VISUAL ARTS: ACE! Hayward Gallery

ACE! Hayward Gallery, London (0171-960 4208) to 1 Dec. Then touring to Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, Mappin Gallery, Sheffield, Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham, and Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast.

The Arts Council Collection is 50 this year. Founded in 1946 "with the aim of showing innovative work by British artists through touring exhibitions and loans", they are celebrating with ACE!, a touring show of 42 of the 260 artworks they have bought for the nation since 1989.

The collection has been accused of following the whims of influential dealers and curators. While this latest selection seems, initially, like a deliberate rebuff to such criticism, the six years in view do cover the rise of the so-called Britpack, whose work attracts more hype and fluster with each showing.

Michael Craig-Martin, patron saint of the Goldsmith's School of Art, is represented by his big red History Painting. Gary Hume, one of many Goldsmith's graduates, by Moonbeam Rising and Antony Gormley by his little clay army Field for the British Isles.

Wit, according to the blurb accompanying the show, is the common factor. But wit on its own is not enough. Often the joke is on us.

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