Under a drink near you

Chris Clunn's photographs are travelling London in coaster form, reports Alex von Tunzelmann
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Indy Lifestyle Online
"REALLY?" splutters the woman in the Press Office at the Photographers' Gallery. "Er, well, I suppose there's a tradition of that sort of thing, from the Readymades... can I get a curator to call you back?"

The alarming art object in question is, quite simply, a coaster. Photographer Chris Clunn has forsaken the formalities and seriousness of a gallery to show his new exhibition on those little squares of plastic your grandma had to protect her walnut veneer from the heated bottoms of teacups, except that these coasters have embarked on a tour of London's bars and restaurants, and are more likely to be covered by Seabreezes than PG Tips.

"I've always liked the idea of alternative viewing," Clunn says. "I was slightly concerned people would nick them, but it's part of the fun really. I don't mind, within reason, so long as they don't all go on day one."

There are 32 pictures in total, divided into four series. Clunn, whose work is recognisable to Big Beat aficionados from The Propellerheads' early record sleeves, has included portraits of the KLF and Beth Orton, as well as his idols Lee "Scratch" Perry, George Clinton and Tom Waits, in his Music series. In Portraits, meanwhile, the contrasts continue: you can plonk your pint on Alexander McQueen's creative director, Katie England, while your mother rests her sherry on June Whitfield. There's also London and Travel (which includes a rather beguiling image of a Weymouth beachgoer clutching a giant inflatable whale).

"There's a variety of stuff," Chunn says. "Katie England was done for a forthcoming Thames & Hudson book on East End fashion, and Tom Waits was taken ten years ago for a music magazine. He was a bit grumpy at the time. I think it shows."

Clunn hopes that, considering the broad appeal of the exhibition, it might later tour outside London. "Bristol are interested, and Brighton would be perfect for it. They're more lighthearted about things there; it's less pretentious."

Despite his apparent success, Clunn isn't champing at the bit to get the coasters on a production line. He even turned down Harvey Nicks' offer to mass-produce them. Each coaster contains a hand-signed original print, and Clunn sells them for pounds 3 each or pounds 20 for a complete series of eight. All profits from their sale are to go to the Peter Walker Trust, a charity supporting people living with Aids. "They're selling," he says proudly. "A good friend of mine said, `Let's take this to Habitat and make you the Coaster King,' but I've done everything I need to do with it. I don't really want them to be a mass-market product." So get your orders in fast: they're the cheapest bits of art you'll ever buy.

Contact Chris Clunn on 0171 404 9646or fax your order on 0171 209 0605. The coasters are at the Atlantic Bar & Grill, 20 Glasshouse Street, London W1 until 17 August, when they move to The Chapel, 48 Chapel Street, London NW1

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