October 2002


Life after YBA-mania
Exploring the current London art scene, a New York critic finds the British capital awash in museum interventions, artist collectives, landscape paintings and some jejune nose-thumbing : by CAROL KINO


London is also full of projects that infiltrate the city's existing environment. One of these was the Cab Gallery, a project dreamed up in 1999 by the dealer Paul Stolper and collector-cum-taxi driver Jason Brown. For over two years, the gallery, which was housed in Brown's cab, sent artists' projects shuttling around London, to be viewed by anyone who happened to hail the taxi. (It also made select appearances at gallery openings.) Upon payment, passengers received a signed and dated receipt documenting their participation in the project. The Cab Gallery fits into a British lineage of what might be called public-transit art, such as Dean Hughes's London bus project of the early 1990s, which involved commemorating each of his rides by having the driver autograph his ticket.

Stolper and Brown asked their artists to make work for the cab's doors and the underside of its tip-up seats—spaces that normally house ads—as well as sound pieces and other projects. (Before installation, each piece had to be vetted by London's government-run Public Carriage Office.) Not surprisingly, some of the exterior art works involved signage: for the first exhibition, the artist known as Bob & Roberta Smith lettered the side doors with the word "TAXY"; for its final hurrah, Lawrence Weiner emblazoned them with a circular emblem reminiscent of the London underground logo with the words "Out from Under." The tip-up seat pieces, which were changed periodically, frequently incorporated text, too. Simon Wood used the space to list famous deceased Londoners (Jeremy Bentham and William Blake) as well as foreigners who died there (like Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx). The poets Thomas and Laurie Clark presented a bus timetable from a remote Scottish island, which gave passengers a chance to become armchair, as well as literal, travelers. Simon Wood contributed an applause track, to be played as Brown drove past London landmarks. Rachel Beckett created a small pillow for the cab's back seat similar to those supplied to airplane passengers and covered in the same upholstery fabric as that used for the seats of District line underground trains. Susie Hamilton presented a book of hasty sketches she'd made en route from North to West London. Another sound piece, by Jessica Voorsanger, evoked the spirit of New York City taxis. "It used to be that traditional artists wore a beret and a smock," her voice chirps brightly. "Now we wear our seatbelts!"

TAXY - Cab Exterior
Bob & Roberta Smith: TAXY, lettering on cab, 1999.

Stolper and Brown produced two year-long "exhibitions" before shutting down the Cab Gallery. A retrospective/memorial for the project was held at Essor Gallery last January, where the cab itself went on display surrounded by its many art works, as well as one tip-up seat piece, called Flirt, which the Public Carriage Office had deemed too provocative for display. Made by Jemima Stehli, who often uses her own nude body in her work, it consists of two grids filled with photographs of the artist's own miniskirted legs, crossed enticingly on a cab seat. (All this and more may be seen on the gallery's Web site,