Jeremy Deller gave us a painted backdrop of gathering storm clouds and a ticking clock at last night's (16 January) opening of Wiltshire before Christ—his multifaceted collaboration with fashion brand Aries and photographer David Sims at The Store X 180 The Strand. This seemed particularly apt given that just down the road parliament was in the process of delivering a crushing defeat to Theresa May's Brexit plans.
As the results of the Brexit deal vote rolled in, the prospect of a government in chaos only served to ramp up the frenzied party spirit as fashion royalty including Roksanda Illinic, Luella Bartley and Giles Deacon caroused with artists and art-worlders Lisa Brice, Simon Periton, Tomma Abts, Princess Julia and Artangel’s Michael Morris to name but a few. All this took place amidst new films and sculptures by Deller, ancient artefacts borrowed from the Salisbury Museum and a specially designed range of t-shirts and assorted merchandise from Aries.
True to its title, all elements of this immersive experience formed a celebration of all things pagan and pre-historical, with a West Country emphasis. These included Deller’s giant dangling sculptures of flint axe-heads, a green neon Cerne Abbas Giant, a new film of snails, flints and Neolithic sites and photographic light-boxes depicting a David Sims fashion shoot made up against the stones of Stonehenge. Even though mere t-shirts were selling for upwards of £70 apiece, there was brisk business for the Aries collection—with your correspondent’s personal favourites being the hoodie emblazoned with the slogan "Make Archeology Sexy Again" and a t-shirt that declared: "Stonehenge, Built by Immigrants". Another top design—and Deller’s personal favourite—was the t-shirt bearing an open mouth populated by dangling grey choppers that simply stated, "Stonehenge, English Teeth".
As the evening wore on, much enthusiasm was also generated by a fulsome buffet of traditional English cheeses and pork pies. However, there was soon nothing to eat it off, with the specially decorated pre-historic themed paper plates being eagerly pocketed by the more straitened of budget (your correspondent included)—whose finances couldn't quite stretch to the official goods on offer. All in all, a deep and rich celebration of Englishness that extends both geographically and temporally beyond our current limitations.
Wiltshire B4 Christ, The Store X, 180 The Strand, London, until Sunday 27 January. Open daily from 12pm-7pm.