Visual Arts: Where Are We? (er, in a Gallery) ; Location: UK Gimpel Fils LONDON

Article excerpt

"Come to London", say the words spray painted across a tourist poster of an ancient Middle Eastern city. This piece - by the art collective Bank - is the perfect introduction to Location: UK, a group show which explores different perceptions of Britain. There we are, thinking we live in a happy, tolerant, democratic country, a place that, surely, anybody from the Middle East would rather live right now. But look again at the blood-red graffitied lettering in Come to London and maybe this poster is saying something else - maybe it's saying come to London and give its smug face a great big kick in the teeth.

Come to London is filled with a tension and topicality that is lacking in many of the other works in this show. But the reasons for this are fairly obvious - the curatorial rigour you would expect from a public gallery or museum is not paramount here, whereas selling the work is. But as long as you bear this in mind you can forget the irritation of encountering an apparently irrelevant piece, like the photo of a factory in Italy by Adam Chodzko, and see the exhibition as an interesting cross- section of contemporary art made over the past 10 years. Plus there's the added frisson of being handed a price list, which always brings another perspective to an art show.

A couple of very familiar images stand out in this smart open- plan gallery, in particular one of Richard Billingham's 1994 portraits of his parents and two of Martin Parr's pictures from his 1992 series Signs of the Times. Along with Corinne Day, two of whose photographs also appear here, these artists are interested in bringing the lives and loves of ordinary people (low culture) into the realms of high culture (the gallery space). …