VISUAL ARTS: LOGGING ON TO NEW IDEAS

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Indy Lifestyle Online
At last, after many months as a building site, pounds 3 million from the lottery and a false start last November, the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens is about to reopen its doors. For the opening show they've chosen Piero Manzoni, the Italian conceptualist who died in 1963, aged just 29, and whose most infamous work, Merda d'artista consists of a can of the artist's shit neatly packaged and (modest man that he was) priced by the ounce according to that day's price of gold. You get the general idea.

Whatever your take on this sort of thing, there's no denying that Manzoni's short career turned out to be an influential one. He anticipated much of the concept-based art of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and I'm sure that for all those who like their art with a twist of the Sensation sensation, this will turn out to be an important and revelatory exhibition. But, for all his provocative ideas, Manzoni offers very little in the way of purely visual stimulation and somehow this seems to matter more at the Serpentine than it might elsewhere, perhaps because the place itself is such a pleasure to visit.

So, rather than illustrate this page with a Manzoni (they just aren't very interesting to look at) I've chosen a little painting by Paul Maitland - an archetypal petit maitre whose views of Kensington Gardens, painted 100 years ago on cigar box lids and little wooden panels, are some of the most evocative pictures of London ever painted.

I wish that there were an exhibition of his work to recommend, but sadly there isn't and such a thing is probably unlikely, especially at an institution like the Serpentine, the one place where his work would look most wonderful. You might see a painting or two (including the one shown here) at The Fine Art Society in New Bond Street or in a pixilated version at www.tate.org.uj - the Tate Gallery's brand new website, launched last week with a staggering 35,000 on-line pages devoted to the gallery's catalogue. Thus far, they have images of some 8,000 works from the collection, including three of their 20 or so Maitlands, with more promised by the week. Who knows, one day they might even hang them on the walls.

Piero Manzoni: The Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, W2 (0171- 402 6075) to 26 Apr; The Tate Website (www.tate.org.uk)

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