As far as ideas go, an exhibition dedicated to tulips hosted in Amsterdam doesn’t exactly win points for originality. But in the capable hands of Young British Artist Gavin Turk, the result is a truly refreshing, imaginative and, in typical Turk fashion, subversive experience.
Turkish Tulips is a travelling exhibition curated by Turk that originated at the historic Van Loon museum in Amsterdam. Far more ambitious than it would first appear, the exhibition tackles several themes; contemporary art practice, the history of the tulip and how its significance differs culturally throughout Europe and the Middle East, and even the history of the van Loon family and their ancestral home – one of the finest canal houses in Amsterdam. Over 30 contemporary artists have contributed to the project – many with original, specially-made pieces – including fellow YBA Damien Hirst, Pop Art pioneer Sir Peter Blake and artist Philippa van Loon, who first met Turk when they studied together at the Chelsea School of Art in the early 1980s.
The exhibition spent spring at the Van Loon as part of the museum’s 125th anniversary celebrations before making its way to the equally historic Bowes Museum in County Durham for the summer. Now, Turkish Tulips has made a stopover in London, where it’s being hosted at Turk’s new exhibition space, Cloud Cuckoo Land, which the artist created by ‘shaving off a corner’ of his studio in the Here East development in Stratford, east London. Limited-edition prints are currently on sale at the exhibition, with all proceeds going to The House of Fairy Tales, a children’s art charity set up by Turk and his wife Deborah Curtis. Hurry though, like the national flower of the Netherlands, the exhibition has a limited shelf life and will be displayed at Cloud Cuckoo Land until Thursday 9 November.
All artwork Gavin Turk