Bedlam: Art and Madness by Lazarides at the Old Vic Tunnels

Frieze is upon us again, with its hordes of collecting bankers, luxurious sponsors, glamorous parties and society beauties. For those seeking an antidote to what is arguably the best contemporary art fair in the world but also the most polished, Steve Lazarides -the man who brought Banksy to the world- has joined forces with the avant-gardist Old Vic Tunnels to present “Bedlam”. A brilliantly dark -albeit playful- exhibition centred around madness, it brings together some of the most talented contemporary artists currently working in the UK, in what should be one of the most talked about exhibitions of the year. Chic-Londres went to the preview on the 8th and absolutely loved it. Only regret: missing Brad Pitt, who also was at the opening party!

After the very successful Hell’s Half Acre in 2010 and Minotaur in 2011, Lazarides Gallery and the Old Vic Tunnels have teamed up again for a third show together -thus cementing their reputation as Masters of the Dark Arts, at least in a non esoteric, purely visual way. And this year, they’ve suprassed themselves, with this beautiful and perfectly staged exhibition, that combines gothic darkness with a sense of playfulness that makes it p[articularly enkoyable- and not that gloomy despite its theme.

Taking its name from the Bethlem Royal Hospital, the mental institute dating back from the 13th century once notorious for the inhumane treatment inflicted upon its patients, the theme of the show might not be described as particularly cheerful. But it is however inspired, if only because madness and art have always been so closely associated, be it through the popular van ghog-ian image of the mad artist or because mental illness is such a recurring theme in art.

Once again, the exhibition brings together Lazarides’ talented artists such as Jonathan Yeo, Antony Micallef, Kelsey Brookes and Conor Harrington: a highly collectable stable whose fans include the Brad-Pitt couple and Damien Hirst. And given its darkly atmospheric setting and geographic proximity to the former mental asylum, the Old Vic Tunnels provides the perfect backdrop to the show, with its secretive historic vaults, gloomy corners and strangely glamorous seediness. As Steve Lazarides says, “Be afraid”! But if you like contemporary art, especially of the dark variety, just be there.

“Bedlam”, 9-21 October 2012

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