Magic for some invites the creative agency of fantasy and illusion; for others it signals a licence to practice deception. Curated by Jonathan Allen & Sally O'Reilly, Magic Show considered both these approaches, taking fiction and trickery to be intertwined, historically prevalent and culturally pivotal. The exhibition demonstrated how artists adopt the perception-shifting ploys of the theatrical magician to summon wonderment whilst simultaneously performing critique, but also revealed how strategic illusion and misdirection can be employed in more ominous contexts.
Magic Show included work by around 20 artists in all media, with major new commissions as well as a live performance programme, film screenings and a catalogue with essays by both curators.
Participating artists as follows: Jonathan Allen, Archive (Chris Kubik & Anne Walsh), Zoë Beloff, Ansuman Biswas & Jem Finer, Joan Brossa, Rick Buckley, Brian Catling, Center for Tactical Magic, Jackie & Denise Chapwoman, Tom Friedman, Brian Griffiths, Colin Guillemet, João Maria Gusmão & Pedro Paiva, Susan Hiller, Alexandra Hopf, Christian Jankowski, Janice Kerbel, Annika Lundgren, Juan Muñoz, Bruce Nauman, Ian Saville, Ariel Schlesinger, Suzanne Treister and Sinta Werner.
Jonathan Allen is a London-based artist and writer. In 2002 his collaboration with curator Helen Varola led to the exhibition Con Art at Site Gallery Sheffield, and in 2007 he guest-edited a special issue of Cabinet magazine on the theme of magic. His work has featured in many solo and group exhibitions including The Great Transformation at Frankfurter Kunstverein, 1st Singapore Biennale, and Tommy Angel at David Risley Gallery. Allen was the Arts Council England Helen Chadwick Fellow 2007-08.
Sally O'Reilly is a writer and curator who contributes to Art Monthly, Frieze, ArtReview, Spike and Time Out and has written essays on artists for institutions such as Tate Modern, London, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague and BALTIC, Gateshead. She is co-editor of Implicasphere, a dean of Brown Mountain College of the Performing Arts and has recently curated Beacon Art Project 2007 and co-curated the Whitstable Biennial performance programme 2006, and Implicasphere: Smoke at Pump House Gallery, London, 2008.
Catalogue available to buy at https://shop.southbankcentre.co.uk/magic-show
This exhibition toured to the following venues:
28 November 2009 - 31 January 2010
13 February - 10 April 2010
Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool
15 May - 4 July 2010
Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle
31 July - 12 September 2010
6 October - 19 December 2010
Pump House Gallery, London
Alexandra Hopf: Ghost (2007)
Reverse glass painting
35cm x 28cm
Courtesy and © the artist
Zoe Beloff: Video still from A Modern Case of Possession (2008) Courtesy and © the artist
Susan Hiller: Detail from Homage to Yves Klein (2008)
150 black and white digital photographs
Each: 10.2 x 15.2cm
© Susan Hiller; Courtesy Timothy Taylor Gallery, London
Center for Tactical Magic: The Ultimate Jacket (2004)
Wearable garment with fifty concealed pockets
Courtesy and © the artist
Popularising magic through cigarette card advertising: Gallahers Tricks and Puzzles (1933)
Courtesy Jonathan Allen.