Toilet humour is in full flow at Fountain17

Published: Friday 7th April 2017 by Rich Sutherland

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This year sees the centenary of Marcel Duchamp’s iconic Fountain, as well as 200 years of Armitage Shanks, the manufacturer of bathroom fixtures.

With this also being Hull’s year as the UK City of Culture, a celebration called Fountain17 is taking place in tribute to the two linked events.

In case you’re not familiar with the concept, it all began when Duchamp put a urinal on public display in 1917 and called it art. As obscure and shocking as it was functional and commonplace, his Fountain certainly got the world talking.

Fountain17 has the exact same mission, with some of the pieces blatantly encouraging people to question, discuss and, as was the case when we visited, point.

The exhibition can be found at Studio Eleven and Kingston Art Group Gallery, both down Humber Street, and the Brodrick Gallery at Hull School of Art and Design.

With sculptures and installations alongside paintings and performance, it really is a wide-ranging and eye-opening piece of activity.

More than 40 local and international artists have united to make work that takes its cue from the urinal. These include Hull favourite Anna Bean and Turner Prize winning collective Assemble.

The exhibition is a collaboration between Hull manufacturer Ideal Standard, which owns Armitage Shanks, and Hull School of Art and Design. This is yet another excellent example of how business and the arts have come together for our year in the spotlight.

There are some really quite eye-catching pieces, such as Adele Howitt’s version that’s brimming with detail, including porcelain baby arms.


Alongside it, Clare Holdstock’s reinterpretation creates a source of life, which needs watering (with water) each day.


The two above are located at the newly reopened Studio Eleven. Just a few doors down at Kingston Art Group Gallery, the reimaginings of the humble urinal become perhaps even more bizarre.

The example below reads “Cela serait Ideal”, which translates to “This would be Ideal” as a clever nod to the sponsor.


Then there’s the window suspended from the ceiling, rendered opaque with pebbledash.


Anna Bean’s pieces share her trademark humour, surreal characters and vibrant colours, referencing the bathroom setting in a way that is somehow blatant yet tasteful


And of course, this particular exhibition wouldn’t be complete without multiple toilet installations, each with its own style and message.

Some are broken and upturned:


Whilst one in particular almost looks inviting:


There are dozens more pieces on display as part of Fountain17. Whilst brash and tongue-in-cheek, the exhibition does have a certain charm, and it’s impossible to deny that it’s full of interesting detail.

The exhibition runs until 14 May and is free to view. Opening times for the three venues differ, so make sure to check the Hull2017 website before visiting.

We also strongly recommend picking up a Fountain17 brochure whilst there. Very nicely designed and at almost 100 pages for just £5, it’s full of information on the artworks, the inspiration behind them and their artistic process.

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Published: Friday 7th April 2017 by Rich Sutherland

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