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26 Treasures


Great ideas come from anywhere. This is the story of how one great idea was born, how it was cared for and nurtured and how it has grown into one of the highlights of the 2010 London Design Festival.

The idea came to Rob Self-Pierson. Rob is a copywriter and on one January afternoon he was sitting in his armchair reading Twitter. From Twitter he was taken to a Guardian website and here he read how journalist Jonathan Jones believed Monet's art was haunting his dreams. Jones wrote, 'Last night I dreamed about a painting. It was Claude Monet's Bathers at La Grenouillre (1869), on display at London's National Gallery. In this painting, people at leisure are glimpsed in a spatter of dancing light: a group of three figures stand on a jetty, fragmented silhouettes against the brightness, while boats, bodies and water flicker hauntingly in the haze."

Rob explains in his blog, 'It didn't matter that I didn't know Bathers at La Grenouillre; the choice of words had put a beautiful painting into a place beyond images. Imagination. In my head something happened. An idea arrived, triggered by this paragraph, I got so excited, so charged, so fearful of the idea I'd just had, my eyes filled.’

Eager to try this out for himself, Rob began writing his own words to a famous painting. He attempted JMW Turner's Fighting Temeraire and an idea began to form in his head that Copy could in fact be considered Art. It was an interesting idea. Next Rob met with copywriting supremo John Simmons and together they examined its potential.

Over the next couple of weeks, Copy Is Art developed into 26 Treasures (as John poured his creativity into the idea). The LDF embraced the project, and then pitched it to the V&A, and a small idea inspired by reading a small paragraph became part of an international exhibition.

Earlier this year a brief went out to the writers group 26. The brief required that twenty six writers be randomly paired with an object from the British Galleries in the V&A - a delicate locket, an 18th-century bust of Homer, Mr Nobody with a Drinking Glass, and more. The writers were not asked to provide anything dry, descriptive or historical. They were asked to treasure these pieces and let them into their lives. Their challenge was to tell the story of their object in exactly 62 words

It's a great idea  26 writers, each in exactly 62 words, create a piece of art that compliments or re-frames a piece from the V&A British Galleries collection. It's a concept that has proved to be so popular even Visit London are promoting it. And since its launch many more writers have asked to take part. You can read more about the 26 Treasures project here along with musings from the various writers on their approach to the challenge and the relationship between words and pictures.

Oh and one last thing. I also put my name in the hat to be a writer for this project. Luckily my name was picked out and as fate would have it, I was paired with this rather impressive court dress from 1744.

Anyway, my 62 words and the words of all 25 other writers including poets Andrew Motion and Maura Dooley will be on display next to the objects during the London Design Festival, from 18  26 September.

Hope to see you there.

26Treasures - Trailer from 26treasures on Vimeo.

If you cant make it to LDF simply click here to go to the 26 Treasures website
LDF Website
Home of the writers group 26
Robs blog

John Fountain is senior writer at Avvio



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