White Van Gallery Hits The Road


How private do you like your private views? Abby Kearney talks to artist duo Wilson and Wilson about driving their White Van Gallery directly to the viewer, their unusual studio space, and using the cut-up technique to form press releases…

Lucas Wilson sits smoking on a bubble-wrapped sofa, staring blankly ahead at a 42’’ Samsung TV cardboard box. It is a muggy August Sunday morning. The partial, packaged living room set, a white van, Lucas and I, are the only occupants of the rear car park of a North Manchester storage unit facility.

Artist Wilson and his collaborator, artist and writer Daniel Wilson McMillan (together, Wilson and Wilson), have been calling this storage facility “studio” for the past six weeks.

I am here today to visit the unit in which they are preparing their upcoming exhibition, entitled White Van Gallery.

After greeting Lucas (we’ll keep to first name terms, to save any confusion) with a nod, I settle on the arm of the sofa, to a series of pops.

Lucas does not move. I shift about pointedly. More pops.

“Just watching this”, he explains, gesturing languidly about himself.

“Anything good on?”, I laugh.

“Watching it for him”, he says, waving to a man exiting the van. Extinguishing his cigarette with his foot, Lucas beckons for me to follow him inside.

“Neither of us have a studio, or much money. We needed to look at alternative spaces”

Excepting the thud of our footsteps and the hum of the air conditioning, all is quiet in the facility’s labyrinthine corridors. Quiet, until we reach Unit G042, from which drifts the sounds of muffled radio.

Lucas unlocks the door, enters, and I follow. The force of the door slamming blows tiny bits of paper off a trestle table set up near to the unit’s entrance. A few pieces settle around my feet. They are cut out words: “Materiality”, “liminality”, “sculptur-ed”.

Raising my eyes from “uncanny”, I meet the cool gaze of Daniel. “That was the press release”, he remarks, scalpel in hand.

“We’ve been cutting up different kinds of art writing and joining them up to make our press release”, explains Lucas. He shows me an iPhone photo of the cuttings laid out on the table. “Art reviews, exhibition guides, artist statements… That kind of thing. A rehash.”

I follow Daniel through the space, helping collect the words. He flattens each and puts them into his breast pocket.

Lucas moves to stick the top half of a falling poster back to the unit’s wall. The poster falls again and stays fallen, hanging like a massive tongue.


The idea of working in a storage space was as much a practical decision as a conceptual one, Daniel explains.

(The practicality of displaying work on the unit’s corrugated walls, however, is apparently questionable).

He continues: “Neither of us have a studio, or much money. We needed to look at alternative spaces. The original idea was to exhibit a retrospective of shelved Wilson and Wilson ideas, forgotten artworks, a storage unit seemed like an appropriate place to put it all together. It’s a place of liminality, suspension…”

He pauses, rubbing a paper word between thumb and forefinger.

These stalled ideas are evidenced about the space. Boxes labelled with past projects and works-in- progress line the unit’s perimeter. “Artwork for art gallery toilets”, “The Weekend Supplement”, “Pottery night class”.

From a Fyffe’s bananas box labelled “Arts and craft” I pull out a polythene folder. It contains hand-drawn floorplans of several major UK art galleries. Areas denoting galleries, toilets, gift shops etc. have been coloured coded in delicate watercolour. The paintings are in various stages of completion.

“We’re now going to load the work into the back of a hire van and drive the exhibition to the viewer”

I ask whether these will be finished and included in the exhibition.

“There’s no such thing as a finished work”, Lucas replies, after a long silence. “What you finish, materially, with one work you continue or abandon, thematically, in the next. All art work is work in progress, when you think about it. That’s what this exhibition is partly about. How meaning keeps evolving, constantly in flux.”

“He’s a lazy git”, remarks Daniel.

“Take this for example”, Lucas continues, gesturing to a stack of sawn-in-half magazines on the floor. “I made this on my second year at university. I was going through a bad breakup and stopped going to the studio. My tutor used to hand his favourite students a copy of Sculpture magazine each month. When I finally showed up, I found four issues piled on top of my desk, it was like coming home from holiday and realising you’d forgotten to cancel your milk order. Depressed, out of ideas, and out of touch with the art world, I arranged them into a neat stack and sawed them down the middle.”

Taking a closer look, I notice the magazines’ dates. I point out that the issues are from this year.

“It’s a remake. I didn’t think much of the work at the time and probably binned it soon after. But I started thinking about it again recently in relation to [Daniel’s] cut up press releases, in relation to ideas surrounding language and materiality… memory.”


An ordnance survey map of Greater Manchester is spread out over a trestle table against the unit’s back wall. On top are novelty bumper stickers: “MY OTHER PAINTING IS A SCULPTURE”, “CURATOR ON BOARD”, and “HOW’S MY DRIVING? CONTACT INFO@ARTMONTHLY.COM.”

When we had previously spoken to arrange this meeting, the pair had not confirmed a space for the exhibition. Have they found a site?

“That’s the big question, isn’t it”, Daniel reflects. “Where to put all this art that satirises the art world while maintaining a critical vantage point […] We’re looking for somewhere neutral, if such a place exists. We originally planned to install right here in the storage unit, but the duty manager wasn’t too keen. We’re now going to load the work into the back of a hire van and drive the exhibition to the viewer.”

“To their house?”

“Yes, or wherever is convenient”, Daniel replies, emptying the contents of his breast pocket onto the trestle table. “A private view.”

He returns to arranging and re-arranging the cut-out words. Press release skeletons surround the trestle table. They have been picked apart as cleanly as carcasses in the desert.

Daniel and Lucas will stay on late tonight, as most nights until the exhibition opens, taking full advantage of the storage unit’s 24-hour access policy.

I, however, have a tram to catch.

Lucas walks me to the car park. On our way out through the facility’s main corridor we pass a woman lugging a lamp and a large abstract painting.

“Competition”, Lucas jokes. “How long till we start to see rent hikes? Pop-ups?”

“I stare through its rear windows. I try to envision what Wilson and Wilson’s exhibition might look like”

Back in the car park, I find the living room set is gone. The van it was unloaded from remains in the same parking space.

I stare through its rear windows. I try to envision what Wilson and Wilson’s exhibition might look like. I reflect on the limitations of installing an exhibition in the back of a hire van.

The lack of space.

How private do people like their private views?

We’ll just have to wait until they get the show on the road to find out.

Abby Kearney

White Van Gallery will tour Greater Manchester 9–10 September 2017. To arrange a viewing, email whitevangallery[at]outlook.com

POST EDIT UPDATE: Viewings added: Saturday 9 September, 4–6pm at Platt Fields Park car park (Mabfield Road entrance, car park is located beside the skate park), M14 6LA, and Sunday 10 September, 9–11am at Bowlee Carboot Sale, Middleton, M24 4TH

Images, top: detail, from Press release, and bottom, full image. Centre: White Van Gallery Bumper Sticker. Courtesy Wilson and Wilson, with thanks

Posted on 24/08/2017 by thedoublenegative