The Financial Times, p. 10
12 July 2009
With its turrets rearing above Chiltern Street, the disused Victorian Fire Station in central London is soon to be converted by Manhattan Loft Corporation. Shelock Holmes, Baker Streets most famous resident, would have relished a chance to inspect the installation temporarily transforming the Fire Stations main space. Here, in a massive room where firefighters once slid down a shiny pole and leapt into their engines, an Artangel commission has enabled Charles LeDray to present his first big project in Europe. After labouring single-handed for three years in his Manhattan studio, he has produced a work guaranteed to haunt the memory of everyone who encounters it.
The darkness is punctuated by three sets of fluorescent lights, all suspended by wires from the lofty ceiling and hanging low over three ensembles on the floor. The clothes in the nearest one, produced and arranged with meticulous care, look small enough to have been made for children but a closer look reveals that they are designed with adult males in mind.
Proclaiming a proud world of office dress and club members etiquette, no fewer than 71 patterned neckties fanned out on a round table seem to be waiting for an owner to select a favourite. The jacket displayed alongside looks spruce enough, a showy hankerchief tucked neatly into its upper pocket. Yet the tailors dummy beneath the jacket looks alarmingly decapitated and the back of the garment is crudely pierced by a safety pin.
What is going on here? LeDray a famously private artist who never received formal art training, offers no explanation apart from calling the entire work Mens Suits. But their forlorn, unwanted air intensifies as we move on to the second ensemble. Here, jackets ranged in a circular formation on hangers are accompanied by summer shirts. Although gaudy, they look at once expectant and woebegone.
The melancholy deepens when we reach the last ensemble. Coats and jackets are now hung in straight lines, and they soon give way to rows of empty hangers one of which is forlornly inscribed We Love Our Customers. Nobody, however, loves these garments. They festoon a small step-ladder and an ironing board but now neatness has given way to disorder. Three bags, stuffed into boxes on wheels, bulge with more clothes. A solitary black sock lies mangled in a corner.
The sense of mortality has become overwhelming. We feel that the anonymous owner of this stuff has died and that everything is being cleared away. LeDrays diligently handmade clothing acts as a vanitas still life, symbolizing the inevitable transience of humanity and all its trappings.
- Richard Cork