Obscured objects of desire

Fancy a free Lamborghini Superjeep or a Ducati Paso 960 motorbike? That, in effect, is the offer to buyers at artist Tobias Rehberger’s latest show.

The catch is, the keys are embedded in some of the works – lumpy, lime-green paperweights – and you must break the £80 000 objects to get them out. Tricky, eh? On the walls, graffiti referencing painter Henri Rousseau’s phantasmal Eden and the writer Hermann Hesse contrasts with the ashes of designer dresses, which Rehberger has burnt and plastered into cracks.

A curator might say the 40-year-old German is satirising the narcissistic folly of consumerism, and Jeremy Clarkson that he’s steering up his own back alley. My view, peering at a platinum rice grain and chopsticks made from pulverised Roman glassware, is a bit of both. Such nano-Minimalism teases and ultimately thwarts our expectations of style and functionality. Is today’s art merely a species of product design? Should that censorious ‘merely’ be there at all? Rehberger can pose tantalising questions about category and perception, yet, here, that argument becomes a little tiresome. Clearly, he’s playing with notions of value. But there’s no mystery transaction between art and commerce – it comes down to what people will pay for.

Tobias Rehberger: Seven Naked Hermann Hesse Fans and Other Gems, runs until 3 May at Haunch of Venison, 6 Haunch of Vension Yard, off Brook Street, London W1. Tel: 020 7495 5050

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