EDitorial ± 22-Feb-2012

The Bricks

Paul Simon's at a show for a promising young painter. He's sipping wine and chatting with friends. Some works he likes, others he's not so sure. All of a sudden the lights go out and the gallery is thrown into darkness. Trying to find the exit, he bumps into a familiar figure. "Hey", says Paul, "is that Art?"

No problem on Saturday with the illumination at Colchester's fantabulous Golden Banana, aka firstsite, the place for "contemporary visual arts". Years back -- then and again -- we'd make for The Minories. Bit of art, bit of cake. Don't need much more than that. There was talk of an amazing new building. Time passed, difficulties were overcome, and now Essex has a venue worthy of a visit from Andrew Graham-Dixon.

Before the art, the cake. That Minories cafe, now named Love Bistro, is still open and still charming, and is an Ai Weiwei pebble's throw away from the culture. Suffused with chocolate biscuit cake and a flat white, let's go stare at the walls and stroke our chins. Full size replica digits of the Statue of Liberty (by Dahn Vo) remain in the atrium from our previous visit.

Gone, though, are Ai Weiwei's pots on poles in the posh room. Instead, there's a handful of pleasing Constables on the wall and, er, some bricks on the floor. You'd think that health and safety rules would have required signage of some sort. Hang on, Hockney: those aren't just any old firebricks. 'Tis none other than Equivalent VIII by Carl Andre, one of the most controversial pieces of recent time. Cool. An arrangement of 6 x 10 x 2 bricks, is all. Do they have numbered positions? Do they each have a particular orientation? How are they shipped from Tate to Essex? In a velvet lined hod?

That, my dear Mr Simon, is Art.