Exhibition paints major artists in a fresh light

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The Independent Online

For even the most amateur of art-lovers, the signature styles of the big-name art stars are easy to spot. If it's Damien Hirst it must be dead animals or spots. If there's a Chris Ofili, there should be elephant dung.

But a new exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London is set to give a different perspective of more than 40 major artists by showing work that is unexpected, unfamiliar and one-off.

"Surprise, Surprise", which opens tomorrow, presents the Turner Prize-winning photographer Wolfgang Tillmans through a self-portrait and a painting of Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant.

Anish Kapoor, another Turner Prize winner, probably best known for his large, sleek, curved, monochrome sculptures, is represented by a slightly disturbing blood-red trickle on the wall, entitled Vein.

And the Chapman brothers, Jake and Dinos, whose dominant themes are sex and death, reveal a softer side in childhood artworks.

Asked to contribute something to the show, Dinos nominated a papier mâché money-box pig produced when he was eight or nine while Jake, not to be outdone, offered a penguin of the same period - when he was five.

Jens Hoffmann, the ICA's director of exhibitions, said the starting point for the show was the public expectation about what they would get from certain artists.

This created a pressure on institutions to present the art for which major artists were known so that artist's names become a marketing tool for the exhibition business.

"Surprise, Surprise" endeavoured to reverse that trend. "We are using it as a Trojan horse. People say, 'Great, I want to see a Damien Hirst and all these famous artists,' and then they come and see something different. It's like camouflage. These artists are doing interesting other work. But dealers don't want to show it because it confuses the audience."

He described the venture as "setting up the outward structure of the blockbuster show to confront visitors with works that challenge their preconceptions". To make viewers think about what they are seeing, no labels are attached but a booklet details who produced what.

Other artists include Robert Mapplethorpe, John Currin, Takashi Murakami, Martin Kippenberger and Juan Munoz.

Martin Creed may have won the Turner Prize with a light switched on and off, but here he is showing a painting resembling a black staircase.

Olafur Eliasson stunned visitors to Tate Modern with his vast glowing sun, The Weather Project, but here his work is a sound piece of the country and western hit, "Me and Bobby McGee".

Hirst does put things in cases, but it is a book, a doorstop and a shell in an untitled collage. Mr Hoffmann said the artists liked the opportunity to be seen through work not normally associated with them.

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