An unlikely “grandad” took Britain’s art world by storm last month with his first gallery show – a one-man exhibition in a pop-up space in London’s trendy Campden neighborhood. The name of the space was Grandad’s Gallery. The show’s humorous title: “No Need to Shout.”
Liam Gallagher is not an unlikely art star because of his age – he’s 79 – but because he has never made art before and yet lacks the visual smarts that make outsider artists so appealing to the world.
But if Gallagher’s 30 text-based prints, video and sound installations lack aesthetic appeal, they make for it in attitude. Grandad’s art comments on ageism, racism, assisted suicide and immigration – straight from the gut.
In fact, ageism was the catalyst for Grandad’s Gallery. Gallagher’s grandson, an artist and activist known as Scottee, was noticing that his grandfather – whom he helps care for – was becoming invisible. “People would brush past him in the street and ignore him if he tried to talk to them,” Scottee told The Independent. “When we’d go to see doctors together they’d either shout at him or talk to me.”
Scottee was also outraged by the fact that Britain’s prestigious Turner Prize for emerging artists is limited to those under age 50. “I want to live in a world where older, emerging artists like my Grandad can be considered for one of the UK’s largest and most prominent art commendations. I want us to encourage and commend older voices in the arts sector,” he writes in his blog.
So Scottee gave his grandfather a voice. He started by teaching him to read – Gallagher was illiterate – and to think like a contemporary artist. Then he set him up to turn his written thoughts into artworks. Among Grandad’s most popular pieces is the print and T-shirt, “No Need to Shout.”
A fundraiser spread the word and brought in enough cash to mount the show, complete with a high-profile opening catered by performance-food artists Darton and Hunt. People over 60 were invited to a special private view.
Among the show’s more prominent supporters was actor, writer and comedian Stephen Fry, best known in the U.S. for his portrayal of Jeeves in the BBC series. (Fry also wrote the libretto for Kenneth Branagh’s film adaptation of “The Magic Flute.”)
The event got widespread coverage in the British media, thanks in part to Scottee’s social media savvy. He created a Twitter account for Gallagher – who he renamed The Real Liam Gallagher – letting Grandad’s humor shine:
I am excited for the show, so excited my hair is turning grey. It might turn ginger.
— Liam Gallagher (@RealLGallagher) May 1, 2015
And he spread the campaign for recognition of older emerging artists across the Twittershere.
— Kerrie Masterson (@Masty21) May 19, 2015
The Real Liam Gallagher had buzz:
“One of 2015’s most exciting new voices,” Vice magazine proclaimed.
“Head to Grandad’s Gallery this week and help tackle ageism,” Time Out London told readers.
Mission accomplished. Whether the Real Liam Gallagher’s art fame lasts more than a minute or not, and whether this is even about Gallagher the emerging artist of Scottee the master hype artist, the art world got a taste of older age. And for Gallagher, who was released from hospital just in time to view his own show, it’s been a life-changer.
I feel different. I feel important.
— Liam Gallagher (@RealLGallagher) May 28, 2015
According to The Independent, Scottee is now planning to form an elder’s art group in a continued effort to combat ageism.