THREE restaurant tables decked for dinner are the showstoppers at this year's BT New Contemporaries at the Camden Arts Centre, north London. An electrical installation hidden by the tablecloths shoots the empty chairs back and forth as if a ghostly guest was sitting down to dinner or getting up; sometimes a table jiggles. Milo Garcia, 24, who graduated from Goldsmith's College last summer, wants pounds 1,955 for them.
The exhibition is considered one of the really 'in' shows of avant-garde art and the selected artists - students or 92-93 college graduates - have put some hefty prices on their work. Rachel Whiteread, winner of last year's Turner Prize and creator of a plaster cast of a house interior, was one of the three judges who selected 35 exhibitors from 1,200 entries. The show is in Camden (Arkwright Road NW3) until 12 June, then moves to Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh, Aberystwyth and Bradford.
Virtually everything in the show is for sale but most of it is not easily saleable. The tables could only be bought by an institution with plenty of gallery space. The same goes for Fiona Banner's The Hunt for Red October, a sheet of paper 15 feet wide on which the artist has written down in pencil everything that happens in the film. It is a tremendous labour, involving a text of about 30,000 words; she wants pounds 3,000 for it.
The fun of the piece is the way the eye takes in small chunks of the film at a time in a random fashion. Banner also has a show at City Racing (60 Oval Mansions, Vauxhall Street SE13) while the Laure Genillard Gallery (38a Foley Street W1) is publishing her tiny bromide print (30cms by 12cms) of everything that happens in Top Gun at pounds 125.
The 'best buys' in the show for private punters are the photographs and videos. Bob and Roberta Smith's video about the difficulty of getting art accepted for exhibition costs pounds 31 while Ruth Farrington's surrealist colour photographs of her mother and father on holiday cost pounds 376 each.
The Whitechapel Open, another selected show of young artists - 250 selected from an entry of 2,500 - is split between the Whitechapel Gallery (Whitechapel High Street E1) and the Atlantis Upper Gallery (146 Brick Lane E1). The only unifying theme is that the artists work in the East End and the combination of dissimilar artists tends to make the work look worse than it is.
All the same, a few pieces are good enough to stimulate the imagination. Jordan Baseman is showing a cleft stick lightly encrusted with pubic hair; it costs pounds 1,060. And Fabian Hercules' Window Box No 3, at pounds 445, has exceptional charm as abstract patterns of coloured circles go; it incorporates suspended ping-pong balls lit with ultra-violet light which shift gently in the circulating air currents.
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