But its vigour comes from the presence of 21 participating artists drawn together by a team of five curators hailing from South Africa, India, Canada, New Zealand and England. The crowdpleasers are located at the entrance to the exhibition, where South African Mary Sibande has arranged her massive purple sculpture The Allegory Of Growth, and in the longest and lightest room on the top floor, where compatriot Kay Hassan presents My Father's Music Room. A huge and intricate installation, it consists of racks of old vinyl records, a sofa, kitsch knick-knacks and an antique music centre. Jazz music blares out while family portraits stare down solemnly from the walls.
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On the first floor, London-based Nigerian Mary Evans presents gold-framed silhouettes of African women and we encounter Pakistani artist Masooma Syed, who uses empty Chivas Regal and Johnny Walker boxes to make 3D models which are part architectural sculpture, part children's pop-up book. If it's solemnity you want, Pascal Grandmaison's video piece Soleil Differe has it. His slow-moving black and white film was shot at the now-abandoned site of Montreal's Expo 67 World Fair. In the Old Royal High School, meanwhile, New Delhi-based artist Amar Kanwar presents The Sovereign Forest, an exhibition-within-an-exhibition consisting of a video piece and a series of installations, the most beautiful of which is a large parchment book on which the images appear to move.
Aiming for the funny bone, though with deadly serious intent, are Toronto-based Derek Sullivan and New Zealander Steve Carr. The first presents Kiosk, an octagonal construction with a domed roof onto which he has pasted sheets of paper repeating a stark message about the plight of Indian workers in the Gulf. Carr's video piece, Burn Out, shows a pick-up truck burning rubber soundlessly in a suburban street. Next to the monitor is MK1 Skyline, a reconstruction from a single piece of walnut of a tyre shredded by an anonymous boy racer. It's dumb, joyous, beautiful and scary.
The exhibition's format appears to promise diversity above all else, but thematic parameters have been imposed. Chief among them are the Commonwealth and the ideas that underpin it: ideas about community, public good and the common weal. But treat the show simply as a survey of what's happening art-wise in Johannesburg, Auckland, Mumbai and Montreal, and how the world and its history looks from those places, and you'll lose nothing from the experience. In fact, I'd say that's where the exhibition's real value lies.