Sense and Sensibility

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Laura Gascoigne parks her brush and tries to follow the instructions for flatpack art, but has the picture upside down

It’s a dull job being a customs officer, sitting on the border twiddling your thumbs until the next teenage drugs mule comes along. So it must have added to the gaiety of nations when in 2010 the EU Commission passed a ruling imposing full VAT import duty on electrical components


and household appliances used in art. Henceforth disassembled light tubes from a Dan Flavin sculpture would be charged full whack at 20% of the work’s value instead of the preferential ‘art’ rate
of 5%. It might be art when assembled in the gallery, ran the argument, but disassembled in transit it counted as light fittings. Sic /* xin-1 */ transit gloria artis mundi.

The wheels of the European Commission grind exceedingly slowly, but they’d better sort this one out before it causes tailbacks at Dover while fine art carriers loaded with DIY supplies discuss the finer points of art theory at Customs. Outsider

artists have always used materials from hardware stores – nail mosaics are a popular genre, and a sealant Jesus sold a few years ago
for £750 – but
now that the definition of ‘found object’ has been extended to objects found in the aisles of Wickes, the DIY aesthetic has official sanction.

We should have seen it coming when Jim Lambie was given planche blanche in 2003 to cover the floor of the Duveen Galleries at

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Tate Britain in trippy stripes of multicoloured vinyl tape. The previous year, the Taiwanese artist Michael Lin had
carpeted the Palais de Tokyo in Paris in giant pink flowers inspired by Taiwanese embroidery. Since then google_ad_width = 970; the flooring contractors have been gaining ground, and commercial galleries are google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; now entering the

Process Overview:

Two years ago the Alan Cristea Gallery transformed itself into a flooring showroom
with the site-specific installation D.I.Y by Richard Woods, who covered walls and floor “in his
trademark vibrantly-coloured and exaggerated wood-grain motif… installed as

parquetry”. Naffness being a key ingredient in the
DIY aesthetic’s demotic appeal, there is now apparently an art market for parquet.

When Martin Creed clad the walls and floors of the downstairs toilets at


London Library’s new Mason Yard extension in his trademark vibrantly-coloured patchwork of marble tiles, I suspect he didn’t do the grouting himself, belonging as he does to the ‘You Do It’ YBA boomer generation. Today’s austerity generation of DIY strivers is more hands-on. For the tar and rubber paintings in his exhibition Freedom of Assembly at

was organised by the self-styled Copenhagen Free University, a Danish outfit specializing
in disseminating “forms of
knowledge that are fleeting, fluid, schizophrenic, uncompromising, subjective, uneconomic, acapitalist, produced in the kitchen, produced when asleep, arisen on a social excursion – collectively”.
They may have missed the passage in Kafka’s handbook warning against operating machinery when asleep, but fortunately no injury seems to have resulted.

It’s fair to say that, apart an unhealthy obsession with subverting sideboards and debunking bunk beds google_ad_height = 90; – The New Décor included a

bed shaped like an LA freeway overpass by Cuban carpentry

collective Los Carpinteros – the DIY art movement does
no real harm. All art is Do-It-Yourself, after all. If you’re alone in your studio, who else is going to do it? And functional failure is something every artist is familiar with.

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As the Swiss sculptor Urs Fischer put it in an interview: “As soon as I start to