Swarms of Bugs in Chelsea: Unrivalled Art Critics Since 2014

Chelsea Swarm 674 - 280

The room is long and white with a glass panelled ceiling that lets light flood down into the space. Inside there is a bizarre stillness though, because up all four walls in concentrated clusters, are swarms of giant bugs. “It is a bit odd,” says Kathryn uncertainly as we loiter in the doorway of the first room on the ground floor. She is, after all, responsible for this trip to the Saatchi Gallery, in the old barracks off the Kings Road.

Sidling over to the left hand wall, Nick peers carefully and then pulls a face. Close up, each insect is made of two knobbly ends with twigs bound on from centre to make up weird spindly legs. Glancing round there appears to be no written information about the artist anywhere… and groups of tourists are merrily taking pictures. At the far end, two Chinese girls are taking turns to snap each other high-fiving the installation.

Nick whips out his phone and gets onto Google. “They’re ants,” he says. “The bloke is Colombian and has put these on loads of public buildings around the world. The bodies are made from two human skull casts.”

“Okay, well, I didn’t know what was on,” says Kathryn, immediately defensive. Inside her head she is having a horrible flashback to the time she dragged Nick along to an experimental play at the Royal Court, round the corner. On that occasion members of the audience were made to wear compulsory supermarket bibs as part of the performance. “It says here the artist is trying to summon death in life,” Nick continues.

“Well, I did tell you this place has some varied stuff,” says Kathryn, clearly nettled. “It is just interesting to see what does get exhibited.”

As we wander round ‘Panagea: New Art from Africa and Latin America’ in a dazed fashion, it turns out this statement couldn’t be more true. One room is draped in sacking from Ghana – this can be viewed at ground level, or from a platform above. There are stacks of glass and spray paint from Peru, whilst numerous other pictures and structural assemblies line the floors and walls across all three levels of the gallery.

“It all seems a popular… or it could just be that it is a Saturday and this place is free,” says Nick.

The place is indeed packed. There are continentals chattering on the staircases, Asians taking photos of themselves – and the art – from every imaginable angle. One offensively loud group of Americans even seem to be following us round, discussing the merits of various pieces.  It is a strangely exhausting experience.

After 20-minutes or so we burst back into the sunshine and make our way gratefully over to the Partridges Food Market in Duke of York Square. “Shall we see if they have any exciting cheeses?” says Kathryn with enthusiasm.  “Most definitely!” agrees Nick with a grin.

First published in the June 2014 edition of Absolutely Chiswick


  1. Rather surprising & very entertaining!

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