The art of the pillbox

When Oscar Wilde famously claimed: ‘All art is quite useless’, he may not have had artistic subjects in mind. But it’s certainly true that since the Romantic era, artists have had a special affection for the superannuated. An image of an abandoned building with some sort of past, not necessarily glorious, appeals to our emotions, be it Rachel Whiteread’s ‘House’ or Constable’s ‘Hadleigh Castle’. Even ephemera pre-loved by strangers evoke nostalgia when incorporated in the shadow boxes of Joseph Cornell or the assemblages of Peter Blake. But what about things that are not just obsolete but have never had any use at all? That’s the curious question prompted by a