RA Schools was a hive of youthful energy this week, as some 30 young people who regularly take part in education programmes at five London galleries – the RA, Tate Britain, Whitechapel Gallery, South London Gallery and Hayward Gallery – were brought together for the first Summer Academy of the Louis Vuitton Young Arts Project.
The week-long series of workshops, talks and other activities primed this enthusiastic bunch for a future career in the art world.
Led by artist Jessica Voorsanger, whose multimedia work is concerned with celebrity and identity, the young people, aged between 14 and 23, looked at historical artists from Rembrandt to Picasso, and worked together throughout the week to develop photographic portraits in which they dressed and directed the pose of leading actors including Julian Rhind-Tutt, star of TV comedy Green Wing, to reflect their take on the famous artists’ work and personalities. Among other activities, they visited the National Theatre’s costume hire department, had a talk from Oscar-winning costume designer Ruth Myers, and visited the extraordinary warehouse in Southwark, London, where Tate stores thousands of its artworks.
Actor Julian Rhind-Tutt as Yayoi Kusama. Photo © Richard Eaton
In focusing on performance, Voorsanger introduced the group to the happenings organised by the American collective ImprovEverywhere who, in their own words, organise ‘scenes of chaos and joy in public places’, including welcoming complete strangers at airports en masse with flowers and banners, all prompted by a randomly picked taxi driver’s name sign. After her introduction, Voorsanger sprang on the group that they would organise their own intervention, and within 15 minutes, they had come up with a plan to enact ‘random queuing’ outside the Louis Vuitton store on nearby Bond St.
Louis Vuitton Summer Academy Intervention, 4 August 2010. Photo © Richard Eaton
In true conceptual art style, the group planned the intervention precisely – they would arrive in small groups, begin to queue, and if asked what for, they would reply, ‘Happiness’. They then set their mobile phones to ring at an agreed time and simply peeled off from the queue as soon as the phones rang.
And it worked like a charm. Immediately, passers by began stopping to question what this line was for. Some even joined the queue, not knowing why. Over the road, I overheard two American shoppers’ dismay at the sight – ‘That is the sad state of our world,’ said one. Another asked me which celebrity was in the Louis Vuitton store. The queue rippled out, as a small crowd formed an arc across the road from the line of youngsters. Out of nowhere, the young people had created a spectacle, disrupting the normal cool, exclusive atmosphere of Bond Street. But as they peeled away, the street quickly returned to routine, with onlookers perplexed and amused in equal measure. Chaos and joy, indeed.
Witnessing the young people’s thrill at having carried out their intervention and generated such an immediate response, it was clear that the week had got off to a good start and a bond was created between them. They had touched on some of the key themes of the week, like fame, glamour and performance, which would ultimately feed into their photographic portraits. The project had reinforced the interest in the arts that their five ‘home’ galleries had started, and if indeed they do turn out to be the artists, curators and critics of the future, then my sense is that the art world will be in very good hands.
- Ben Luke is a regular contributor to RA Magazine and contemporary art critic for the Evening Standard
Find out more: www.louisvuittonyoungartsproject.com