contemporary art, installation art

Joana Vasconcelos, Valkyrie Crown (2012)

November 8, 2012

Is it fair to say that a monarchist in Britain has an easier life? Certainly, they have a less paranoid one. They have got behind the head of church and state and can accept all that is bidden.

It is, strangely, as easy for a contemporary artist. Your collectors are rich. The Queen is rich. And neither should have any problem with you celebrating Her Majesty.

The occasional blogger calling suchwork into question is not even a fly in the ointment. As Warhol said, just measure the length of the text. Don’t worry about the content.

QEII has been captured in many portraits, but she would surely be most hard pushed to see herself in the centrepiece of a current show at Haunch of Venison.

Because this Valkyrie Crown, this metonym for the state, is really something monstrous and anarchic. A wealth of colour fabrics have been knitted, stuffed, stitched and patched.

The Valkyrie series glorifies a Norse goddess who dishes out fates on the battlefield. And so the most shadowy conspiracy theories about earthly power have an origin in myth. This reassures.

But hard to say whether this Portuguese artist would ascribe similar powers to our monarch; just note her tentacles trail the height and breadth of the two storey gallery.

In a short time here (it is stressful to be this end of the Great Chain of Being) I noticed visitors make their way into the heart of the piece and ‘wear’ the outsize crown.

Two staged positions were possible: loyal subject or omnipotent queen. The sprawling work leaves little room for citizens, republicans and other condemned beings. You have to watch your step.

But on the way out, I check on the status another piece in the show: a flowerhead of steam irons. The gallery assistant confirms it is out of order that day. Not even royal decree could get it working.

Valkyrie Crown can be seen at Haunch of Venison, New Bond Street, until 17 November 2012. See gallery website for more details.

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