Feeling lucky, Sarah Mayhew Craddock previews a lottery-funded modern art show created by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller

I don’t ‘play’ the lottery very often, and have never won more than £2 on it, but it’s the one occasion when I delight in being a loser… because in ‘playing’ the lottery, one is actually a winner. This Saturday a new exhibition opens at Modern Art Oxford… and it will undoubtedly be exceptional.

Love is Enough has been curated by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller who has brought together rarely seen works by artistic legends (and I don’t use the word lightly) William Morris and Andy Warhol.

This exhibition is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England’s Exceptional award programme.

As I said, exceptional; Deller, Morris, Warhol, at Modern Art Oxford – exceptional!

Exceptional not just because these are some of the biggest, most influential names that have ever graced the art world; names that helped to define the centuries in which they lived, but because it’s an exceptional combination.

By that I mean a surprising, unusual, out of the ordinary, unprecedented, and unexpected combination.

On this combination Hedley Swain, area director in the South East for Arts Council England, said: “Modern Art Oxford’s Love is Enough explores the similarities between these two renowned artists, each of whom made an indelible mark on the cultural landscape of their era.”

The highly politicised, head-turning artist and curator Jeremy Deller expanded on this: “For me, these two figures have so much in common, not least their tendency to be contradictory. Morris railed against capitalism and yet he established a shop in central London bearing his family name, and Warhol’s trademark blankness, I think, belies a deeply political artist.”

So it appears this exhibition of juxtapositions is set to illuminate the various points of connectivity within Morris and Warhol’s work, such as publishing and popular culture, notions of empire, nation, mythology, decoration and the artist as brand. All areas of interest to Love Is Enough’s intriguing curator, of course.

In 1986, aged 20, Jeremy Deller spent two weeks at the Factory in New York, where he met Andy Warhol. Perhaps it was his time at the Factory observing the cross-disciplinary, collaborative, socially conscious nature of the artists that frequented it that inspired Deller to begin making art in collaboration with other people in the 1990s.

It would seem that in addition to each realising their work through collaborative methods, Morris, Warhol and Deller also each established innovative ways to distribute their art work and messages through new forms of mass production.

Morris mastered craft techniques and rejected industrial processes, whilst Warhol often parodied the industrial culture of the mid-late 20th century through activities at the Factory.

Among other things, Deller famously staged The Battle of Orgreave in 2001 in a commission by Artangel and Channel 4.

The re-enactment brought together around 1000 veteran miners and members of historical societies to restage the 1984 clash between miners and police in South Yorkshire.

Oxford Mail:
Wallpaper design – Acanthus, William Morris, 1879-1881

Drawing together works from public and private collections across the UK and the USA, it would seem that Deller has unearthed some exceptional stories and works of art that have previously been hidden from the public eye.

Amongst them, and providing a flash of insight into the man behind the mask, is a signed photograph of Shirley Temple posted to a thirteen-year old Warhol from the actress in 1941. Other exciting works include Morris’ epic and rarely seen Holy Grail tapestries of 1896, a selection of Warhol’s iconic silkscreens and archival material from the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

Thinking about the shape of this exhibition it comes as no surprise that Modern Art Oxford is set to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2016 and is currently on a mission to create new relationships between artists and audiences at the beginning of the 21st century. The exhibition programme at Modern Art Oxford is shaped by a belief in dialogue between contemporary art and ideas and seeks to cement the relevance of contemporary visual culture to society today; as such, it will be intriguing to see how Modern Art Oxford’s mandate marries with Deller’s (invariably exceptional and indelible) curatorial approach to Love is Enough, which opens to the public on Saturday.

Love is Enough opens on Saturday and runs until March 8 at Modern Art Oxford, 30 Pembroke Street, Oxford
01865 722733 modernartoxford.org.uk

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