Tom Pope's performative works have been associated with Deutsche Bank for years. Whether he’s exposing photographs with water pistols or creating a membership club that only fits one person, his absurdly comic works always have a serious, existential side.
There are only two sections on Tom Pope's website: "Work" and "Play". If you go to "Work" you will only find his biography and exhibitions. His works are all grouped together under “Play”. In fact, the boundaries between art, performance and play, between philosophical absurdity and nonsense, are fluid in Pope's practice. The process and the actual work of art can hardly be separated. The participatory always plays a significant role. The situations that Pope stages call for participation and improvisation.
His photographic works often emerge from playful performances: for example, when Pope asks participants to shoot unexposed cyanotype paper with water pistols filled with photographic solution. This is how 2017's Pop(e) was created, which shows the artist with a plastic gun drawn in the style of Andy Warhol's 'Elvis' portraits – a humorous take on Pop Art.
Award-winning work with a European tour
Pope's works may seem Dadaist or comic. But they always have a serious core, dealing with social conventions, values, art, time and transience. This is also the case with “Time Bound” – the performance for which he received the Deutsche Bank Award for Creative Enterprises (DBACE) in 2011. For the project, he and friends transported a grandfather clock in a hearse from London to Switzerland, to the Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva. There, the clock was to be symbolically destroyed, so as not to be tied to measured time. The group lived in the car for five weeks and, during the journey, Pope gave impromptu performances all over Europe.
“One Square Club” comes to Frieze Los Angeles
A crowd-pleaser was Pope's performance installation “One Square Club”, which he presented in collaboration with Deutsche Bank and Frieze at Frieze Los Angeles in 2019, then on the grounds of Paramount Studios. A perfect setting for Pope's project. Having discovered that the price per square metre of real estate in London's Kensington & Chelsea neighbourhood was then £11,365 – a completely crazy and abstract value for him – he created the “One Square Club”, which takes the idea of an exclusive membership club to the point of absurdity.
The club is about the size of a telephone box or a portaloo. Membership lasts no longer than one day. The fee is based on the average value of a square metre of real estate at the club's location. This means that the fee changes according to the price of the land. Only one member can enter the club at a time, with Pope hosting games and interesting conversations. The interior features a bespoke bar, luxurious wallpaper and a mini art exhibition. Pope prepares drinks for individual members, listens to their concerns, sings karaoke with his guests or talks philosophy. Or he just keeps quiet. The artist and the guest become part of a very intimate and exclusive moment. At the same time, the work questions not only the subjective value of exclusive properties or networks, but also of art and culture: what makes them truly valuable to us?
About this article series
This article forms part of a special series celebrating Deutsche Bank’s 20 years as Global Lead Partner of Frieze art fairs, taking a closer look at one of 20 artists we have collaborated with and whose work features in the Deutsche Bank Collection.
Deutsche Bank's commitment to art and culture
Deutsche Bank is the Global Lead Partner for Frieze art fairs, with 2023 marking the 20th year of the partnership. As part of its Art & Culture commitment, Deutsche Bank has supported and collected the work of cutting-edge, international artists for more than 40 years. A global leader in corporate art programs, the bank also runs an Artist of the Year programme, as well as its own cultural centre in Berlin, the PalaisPopulaire. All initiatives are based on the strong belief that engagement with art has a positive impact, not only on clients and staff but also on the communities in which the bank operates. Thus further collaborations such as the Deutsche Bank Frieze Los Angeles Film Award in the United States, The Art of Conversation in Italy, the Frieze x Deutsche Bank Emerging Curators Fellowship in the United Kingdom, and the digital platform Art:LIVE, create access to contemporary art for people all around the world. Discover more here.
Main image: Tom Pope, One Square Club, 2019 (detail)
Deutsche Bank Art & Culture