Shows about art and science rarely add up

Posted filed under Science, Shows.

Poppy appeal … Afyon by Mustafa Hulusi, currently on show at the Wellcome Collection’s High Society exhibition. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Jonathan Jones at “High Society is the latest in a series of exhibitions at the Wellcome Collection in London that seeks to explore medical themes with a rich and sometimes baffling mixture of art, artefacts, books and, oh, stuff. I wish I liked these exhibitions more than I do. Their goal is beyond criticism. Their energy is impressive, and so is their intellectual ambition.

But these shows often fail to find the magic thread that would unify art and science. To me, the visual works in them tend to look like illustration – or worse, decoration – for a thesis which can only be discerned from reading the catalogue or every single wall-text, and could arguably have been made clearer without any art at all. A lot of the contemporary work they show is second rate, and doesn’t help anyone understand the theme in question. The designs, too, can be pretentious, especially in the Wellcome’s recent shows on Identity and Skin.

There have been some notable exceptions. The Collection’s exhibition on medicine and war was superb, and featured some extremely powerful art. And High Society is also a good ‘un, on the whole. It still has the feel of a congested body of argument on which the art and objects seem to be overlaid. But it’s well worth a visit, because the art is actually rather good this time.”

Read more from Jonathan Jones at The Guardian