Matthew Darbyshire at Manchester Art Gallery: An Exhibition for Modern Living

Polly Checkland Harding

Ten large-scale installations, reinvented Greek statues and a room made from flat-pack furniture – Manchester Art Gallery’s next exhibition is an ambitious look at the objects we live with.

If someone told you they have a Philippe Starck ghost chair at home, would you know what they mean? If you did, would you care? Artist Matthew Darbyshire’s largest solo exhibition to date, soon to open at Manchester Art Gallery, relies on the idea that ‘collecting’ is not just something that people in the art or antiques industry dedicate their time (and money) to: Darbyshire thinks of this term as also applying to how we choose the objects we have in our home or place of work.

An Exhibition for Modern Living (25 Sept – 10 Jan 2016) will include ten large-scale ‘environments’ created by Darbyshire; these installations look a bit like unusual, highly curated scenes or collections of objects that you might find in someone’s house. They are a way of investigating our relationship to our surroundings, and what informs our taste; the show explores the value these objects have by placing high street items alongside pricier pieces, like the Starck ghost chair, introducing the idea that the valuation of these objects can be influenced by something far more personal than their cost. Within the context of an exhibition, these installations also question what the price given to contemporary art is based upon.

Ten large-scale installations, reinvented Greek statues and a room made from flat-pack furniture

Darbyshire’s interest in how we attribute worth extends to his series entitled CAPTCHA; through exploring industrial prototyping and 3D printing, the artist has created strangely translucent polycarbonate versions of classical sculptural forms. One of two new pieces created for this exhibition, for example, is based on Doryphoros of Polykleitos, one of the best known examples of Greek sculpture from the Classical Era. Elsewhere in the exhibition, Darbyshire contrasts hand-made wooden artefacts from the gallery’s collection with flat-pack furniture – here, the desirability (or otherwise) of craftsmanship also comes into play.

It’s weird how an injury can make you see the world differently. Darbyshire’s exploration of lived-in spaces stemmed from a bed-bound year following a serious back problem – the work that’s resulted is both brilliantly visual and deeply layered. Don’t miss it.

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