In the ‘psychotherapy ward’ of a secret venue somewhere in east London, watercolour portraits of troubled male faces line the wall. Nearby in the ‘court-room’ a sound installation broadcasts an ominous tick-tock into the airy acoustics of a large hall, while the ‘Warden’s Office’ below is furnished by quilts handmade by inmates.
This is Secret Gallery, the latest venture from the company behind Secret Cinema, which stages immersive screenings of celluloid classics (kept secret until the screening itself) that have so far included Blade Runner, The Red Shoes and now The Shawshank Redemption, Frank Darabont’s cult tale of prison injustice.
The sell-out Secret Cinema season has finished (although you can still book tickets to non-secret screenings) but the art scattered throughout is now available to buy at www.secretgallery.co.uk. Artists were carefully chosen for their interest in the film’s subject matter and include big names such as Lucy Willis, whose painting of British inmates (above) won her the 1992 BP Portrait Prize.
Future Cinema says it wants audiences to engage with art in a way that the art world has lost. It’s the type of innovation typical of a company that has also launched Secret Hotel and Restaurant and which next April will open in Athens and New York.
There’s no doubt that secrecy sells. Secret Gallery’s only issue may be with audiences having such a good time already that they fail to notice the art.