Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Finally! A book that makes tidying less of a chore and more of an art form

From the book: The Art of Cleanup

The Art of Clean Up: Life Made Neat and Tidy
Ursus Wehrli
Chronicle Books

Life is messy. Must your bowl of fruit salad be as well? Ursus Wehrli says no.

If you've ever fought (or given into) the urge to colour-code your bookshelves, if surfing online porn means perusing the California Closets website, if the department-store change room on Boxing Day gives you the shakes, know that you have a friend in Wehrli, who has made his mark on this chaotic world by transforming visual cacophony into de-cluttered palettes of order.

In his first book, Tidying Up Art, Wehrli – a Swiss comedian, performer and artist – took works by modern masters and fixed them up into more rational, organized canvases.

Story continues below advertisement

"It's a confusion of colour," he complains about the Paul Klee painting Farbtafel in a 2006 TED talk.

"The artist doesn't really seem to know where to put the different colours." (Cue the laughter; this is funny.)

In his new book, The Art of Clean Up: Life Made Neat and Tidy, Wehrli turns his attention to everyday objects and spaces, and makes art out of the transformation.

Targets include a parking lot, a barnyard, a Christmas tree, a bowl of alphabet soup. Even a lineup of grocery-store patrons – or, more specifically, their carts – is not immune. Beach umbrellas, French fries – he organizes them all: geometrically, chromatically, by size and always with whimsy.

Under Wehrli's playful watch, an Ikea-type ballroom becomes a kind of large-scale pointillist flag for order; a bouquet is disassembled and we are reminded that it is so much more than the sum of its parts.

Marsha Lederman is The Globe and Mail's Western arts correspondent.

Report an error

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨