December 7, 2006
Last month I spent a Sunday afternoon wandering through the vast, crumbling interior of Battersea Power Station. Over the 20 years or so since it was shut down, this colossal structure on the bank of the Thames, has slowly sunk into dereliction as one hare-brained multi-million pound redevelopment scheme after another has run out of money and steam.
The building is usually closed to the public, but was opened for a month as the venue for an exhibition of contemporary Chinese art — which was an exciting prospect, because not only was this a very rare opportunity to see this huge, crumbling landmark from the inside, but also because it sounded likely to be the closest approximation of Beijing’s amazing Dashanzi Art District — communist-era East-German-built factories turned art galleries — available outside actual Beijing.
In the event, though, the setting utterly dwarfed the art. As I wandered through, my attention was almost entirely on the power station itself — its epic scale and the extent of its dereliction — and the art seemed bland, small, and for the most part frankly mediocre against its awesome, cathedral-like setting.