A look on the light side

Visual Arts
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Art and humour? Uneasy partners, surely. Commerce and charity? Ditto. But the Crane Kalman Gallery has set out to demonstrate they're made for each other

Firstly, before I say anything about the art, let's be clear that "The Essence of Humour" at the Crane Kalman Gallery is an excellent exhibition. Not so much for the selection of paintings and sculpture, although some of the works are very fine, but for the spirit in which the show has been conceived and executed. The commercial end of the art world is not famous for being the most philanthropic corner of humanity, so for a gallery to mount an exhibition that ties up its wall space for nearly two months and then to give away 25 per cent of its profits to Comic Relief is remarkable.

Enough praise for the idea. ` What about the exhibition itself? Well, it's a funny old mixture, except that none of the works are really very funny. There's a rude and rather menacing Picasso drawing and a big, fat, bewildered matador by Bottero. More obviously witty are watercolours by Burra and Grosz and a fine oil by Dubuffet.

Visual gags appear in Alexander Calder's stripey man with spiralling eyes, Niki de Saint Phalle's multi-coloured monster and Peter Blake's collage on the nature of clowning, but for the most part this is an exhibition of art with a cheery feel rather than anything to bring tears to your eyes. As the renowned funnyman Griff Rhys Jones has written in an introduction to the exhibition: "What we have here is not end of the pier stuff. It's rather better than that." And so it is.

The Crane Kalman Gallery, 178 Brompton Road, London SW3 (0171-584 7566) to 6 Dec

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