Huw Bartlett, Harry from Ikea (2013)


It’s a freedom of speech issue. If you are a global corporation like IKEA you can afford to take out a full page in a national broadsheet. If you are a little known artist you can barely afford to reply.

What IKEA tells us some 200,000 times at a go is that Harry’s passion now runs to several metres: “Harry’s passion for music has reached new levels,” the headline informs us, “Floor to ceiling.”

In other words, his record collection has been housed by the Swedish furnishers. There he stands, stunned by his newfound archive, his one passion definitively domesticated.

Nevermind that Harry doesn’t exist. He is an arbitrary name pinned on an aspirational model. The headline is a lie or a fiction; there should be no place for either in the Guardian.

Bartlett’s response is to the claim is to rip out the page and recontextualise it. So Harry’s new place of residence is taped onto a disassembled and upturned IKEA table in a non commercial art gallery.

If it wasn’t already clear where to look, Bartlett has sheathed a wooden stick in foil and pointed it in the direction of Harry, whose only aim in life is to entomb himself in vinyl.

Bartlett describes himself as a sculptor and treats the daily paper as a 3D object. His work relates to both the everyday materials of Arte Povera and Gustav Metzger’s engagement with Page Three.

What both artists demonstrate is how little mass media can survive scrutiny in an art gallery, be that the hallowed chambers of the RA or the down at heel basement premises of CAC.

This is surely payback for all the nausea of consuming media. The Harry ad is not half as smart as it thinks it is. But at least some dozen visitors to a Brighton gallery can see that for what it is.

Disclosure: Bartlett describes himself as an anti-copywriter whereas I have plied the dreaded trade in earnest before now. It was inevitable that Harry and his ilk would come up at some point.

Harry from IKEA was a centrepiece at recent Work Project 7, Community Arts Centre (CAC), Brighton. It was on show last weekend only. Sad face 🙁

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *