Cornford and Cross
Power to the People 1997

Record collectors’ fair in art gallery
Curated by Bryan Biggs
Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool, England

We held a one-day record fair within the exhibition space of the Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool. To attract different audiences, the fair was promoted on posters locally and advertised in both specialist music magazines and the art press. This live art event set out to undermine the distinction between high and low cultural forms, and the spaces that house them. Some people came to the fair to buy records; others came to the gallery to see art. Both participated in a happening.

A record fair in a gallery became an occasion for celebration and critique not just of pop and rock music, but of late-twentieth-century attitudes towards heritage and what is to be done with it. Consumer culture has an increasingly complex relationship with retrospection, conservation and nostalgia. Such a preoccupation suggests at the same time an awareness of the achievements of the past and also a failure to invest (both imaginatively and financially) in the future.

Record-collecting, in particular, is full of such paradoxes. To reconnect with lost moments of youthful freedom, collectors seek out pristine copies of ephemeral cultural objects, and then order and control them. The alchemical process of time has made precious that which was generally regarded as being of little artistic value. Just listen to dealers and collectors rhapsodising on the idiosyncrasies of sleeve design, special pressing or label colour, and you are in on a discussion about the history of postwar art and design. The fervour and expertise of ‘vinyl junkies’ is as strong and committed as that of the regular gallery-goer, curator or critic. The difference is one of category and perhaps class.

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