as Annette Nix's rug with embedded roulette wheel (pounds 2,000), a homely reminder that a gamble is never far away.

But among the wacko objects lurked cutting-edge designs by established names - a Ron Arad Big Easy sofa at pounds 3,800; high-back limited-edition chairs in eccentric upholstered shapes by Tim Chitty and Simon Bacon from pounds 800.

And then there were the young contemporary painters and photographers, a dozen or more of them, one so broke that McDonnell paid for her framing.

"Britain's really got it in bright young artists and designers," she says, "but although they have studios they can't afford shopfronts or PR. This show offers them a leg up."

Come to think of it, where else could you find a retail warehouse full of contemporary art and design? London auctioneers have found such fixed- price "tag" sales a winning formula but, so far, retailers have not copied them.

Judging by the way objects were walking out of the gymnasium in Cheney Road at the weekend, McDonnell could have hit on something. She plans further shows in June, September and October and wants to take the concept to Hong Kong, Key West in Florida, and Amsterdam. Will she become the Conran of contemporary art and design?

Meanwhile, she is still taking orders. Most difficult piece to shift: hideous floor-standing silver cone lamp with guy ropes attached to builders' rubble, by Alex Hudson, bought last year by a friend of McDonnell's for pounds 250. A tenner, anyone? That is, to take it away.

Louise McDonnell, Special Projects Under Development (Spud). Information: 0171-242 1810; fax 0171-404 0664

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