Running round Tate Britain

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Artist Martin Creed runs as part of the ‘Work No 850’ project

There may be more beautiful art shows in town – but the latest Tate gallery commission is undoubtedly the fastest.

Martin Creed, who won the Turner Prize in 2001 for his infamous installation of a light turning on and off, on Monday unveiled his latest work for Tate Britain – a team of sprinters taking it in turn to run the 86-metre length of its neo-classical Duveen galleries.

The sprinters, who have been recruited through running clubs, have been instructed by the artist to run “as if their lives depended on it.” They have also received instruction on how to weave their way through the crowds that congregate in the galleries at peak times.

Mr Creed said his work, entitled “Work No 850”, represented “the purest expression of human vitality”.

“I like running,” he said. “Running is the opposite of being still. If you think about death as being completely still and movement as a sign of life, then the fastest movement possible is the biggest sign of life.

“Running fast is like the exact opposite of death: it is an example of aliveness.”

Stephen Deuchar, director of Tate Britain, described the project as “compelling, simple and lyrical”.

“In lifting an everyday activity out of its usual context and dropping it into the central galleries of Tate Britain, it upsets any preconceived ideas of how to move appropriately through an art space,” he said.

Mr Creed said he was inspired to create the work after visiting the catacombs of the Cappuccini monks in Palermo, Italy. Arriving just five minutes before closing time, he was forced to run around the space.

The Duveen commission is becoming one of the most controversial annual art events in London. Last year’s winner was Mark Wallinger’s “State Britain”, an exact duplication of Brian Haw’s Parliament Square protest against British policy in Iraq.

“Work No 850”, which opens on Tuesday, will run until mid-November.

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