In 2001, the postmodernist Scottish artist Martin Creed won the Turner Prize with his conceptual artwork 227: The Lights Going On and Off. Now (2010), nine years later, this rare work - consisting incidentally of an empty room with a flickering light bulb, or rather, a set of instructions to this effect - has been donated to the nation by its creator. Although ridiculed by a number of small-minded art critics, and pelted with eggs by one of Creed's envious artist-rivals, this conceptual masterpiece has since been exhibited at some of the world's leading galleries of avant-garde art including most recently the Museum of Modern Art MoMA in New York.
The main contemporary art event in Edinburgh, by general consent, is Martin Creed's show at the Fruitmarket Gallery. This takes place on two floors, but also the staircase that connects them, which has become an outsize musical instrument, and the lift that ascends and descends to the sound of angelic voices rising and falling. It is no criticism to call the exhibition charming.
Creed probably delighted as many people with Work No 850, in which athletes sprinted through Tate Britain at timed intervals, as he previously enraged in the same place with Work No 227, in which the gallery lights turned on and off, also at equal intervals. In both cases, he was accused of taking the mickey. There was not enough art, there was no art at all, it was an insult to one's intelligence. To his admirers, of course, it was just the opposite.
Creed's work is often a small intervention in the world, making use of existing materials or situations rather than bringing new material into the world. He uses whatever medium seems suitable. Since 1987, he has numbered each of his works, and most of his titles are deadpan and descriptive. Work No. 79: some Blu-tack kneaded, rolled into a ball and depressed against a wall (1993), for example, is just what it sounds like, as is Work No. 88, a sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball (1994).