Yes, but is it chess?

6/28/2003 – On June 28 London's Gilbert Collection opens a special exhibition entitled The Art of Chess. It begins with a match between chess prodigy David Howell (12) and thw world's youngest GM Sergey Karjakin, 13. However, if you visit the exhibtion it will be the unusual chess sets that will catch your breath.

The Art of Chess

28th June – 28th September 2003


David Howell, left, and Sergei Karjakin prepare for their exhibition match

To celebrate the opening of the Art of Chess exhibition at the Gilbert Collection 12-year-old David Howell from Eastbourne will take on Sergei Karjakin, the youngest Grandmaster in chess history (see our previous report). The exhibition match, using giant chess pieces, will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 28, 2003 in the Edmond J Safra Courtyard of Somerset House, Strand, London WC2. Afterwards, members of the public will be able to pit their wits against the two young stars of the chess world in a simultaneous open-air chess display, between noon and 5 pm. Forty tables will be in play at once and there will be a prize for anyone who manages to draw or win a game against one of the young champions.

The chess exhibition

Throughout the 20th century the game of chess has been an inspiration, if not an obsession, for artists. The Art of Chess exhibition features nineteen chess sets dating from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day.

Each set illustrates a move in the fictional last game played by Napoleon with General Bertrand on St Helena in 1820.


Fabergé Chess Set. Workmaster Karl Gustav Hjalmar Armfelt, circa 1905. King 8 cm, Pawn 4.5 cm, Board 63.5 x 63.5 cm. Dr George and Vivian Dean.

In the starting position is the world's only known set designed by Carl Fabergé, specially made in 1905 for Tsar Nicolas II's Commander-in-Chief of the Russo-Japanese War, General Alexei Kouropatkin.


Propaganda Chess Set: Capitalists v Communists. Natalia and Yelena Danko, Lomonosov State Porcelain Factory, Leningrad, 1925. King 11.5 cm, Pawn 5.9 cm


Close-up of the Propaganda Chess Set

Visitors can then follow the game through the porcelain designs of the Lomonosov State Porcelain Factory in Russia in the 1920s; the 'Propaganda' chess set with Capitalists versus Communists; to Marcel Duchamp's Buenos Aires chess set of 1919, and the geometric designs of the Bauhaus set by Josef Hartwig.


The Pumpkin Chess set by Yayoi Kusama (born 1929), porcelain.


The Pumpkin set: King 14.5 cm, Pawn 6.5 cm.

There is also a set created by leading Fluxist artist Yoko Ono, as well as five specially commissioned new designs by Damien Hirst, Yayoi Kusama, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Paul McCarthy and Maurizio Cattelan, the latter being laid out as the final move; checkmate. In legend at least Napoleon won his last great battle!

The exhibition is generously supported by Oleg Deripaska.


Good versus Evil, 2003 by Maurizio Cattelan (born 1960)


Cattelan set: porcelain; king: 16 cm; pawn: 11 cm, board leather; 52 x 52 x 3.2 cm


Chess Set, 2003 by Jake and Dinos Chapman (Jake born 1966; Dinos born 1962)


Material: Bronze, glass, paint, miniature wigs; knight: 22 cm, pawn: 11 cm; Board and box: stained wood and inlaid skull and crossbones veneer; 90 x 90 x 27 cm


Mental Escapology, 2003, by Damien Hirst (born 1965). Cast glass, silver; king: 19 cm; pawn: 5.5 cm. Board: mirrored glass; 72 x 72 x 4 cm. Cabinet: glass, mirrored glass, wood, stainless steel; 65.6 x 81.6 x 16. Modified surgical trolley; 88 x 55 x 55 cm.


Kitchen Set, 2003, by Paul McCarthy (born 1945).


King: 39 cm; pawn: 3 cm. Board: wooden flooring; 100 x 100 cm

Photographs: Sophie Lindsay


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