Exhibition Review: ‘Menu’ – Teviot Row House Gallery

A quirky but overpriced gallery, with small flashes of ingenuity in their frankly mediocre permanent collection

Much has been said about Teviot Row House Gallery’s popular permanent collection ‘Menu’, a favourite of Edinburgh students who seem to particularly enjoy the gallery’s late opening times.  It was my aim to try and get a sense of a gallery that has long been a cultural hub for the student city.

Upon entering I was told that I should go to the ground floor, where a receptionist asked which piece I would like to view.  I first asked to see ‘Chicken Nachos’ by an unnamed artist, and although slightly taken aback by the £4.50 charge to view a single piece I figured that it must be something rather special and obediently took my seat and waited for its retrieval from the vaults.  While waiting it came to my attention that only free water is provided, rather disappointing for a reviewer who has grown accustomed to complimentary ‘vino’. 

When the piece arrived I enquired as to the creator, but was only told his first name ‘Dave’ and that he went by the pseudonym ‘The Chef’.  My initial reaction was to draw parallels with Jeff Koons’ ‘Play-Doh’, with the masses of red, green and white but on closer inspection flashes of Kandinskyan chaos became apparent with the scattered broken triangles framing the colours, along with angular yellow lines and apparently random green circles.  The merging and contrasting of the light and dark greens harked back to Matisse’s “Girl with a Hat” not detracting from the dominance of the central white.  This being said, the weakness of what should have been a strong, prominent deep red meant that “Chicken nachos” began to loose its appeal exponentially with time spent viewing, with the bland-ness of the pale green, white and yellows becoming overbearing, verging on sickening.

Once I had viewed the piece for long enough I called for it to be taken away, but despite having spent 20 minutes with this single work the gallery staff seemed confused, repeatedly asking whether anything was wrong.  I would have liked to look at more of their permanent collection but I stubbornly refused to get further sucked in by their pay-per-piece pricing.  A young lady at the table next to me was viewing “Balmoral Burger”, a more formulaic piece, which she told me was also a product of “The Chef”.  Initially, she reluctantly allowed me to view it with her to save on the price of purchasing observation time but had me removed by staff when I tried to take a picture of the artwork, and as I was being dragged out no-one else seemed concerned at her liberal application of red and white paint to the piece or even when she began to dissect the main body of the work. 

Overall, I would commend the Teviot Row House gallery for attempting to create an alternative gallery experience, but would say that it has ultimately failed.  The confusing pricing structure, occasionally unpleasant staff and frankly mediocre pieces serve up an underwhelming experience.

 

By Chris Savage, 4th year Geography student at the University of Edinburgh