It may have only been a small pop-up exhibition that ran from last Wednesday to Sunday, but Jake Chapman’s first solo show since severing his artistic partnership with his brother Dinos (tellingly titled Me, Myself and Eye), was always going to attract attention.
At the private view, a high-profile crowd packed out Paradise Row Project’s temporary Mayfair space to view the unveiling of some vintage Chapman-style smiley face banners. These were satirically tweaked for our hand-wringing environmental age by being emblazoned with the words EXTINCTION/ANNHILATION, and accompanied by a new series of pastiche African-style sculptures, one of which was sprouting phallic hooks bedecked with beaded fetish objects and smoking joss sticks. Guests included the artists Tracey Emin, Tim Noble and Conrad Shawcross, the writer Will Self and the model Kate Moss. She is a friend and rural neighbour of Chapman, who describes himself as “The Colonel Kurtz of the Cotswolds”.
And it was certainly the horror, the horror for Chapman when another notable Cotswolds inhabitant, the former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, also turned up at the opening, along with his wife Samantha. “When I saw them I was so shocked” says Chapman, who did not issue the invitation. “I asked him, what the fuck are you doing here? It’s no good for you, and it’s no good for me.” On receiving only “mumbles” from Cameron in response, the famously volatile artist considered carrying out a forceable ejection, but decided to pull his punches. “He had a hefty-looking, unblinking ex-military man with him, so I thought getting him in a headlock would probably hurt me more than him,” he says.
Chapman also admits to a wry pleasure in observing the incongruous marriage of his nihilistic artworks with a seemingly oblivious Old Etonian former PM. “To get him out of the gallery because I felt he shouldn’t be in there was actually the wrong way round,” he says, adding that “[the art] was like a Venus—or should I say Penis—fly trap that only further confirmed how useless and inept he is. How stupid could he be to stand next a banners saying ‘Extinction and Annihilation’ without noticing the collision between him and the work? So we didn’t need to kick him out, the work was actually doing the work, and it was working well!,” he says.
Nonetheless, Chapman did go on to make his feelings for Cameron abundantly clear when, later that evening, he posted on his Instagram a picture of Cameron backed by the Annihilation banner and emblazoned with the word C**t . When Instagram took this down, he replaced it with the message: “He’s Still A C**t”.
It is doubtful whether such shenanigans will be repeated next month, when Paradise Row opens the final exhibition in its current location, a group show curated by the chin-stroking French philosopher-curator Nicolas Bourriaud, whose concept of Relational Aesthetics offers a rather more restrained kind of artist-audience interaction.