This weekend was the first one in a long while that I’ve had time to go out and see something. And fortunately, I was just in time to catch an exhibition I’ve wanted to see since it opened almost 6 months ago. ‘Saints Alive’ is the work created by Michael Landy whilst he was artist in residency at the National Gallery, a combination that some people thought a little unlikely.

Michael Landy 2

Installation of Saints Alive at the National Gallery, 2013

Michael Landy 3

mixed media 205 x 185 x 80 cm

The exhibition features a progression of Landy’s work from sketch, to collage, to all singing and dancing kinetic sculptures, which muse upon the stories of the Saints that feature in so many of the paintings in the gallery. It feels like Landy has almost dissected the National Gallery’s collections in order to form his own take on what many deem to be the most worthy of art – classical painting. It is humorous, fun and engaging. But most importantly it does not take itself seriously.

Aside from the subject matter, what I really liked about this exhibition is the questions it posed about the National Gallery, and where this institution sits in the art world, and in particular in London’s cultural scene. To many of the younger generation, the National Gallery is both inaccessible and pretentious. Although no one can ever argue that the National Gallery’s collection will ever become invalid, increasingly, as a static collection, it becomes more and more aloof and high brow.

What Landy does is bring this world back down to earth with a crash. It feels like he has bought the painting and the stories that they contain to life. It is whimsical, and fun. But most importantly it is accessible – and may in fact help a new generation to see the National Gallery’s collection in a new light. 

It closes on the 24th November but is so worthwhile checking out if you get the chance.