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Exhibitions / I Like Things / Overview

Palazzo dell'Arengario, Piazza del Duomo, Milan
May 16 – June 18, 2006

Martin Creed's sculptures, installations and drawings come from the objects, words, and sounds of everyday life. Constantly searching for the mechanisms of daily existence and the relationship between art and reality, the British artist uses the simplest, most mundane materials to create his works, which are then progressively numbered.

For the exhibition “I Like Things”, Martin Creed presents new pieces specifically conceived for Palazzo dell'Arengario, alongside a vast selection of his most significant work. On the outside of the building, facing Piazza del Duomo, is one of his most famous neon signs: Everything Is Going to Be Alright (Work # 560) (2006) is an enthusiastic statement of optimism, albeit one whose very exhortation not to worry becomes an ironic comment on today’s consumer-driven world. Placed on the facade of Palazzo dell’Arengario, the piece seems to parody the classic image of Milan in the economic boom of the 1950s, when the square was lit up by dozens and dozens of neon signs advertizing Italy’s biggest companies.

Martin Creed’s delicate minimalism is expressed through simple, yet radical gestures. In Work # 571 (2006), a series of plywood sheets, in the standard size most commonly found on the market, is piled up on the pavement to become a mundane yet perfect geometric figure, apparently with no material value. In the first room of Palazzo dell’Arengario, transformed into a sort of decadent nightclub, the British artist also presents a piano that jerks open and closed in a disquieting mechanical dance. Work # 569 (2006) slips out of the control of both artist and viewers, abandoning its function as a musical instrument to become a threatening device, a music box out of some nightmare. Alongside the piano, two wind machines redesign space simply by moving the air (Work # 564, 2006) while the neon words of Small Things (Work # 567) (2006) stretch out over two full walls of the room, becoming a poetic and absurd statement about the beauty of banality.

In the austere column-lined hall, Martin Creed presents another famous piece, which earned him the 2001 Turner Prize from Tate Britain, London. The installation The Lights Going On and Off (Work # 160) (2006) consists in nothing more than all the lights in the room switching on and off at a maniacal rhythm. The piece is both an ascetic gesture of disarming simplicity—since nothing has been added or removed from the space—and an ironic invitation to imagine a new, unexpected fate for the things around us.  

The human body is another key element for Creed, who also presents his first performance piece, Work # 570 (2006), in which men and women suddenly start running at full tilt through the exhibition for no apparent reason. In the video Work # 503 (2006), which closes the show, a girl compulsively vomits in front of the camera—the zero degree of expression, according to Creed.

For “I Like Things”, Palazzo dell'Arengario opens its doors to the public for the last time before an architectural restoration that will convert it into a home for the municipal collections of the Museo del Novecento. One of the city’s most significant landmarks, it was built in the late 1930s, designed by Enrico Agostino Griffini, Pier Luigi Magistretti, Giovanni Muzio and Piero Portaluppi, and rounded out the urban renewal plan for the center of Milan: the building is made up of two symmetric pavilions that mirror each other at the southern end of Piazza del Duomo, directly across from Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. Clad in pink Candoglia marble, the same stone used for the cathedral, the building is clearly Fascist in its monumental style. The section generally thought of as Palazzo dell'Arengario is the pavilion on the left, constructed in place of the long arm of Palazzo Reale, to which it is connected. During World War II, it was seriously damaged by bombing, as was the adjoining Sala delle Cariatidi in Palazzo Reale.


Winner of Tate Britain’s prestigious Turner Prize in 2001, Martin Creed was born in 1968 in Wakefield, United Kingdom. He lives and works in London. The artist has presented his work at international museums and institutions, with solo exhibitions at Centre Pompidou in Metz (2009), the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham (2008), Tate Britain in London (2008 and 2000), the Mills Gallery – Boston Center for the Arts (2007), Tate Modern in London (2006), Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven (2005), the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne (2005), the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw (2004), and Kunsthalle Bern (2003). He has taken part in important festivals such as the 4th berlin biennale (2006), the 8th Biennale de Lyon (2005), the 11th Biennale of Sydney (1998) and group shows at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (2009), the Whitechapel Gallery in London (2009), the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo (2008), P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in New York (2006), Wiener Secession in Vienna (2006), Palais de Tokyo in Paris (2004) and the Serpentine Gallery in London (2004).