The Broader Picture: A guide to invisible London

The Great Bear is young London artist Simon Patterson's double-take on the London Underground map. First shown in 1992 at the Hayward Gallery's 'Doubletake' exhibition, it is now an icon of Nineties art - a baffling non sequitur, ordinary and strange, funny-odd and funny-ha-ha, brow-furrowing and groovy all at the same time. You certainly couldn't use it to get from A to B, but it seems to suggest you might make your journey more interesting if you did. It asks fascinating questions about modern reality. For example: did Wittgenstein actually have any connection with Westminster? Efforts to look for patterns quickly collapse in the face of the realisation that every station on the Circle Line is named after a philosopher.

There is one destination for which this map might be perfectly suited. Between Harpo Marx and Sid James on the Comedians Line is an empty warehouse building on the edge of the City which has been chosen as the location for 'Seeing the Unseen', a new exhibition of contemporary art. The 21 works on show, including The Great Bear, come from an 'invisible museum' that until now has existed purely in their anonymous owner's head. This is the first time its works have been brought together as a public display; usually they are scattered about in the homes of trusted temporary guardians. The idea of an invisible museum is inspired by the 1949 book Musee Imaginaire by the French critic Andre Malraux - unseen on The Great Bear.

'Seeing the Unseen' is made up of works that other museums might have been reluctant to buy, since although they are all by established and well-known artists, they are often works made at stages in the artists' careers during which they were trying out something new. The shadowy collector of these bits and pieces talks about London as one big fragmented museum. He has selected and arranged the works to emphasise urban themes. These relate to the present, even though the works come from different times and circumstances.

A mass-produced madonna by Katherina Fritsch, a photo of a Michelangelo-esque male nude by Robert Mapplethorpe and a painting of a Japanese gizo death doll by Adam Lowe combine to suggest a contemporary altar-piece theme. Damien Hirst's 1991 drawing for his shark suspended in formaldehyde, The Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, meets Yves Klein's photo, The Void, of 1960, showing the artist making an apparently fatal leap into the street from a top floor window. Other artists whose work can be seen here include Matthew Barney, Richard Long and Rachel Whiteread.

'Seeing the Unseen' is an effective model of art now, with its loose connections, its idea- and image-association, a constant return to the everyday, but in altered states - the feeling that you've been there, you know what's happening, but you're not quite sure how the artist is making it happen. In that sense, the invisible museum might stand in relation to a conventional museum in much the same way that Simon Patterson's Great Bear stands in relation to the conventional map of the London Underground. Where exactly is the art in The Great Bear? Is it the concept or the execution? Is it twisted and cunning or just stunningly literal? Is it about words or places? How many days would pass before you were sure you'd read every name on the map?

'Seeing the Unseen' is an eccentric, decidedly mind-over-matter experience. It's an on-the-run show, too. See it quick before it disappears.

'Seeing the Unseen' is at 30 Shepherdess Walk, London N1, noon to 5pm, until 2 October (admission free). Matthew Collings's film 'A Real Work of Art?' will be on 'The Late Show', on BBC2, next month.

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

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

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    '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
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk