German artist Hans Peter Feldmann’*s show a the Serpentine gallery in London is a retrospective that spans the last 40 years of his work but features his latest work – the contents of a number of women’s handbags, turned over on the spot to him to take away and use for 500€. Feldmann calls them “a fascinating snapshot of contemporary design.” His interest in handbags goes back to when he was a child. “I remember my mother and her handbag and it was a taboo to look at what was in it, a really strict taboo.”
He laughs at the recollection of how he acquired the handbags, saying that he did know the women he asked, although some only slightly. He did consider asking women on the street but decided that that might get him arrested, or at least hit over the head with the aforementioned item. Feldmann’s work has always been playful with a definite edge of humour to it that doesn’t always go down that well – at a recent exhibition in Dusseldorf some people came, looked around and then went and asked for their money back. As the Serpentine is a free show that shouldn’t happen here, and hopefully people in London will be more attuned to having a touch of humour inflected in their daily fare. And just in case Feldmann, who popped over to London a couple of days before the show to make minor adjustments requested a bench to be place before some of the works so that visitors could sit and contemplate what lay before them – or as Feldmann suggested “to take a nap if they get worn out.”
Article by Noel Maurice.