Arts Etc: The Critics: VISUAL ART: Don't Just Stand There - Think Something! ; Do-Ho Suh Serpentine Gallery LONDON

Article excerpt

Here's a question for you to chew over with your Sunday Wheaties: is it possible for an art space to be just too pretty for art?

It's a thought that strikes you as you walk into the Serpentine Gallery, currently host to a show of work by Do-Ho Suh. The Serpentine is a cute place, its white-cube walls punctuated by windows giving views of skipping children. Put anything inside it and it will end up looking nice. Observe that much of the work shown at the Serpentine isn't really about niceness, and you'll see the problem. This seems particularly acute because the gallery's exhibitions policy leans towards the exotic: Cuban conceptualists, Iranian film-makers and now a Korean sculptor. The overall effect is to suggest that non-European art, no matter how political, is stylish, decorative and, my dear, so chic, as though the Serpentine were a duty-free shop for designer ethnography.

Oddly, though, this architectural imperialism works for Suh, his art being about both imperialists and architecture. Suh is best known for his exact silk recreations of spaces - Korean houses, his New York apartment - two of which are in this show. These are bizarrely precise, so that, seen in the Serpentine's Comme des Garcons context, you wonder whether they mightn't be being peddled as tents for Wallpaper* readers. There's a sense of shopping around, too, in High School Uni-Form, in which Suh has put a phalanx of 60 Korean students' jackets on a mobile aluminium garment rail. Next door is another piece of clothing, Some / One, this time made from a chain-mail of army identity tags. It, too, has a couture feel, the kind of thing the goddess Bellona might wear to Paris Fashion Week.

So why does all this commodifying work in Suh's favour? Let's start with Floor, the opening work in the show. A glass floor held up on the innumerable hands of tiny plastic figures, the first thing that strikes you about the piece is its prettiness. …