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Jeremy Deller, Open Bedroom, 1993, mixed media. Installation view, 2012. Photo: Linda Nylind.

Jeremy Deller

Jeremy Deller, Open Bedroom, 1993, mixed media. Installation view, 2012. Photo: Linda Nylind.

THIS RETROSPECTIVE presented a formidable challenge: How to organize a show of an artist who has defined his practice precisely by working outside the white cube? The problem of institutionalization is hardly uncommon, of course—artists who work site-specifically confront similar challenges—but Jeremy Deller’s profound social engagement raises the stakes. With its conventional approach, however, the Hayward Gallery exhibition skates over the contradictions: It focuses on Deller’s commemoration of folkish creativity (the show is titled “Joy in People”) but invites aesthetic appreciation from an urban cosmopolitan audience; it celebrates the lowbrow, but with its ten-pound admission fee, the gallery depends on viewers with disposable income and leisure time; it features collaborative projects but assembles their documentation in a monographic survey, reifying a singular

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