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English Eggcentric: Gavin Turk’s Giant Egg at Somerset House, and the World’s Largest Egg Collaboration Project.

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English Eggcentric:  Gavin Turk’s Giant Egg at Somerset House, and the World’s Largest Egg Collaboration Project.

This Easter holiday weekend the country will be basked in sunshine and celebrated the Christian custom of giving eggs.  These have a long history of being highly decorated and often made of chocolate encased in shiny foil a practice which perhaps owes much to King Edward l who way back in 1290 ordered 450 to be gold-leafed and coloured as gifts.  All over the country people are hiding, rolling, jarping (if you’re in County Durham) scoffing and generally reveling in the Spring’s renewal and for the believers the promise of eternal life.

Alternatively you could head down to Somerset House in London and take a selfie with Gavin Turk’s giant egg entitled Oeuvre (Verdrigris, 2018).   The egg is symbolic of the resurrection of Christ, so it is particularly apt to see one unadorned but elevated to epic scale and made of bronze, the material Gavin so often uses to transform humble objects into ‘high’ art, normally associated with sculptural masterpieces from Donatello to Rodin.   There is nothing fragile about this egg in its oxidized shade normally associated with antiquities or that other monumental symbol the Statue of Liberty. 

The work forms the starting point of a public participation artwork with photographers around the world invited to submit their own digital portrait of an egg to the project website:  Entry is free, open to all and the gathered images will be viewable online before and during the exhibition Gavin Turk: Portrait of an Egg, a moving montage of multiple egg portraits to be displayed at the annual photography fair Photo London at Somerset House between 16-19 May. Guest curators Matthew Collings, Martin Parr, Francesca Gavin and @World_record_egg (the Instagram sensation and world record account holders with 28m likes) and Turk himself will select few for a special Hall of Fame which will highlight their top images of this symbol of creativity.    

Gavin asks a seemingly simple question, ‘How do you portray an Egg?  He himself has been doing so for a very long time. In fact the play on the name Oeuvre, gives it away really.  Looking on his website the first category of a long series of themes is Eggs, he has used them as a leitmotif throughout his career.  Eggs made of fiberglass, painted as footballs, part of installations, painted Magritte style, pierced a la Fontana, or my favourite just a plain egg signed Gavin Turk with the date.  His last exhibition was titled En Oeuf at Maruani Mercier in Brussels was dedicated to the subject.  Gavin says “It’s the biggest floating signifier you could find: it’s narrative, figurative and abstract all simultaneously—and highly unoriginal as well—which is complicated but something I can handle”  Tapping into the collective unconscious, perhaps this is one of the reasons an egg affectionately known as Eugene created by a young ad exec became an internet phenomenon.  Or perhaps it’s just a reassuring breakfast we shall see...

Gavin Turk b.1967 lives and works in London.  He has pioneered many forms of contemporary British sculpture, including the waxwork, the recycled art-historical icon and the use of rubbish in art. Turk’s installations and sculptures deal with issues of authorship, authenticity and identity. Concerned with the ‘myth’ of the artist and the ‘authorship’ of a work, Turk’s engagement with this modernist, avant-garde debate stretches back to the ready-mades of Marcel Duchamp. In 1991, the Royal College of Art refused Turk a degree on the basis that his final show, ‘Cave’, consisted of a whitewashed studio space containing only a blue heritage plaque commemorating his presence ‘Gavin Turk worked here 1989-91′. Instantly gaining notoriety through this installation, Turk’s work has since been collected and exhibited by many major museums and galleries throughout the world.

Solo exhibitions include: 2016, Who What When Where How and Why Newport St Gallery, London • 2015, Yard, CCA Andratx • 2014, Seven Billion Two Hundred and One Million Nine Hundred and Sixty-Four Thousand and Two Hundred and Thirty-Eight, The Bowes Museum, UK • 2013, GT – The Project, Ecole Supérieure d’Arts Plastiques de la Ville de Monaco • 2008, Burnt Out, Kunsthaus Baselland • Gavin Turk: Oeuvre, Tate Britain • 2002, Copper Jubilee, The New Art Gallery Walsall • 1998, The Stuff Show, South London Gallery.


Somerset House MondayTuesdaySaturday & Sundays 10.00-18.00 (last admission 17.00)* Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays 11.00-20.00 (last admission 19.00)*Mon 22 Apr closing at 20.00 Mon 06 May closing at 18.00