Hidden away in the streets of a small residential area of Primrose Hill, you will find a little gem in the form of The Museum Of Everything. A short walk from Chalk Farm tube station, a few little hand made signs posted up on a tree here and there guide you to this small wonder. Having no real idea of what to expect from this brand new venue, I was more than pleasantly surprised. I’m greeted at the entrance by a tiny alter framed in fairy lights telling me that donations are welcome from ‘£1-£1million’ if you so wish and to place said donations into an unassuming tea cup. You immediately get the feeling that this is a humble little dwelling.
An aroma of jam, tea and scented candles takes me to the first room of the museum. Through a rainbow ribboned curtain I come to a projected film playing on a brick wall. A cluster of benches are fashioned as pews for anyone who wishes to sit down. Everything is quite mismatched and charming – a table sits in the corner providing a selection of breads, cereal and other breakfast fare. I almost forget that I’ve come to an art gallery. Two old dears behind the counter serving tea and cakes, randomly placed potted plants and jars of sweets and jam may otherwise suggest a village church craft fair.
This is indeed, curiouser and curiouser (I was so much surprised, that for the moment I quite forgot how to speak good English). Upstairs the exhibition truly begins in earnest with a small piece of writing on the wall, “ For these artists there are no studies, no press junkets, no art fairs, no magazine spreads. Instead there are treasure troves of untrained work, discovered under rocks in basements and attics, it’s creators often unaware their art will ever see the light of day”.
Enter under an archway into a low–lit cave and there are two nativity-like scenes. Created by Nek Chand, this piece shows a group of figures huddled together. The naïve faces are covered in an array of what looks like smarties and bon bons. One figure leans forward to you, lantern in hand and made up of what appears to be broken pottery.
What is so apparent and great about this place is that there are no pretentions. There are scuffs and cracks on the walls and floors, pictures are presented in a haphazard manner with no intention of hiding the supporting nails and fixtures. It is what it is. Which I found made it all the more pleasing. It’s hard to work out what this building may have been used for before, but walking through to the next room brought about memories of the corridors of an old primary school. The work of August Walla sits on one wall, colourful childlike drawings with flat, bold colours. The same is apparent with the art of Johann Hauser, displayed on the adjacent wall. There’s something about the way the framed art fluctuates so much in size and erratic in presentation that is quite endearing. I don’t feel under any pressure to form any grand or contrived opinions of the place I was in or the art I was looking at. Nor did I feel obliged by the stare of someone standing in the corner of a room to view the artwork quicker than I would like. I could leisurely enjoy everything at my own pace.
A network of adjoining corridors, descending staircases and rooms lead me to an installation by Judith Scott. You are confronted with a narrow passageway holding a small collection of suspended objects. Whatever they used to be before is now completely obscured by reams and reams of wrapped yarn. At first they appear to be animals but any defining features have been hidden. Quiet and still, these enigmatic creatures make me wonder, out of exactly what need were they born? The artist claims they come out of rituals and some kind of inner necessity. You can see that they have quite a powerful presence. So much so, they seem to almost have a divine quality that makes you want to just stand there and take them in.
The creators behind this museum clearly have a sense of humour. After several more rooms, I find myself in front of a bolted door with another handmade sign reading “Nothing” – just in case you were wondering what was behind the locked door. No sooner have you walked around the corner, another sign greets you reading “Everything”. Will this be what I have been promised from the beginning? Indeed, the open doorway leads to a descending staircase into an enormous, imposing space, warehouse big. Filled from floor to ceiling is a vast array paintings, illustrations and various other framed works. I think this might be the ‘everything’ part of the museum. Some are illustrations; small in size, intricate in detail and others are wall hangings that almost span the whole length of a wall. There is also the work of George Widener who, introduced by the museum’s curator James Brett, gave a small talk about the history behind his work.
As I leave, I see a final sign, “Last Thing” that hangs above the exit. I am once again back in the tea-scented room I started in. The Museum Of Everything easily exceeded any expectations I had. Quirky and modest with personal touches, the museum makes you feel comfortable and at home. Discovering this place is like a little secret that you want to keep all to yourself.
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