Gavin Turk: 7,201,964,238

The Bowes Museum

25 January – 21 April 2014

Free with National Art Pass (standard entry £9.50)

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Seven billion two hundred and one million nine hundred and sixty-four thousand and two hundred and thirty-eight refers to the exact number of people alive on Planet Earth at the precise moment of the show's opening on January 25, 2014.

Famously failed by the Royal College thanks to a sparse degree show featuring a sole blue plaque commemorating his time as a student there, Gavin Turk has spent his career pushing the boundaries of what defines art.

Turk himself acknowledges that curators often have a hard time in knowing how to present his multidisciplinary work, drawing as it does on so many unique themes and making use of an array of different mediums.

The idea to present a collection of his neons was inspired by the windowless room at The Bowes which is used for exhibitions of contemporary art.

Given that it is one of the few mediums Turk has returned to throughout the various stages of his career, it makes for a rather original exploration of how his work has developed since the 1990s.

Neon lights evoke a range of differing connotations, from the showy glamour of Hollywood to seedy nightclubs or stripshows and the garish fetishisation of consumer culture. Infact, its inventor, the French chemist Georges Claude, wanted to use neon for Nazi Party propaganda.

As such, Turk's sculptures are at once both inviting and disconcerting, playing with classical artistic iconography such as the lobster, which references 17th century Dutch still lifes where the crustacean would commonly feature.

The works will be joined by a specially commissioned large-scale neon sculpture, displayed on The Bowes' chateau-style façade.

Don't miss

Two pieces in this exhibition hold special significance, to the artist. A red star, made in conjunction with his Che Gavara series, is a replica of the signage on the exterior of Turk's bustling London studio, a hub for creative and artistic output.

The second, an eight pointed Maltese cross, is a symbol dating back to the First Crusade which was a subject of particular intrigue for the artist Yves Klein. Turk wore this cross during his recent wedding ceremony, a partial re-enactment of Klein's own nuptials. Interestingly, the cross' points are a representation of the the shared provenance of humanity.

Venue information

Opening times

Mon – Sun, 10am – 5pm

Closed 25, 26 Dec and 1 Jan

"Art Fund" is the operating name of the National Art Collections Fund, a charity registered in England and Wales (209174) and Scotland (SC038331)