16 January 2013 § Leave a Comment
A giraffe is a horse designed by committee – or so the maxim goes – and it is clear that the London Art Fair is similarly organised by some sort of dysfunctional gathering. The result here is a multi headed dinosaur of a show that really doesn’t know what it is doing or where it is going.
I went along to the first – ‘VIP’ – day of the LAF 2013 yesterday with hopes that I would be able to discern some sort of improvement for a Fair that has, over a number of years now, tried without success to respond to the threat of Frieze and the booming appeal of international art fairs to the London dealers. I wanted to pick out the highlights and enlighten you dear reader with some delightful imagery from my phone-cam. I failed.
BF (Before Frieze) the fair was no doubt the art fair in London but in recent years has struggled to find a voice. This years is no exception with its identity crisis even more evident. We have a rump of Modernist galleries that occupy the best (?) central locations in the hall whilst generally mediocre contemporary galleries, year on year, steadily push on to their turf. Upstairs on the balcony are the sort of depressing galleries – typically found in coastal tourist spots – offering meaningless ‘contemporary’ work by obscure artists. Pushed off to the side in a strange warren of rooms we then have Art Projects – the ‘emerging artists and new work’.
Add on to that Photo 50 – a curated exhibition of contemporary and historical photography, a bunch a galleries offering editions, others with books and publications and you have a mish-mash of a fair that aims to please everyone but appeals to nobody.
The first fair of the year in the art world’s most happening city should be an exciting and appealing event. As the easternmost of London’s fairs dozens of London’s most dynamic galleries and artists are virtually within walking distance, but are they here? No – they wouldn’t be seen dead at this old-fashioned event which promotes some left over bits of Modernist art from mid-level galleries (the best Modernist Galleries now keep well away too!) whilst the young and innovative galleries are shunted off to the side in a subterranean limbo.
As for attracting the big buyers, ‘VIP’ pass holders are offered their own lounge with drinks and canapes. This turns out to be a small sweaty, messy and overcrowded room where the canapes get about four feet past the bar before being hoovered up. I don’t think real VIPs would be impressed.
My personal (and what do I know, but I’m going to say anyway…) tips to LAF. Dump the few modernist galleries. Go contemporary. Focus on something – photography, emerging artists, small galleries - anything. If not the LAF horse is well on its way to the knackers yard to be ground in to Tesco art beef burgers, and that would be a sad loss to London’s limited choice of fairs.
Artists from top: Virgilio Ferreira, Alan Davie, Shih Hsiung Chou, Alex Ball. Other than Alan Davie the artists are amongst those featured in this years excellent Catlin Guide.
- London Art Fair: A varied fair full of adventure (telegraph.co.uk)
17 November 2012 § Leave a Comment
I made my first trip to Paris Photo this week and unlike most French events (apologies for the generalisation but I’ve been to a few!) this was well organised with efficient and helpful administration for my (late) Press accreditation.
Now In its 13th year and its second at the Palais, this is an event that has hauled itself up the photo-fair ladder to being must-go European event running only second after APAID in NY in importance worldwide. It has a magnificent location in the historic main hall of the Grand Palais – inaugurated in 1900 for the Universal Exhibition it is an Art Nouveau jewel topped with a vast glazed dome.
After an orderly, if slightly illogical, queuing system for the inevitable first morning rush you enter the grand and airy main hall. Here there are over 150 exhibitors which include most of the big name galleries. There are the photo specialists like Hamiltons, Zander and Camera Work where you will quickly spot most of the big names of the photo world: William Eggleston, Robert Frank, Martin Parr alongside fashion photographers that have somewhat transcended the genre to become accepted in the art world – people like David Bailey and Tim Walker.
I also found it pleasing to spot some galleries more associated with the contemporary art world than photography – Gagosian, David Zwirner and Paradise Row and artists similarly aligned like Christian Marclay, Thomas Ruff and Gerhard Richter. Magnum and others bring in photojournalism whilst last but not least the burgeoning Art-Book world has its own section and a display of books competing for an annual prize.
The eclectic mix reflects the fact that photography is now almost totally integrated in to the world of contemporary art rather than being the parallel universe that it once was. This fair also has a ‘Vu par’ selection from film-maker David Lynch whose selection is published separately and who appears ‘In conversation’ on Sunday.
I tried to seek out works that represented the less traditional modes of photography and found some excellent work. Hans-Christian Schink at Robert Morat travelled the world to take hour long exposures of the sky. The sun burning a black trace, like a floating wand across the final image, its direction dependent upon the hemisphere and latitude.
At Von Lintel John Chiara works were made by exposing photographic paper directly within varying home made ‘cameras’, some as large as a truck. The resulting images showing flares, anomalies and colour inversions. The results are unusual and disquieting.
At the same stand Marco Breuers works are also unique editions – using heat elements to burn, melt scratch and scar photographic paper. Images, ironically, do not do justice to the textures of the ‘real’ thing.
David Bailey is an ususual name to add to this ground-breaking list. His latest works are photographs taken from TV war documentaries. The blurred, semi-abstract images are striking and follow from his recent – and not very sucessful – anti-war paintings.
Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin cleverly examine politics and ethnography having works at more than one stand. Political 1 (illustrated above) being one of David Lynch‘s selections.
A final personal favourite was in the photo book section Julian Baron’s CENSURA turns the tables on lying and manipulating politicians and bleaches them with over-exposure and flash, denying them the publicity they seek. Currently only available as a photo book.
The only downside of this excellent fair was pathetic catering with a minimal choice of dry baguettes, no espresso coffee, and totally inadequate seating – most people resorting to staircases to take a break. But then again if everything was perfect you wouldn’t know you were in Paris, would you?
Paris Photo runs until 18 November 2012 at Grand Palais. The inaugural Paris Photo LA takes place 25-28 April 2013 in Los Angeles.
- IHT Rendezvous: At Paris Photo, What David Lynch Likes and an Archive of Conflict (rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Paris Photo at the Grand Palais – Text and pictures by Valentin Jardinier–Almodovar (dianepernet.typepad.com)
- Fashion abounds at Paris Photo 2012 (dianepernet.typepad.com)
9 November 2012 § 1 Comment
Saltaire in Shipley, West Yorkshire is a remarkable place. It is effectively an entire community created by social-minded mill owner, Sir Titus Salt, around his thriving woollen mill including shops, schools, church, hospital, alms houses and an institute (but no pub!). Completely preserved and still a lived-in and thriving community it has been declared a UNESCO world-heritage site. Its pretty streets have trendy corner shops and for a quick break there are cultured coffee-shops.At its heart stands the vast Salts Mill, a small part of which has been given over to an arts centre and gallery complete with shops, cafe and restaurant. It is here that I dropped in last week to see the current David Hockney exhibition en route to the East Yorkshire wolds – or should I say ‘Hockney Country’ as it is effectively now known.
Salts Mill is a wonderfully atmospheric space which, as you would expect, clearly shows its industrial heritage. Solid stone stairs lead to stone-paved halls with giant iron beams and red brick walls. Arts, crafts, books, antiques and home furnishings are sold in open plan areas. All very airy and relaxing.
On the top floor is the excellent, if modest in scope, Hockney exhibition. In a darkened area three screens rotate his pleasant, if undemanding, ipad drawings (note to self – I MUST buy that Brushes app and have a go myself…). Along two other walls are excellent, more worked-up ipad portraits which recall earlier Hockney portraits in oils. Simple lines and bright colours with an impeccable eye for pattern and colour make these simple works highly appealing.
On another wall three twenty-seven foot long photographic panoramas show Bessingby Road in Bridlington in three seasons. I suspect the fourth is missing due to height restrictions of the gallery walls! Interesting but hardly impressive, although this work is of course more about ‘looking’ and observation than art.
Two portrait shaped acrylics of local landscapes make up this neat little exhibition. It is probably only worth a special visit for the ultimate Hockney enthusiast but the experience of Salts Mill and Saltaire village make this a delightful detour or day trip for anyone in the area.
The exhibition is on 10.30 to 4 Wednesday to Sunday and is free of charge. There is no published end date that I can find. Please check at their excellent website!
- Saltaire – the Victorian model village on your doorstep (thenewsroom.co.uk)
- Titus Salt (maydelory.wordpress.com)
20 October 2012 § 1 Comment
Recently nipped up to Reykjavik – one of my favourite cities – for a short break to watch Yoko Ono flick the switch for the dramatic Lennon Peace Tower. A narrow beam of laser light that shines infinitely in to space the Tower is Yoko’s contribution to Lennon’s memory as well as a bold statement on World Peace.
A few days before departure the excellent Wilkinson Gallery, quite coincidentally, sent me an invitation to visit the Phoebe Unwin exhibition at The Corridor (or its equivalent in Icelandic). The opportunity seemed too good to miss. For those not familiar with this particular gallery – everyone I would guess – you need to negotiate a convenient time to visit when the owner is home, drive to an apartment block on the outskirts of town, discover from a friendly local which buzzer is the right one and climb a few flights of stairs to Helgi Fridjonsson’s modest apartment.
Corridor is slightly inaccurate since the gallery space occupies a hallway and front room where works hang variously amongst rampant spider plants, behind sofas and over a desk. Helgi is himself an artist and has been running this modest space for some thirty years and seems to enjoy the experience. His exhibitor list over the years is very impressive: Ceal Floyer, Fischli & Weiss and Per Kirkeby are amongst those many artists who have exhibited here, often before they became more well-known.
I have always been a fan of Phoebe’s dreamy acrylics that cleverly express a variety of emotions and feelings as much as person or place and the selection of works here are a good representation of her work.
A lovely little show – no end date is noted on the Wilkinson or Galleri Gangur (thats Corridor to you) websites – so who knows/ It may still be running the next time you’re in Iceland!
The Corridor (Galleri Gangur), Rekagrandi 8, Reykjavik 15, Iceland
- Lady Gaga wins peace award from John Lennon and Yoko Ono (contactmusic.com)
- IMAGINE PEACE TOWER – John Lennon (from Yoko Ono) (ireport.cnn.com)
- Imagine Peace Tower For more photos of the Peace Tower and… (instagram.com)
18 October 2012 § Leave a Comment
Another uninspiring Frieze his year. I suppose that once the art world has – like every year – built it up to be the London event of the year there is only one result: some degree of disappointment. Despite this Frieze of course remains the best UK contemporary art fair and a must visit to try at catch a whiff of the zeitgeist of the contemporary art market. Here are a few of the things that caught our eye this year. No particular reason. No particular order. No analyses of who sold what. And most definitely no ‘who was seen where’ nonsense.
A melting Paul McCarthy White Snow Head at Hauser & Wirth.
A Gavin Turk neon door.
Julian Opie‘s rather neat sculptures – and a mosaic.
One of a few large and impressive Wolfgang Tillmans images.
Something made of some substance made by somebody South American (I think?)
And outside, in the rain a pretty Yayoi Kusama from Victoria Miro.
1 October 2012 § 2 Comments
High House is a rare thing – a genuine contemporary art gallery located outside London. In place of impressionistic landscapes and meaningless abstracts usually found in regional ‘Contemporary Art’ galleries High House actually features genuine ‘critically-engaged’ contemporary work.
The leafy Oxfordshire village of Clanfield lies on the edge of the Cotswolds and is complete with a stream alongside the green and obligatory and pretty Cotswold Pub (The Plough - recommended!). High House itself is a grade II listed Gothic mansion dating back to 1856 and is an impressive home for the small gallery space.
The current exhibition entitled Imagined Pasts / Unknown Futures, is the galleries third and features three highly regarded artists: Jonathan Baldock who features strongly in the Saatchi collection, Paul McDevitt from Stephen Friedman‘s Mayfair stable whilst Tim Phillips has had recent exhibitions with SumarriaLunn who are based in London’s West End.
Each exhibited artist makes theatrical hybrid works that fuse conventional modes of representation with imaginary worlds created from art-historical references and contemporary iconography. From Baldock’s use of kitchen-table crafts to Phillips’ traditional inlay and McDevitt’s colour-pencil drawings the artists consummate skill is self-evident whilst the works they create are far from the comfortable traditional world of the craftsman.
Through grotesque and carnivalesque felt sculptures Jonathan Baldock utilises and departs from the canons of figurative representation – the head, the bust, and the reclining figure. Ruminating on a gamut of sculptural styles from primitivism to romanticism, abstraction to postmodernism he weaves multiple elements together to create works of the present. He explores the territories between animal, human and inanimate forms, creating strange, hybrid objects, revelling in a love of the dark, glamorous and uncanny spectacle of theatre, where the beautiful unmasks the horrific.
Focused on the language of power, Tim Phillips’ constructs beautifully detailed pieces of ‘useless’ furniture. With for example detailed marquetry and carefully embroidered panels he exposes the choreographed languages of object, ritual and icon. The artist sees this process as a theatre within the sculptures he makes. The colours, materials and composition invite the audience to participate in a staged ritual of illusory grandeur. His theatrical objects are layered in precise veneers, shiny plastics or plain mdf, their detailed geometries and grandiose structures combined with the use of religious and corporate iconography giving weight to their rocky foundations of belief, authority and worship.
Paul McDevitt’s intricate pencil drawings – there are just two on display here – suggest a lost or undiscovered world, his subject matter derived primarily from 1950s cultural magazines and his own photographs. Much imagery focuses on anonymous graphic design which is fused with elements of architecture and landscape in his ‘unstill’ still-lives where the imagery appears to be plundered rather than arranged.
This is a fascinating and unusual exhibition in a lovely location. Add the Dividing Line exhibition in the formal gardens of High House and lunch at the Plough and its hard to imagine a nicer day out in the country.
Imagined pasts / Unknown Futures and Dividing Line continue until 14 October 2012. Opening hours are 11-5 Thursday to Sunday.
The author is a share-holder in the Gallery
- contemporary arts society moves to clerkenwell (akickupthearts.wordpress.com)
30 September 2012 § 2 Comments
Following the tragic suicide of Mike Stanley – the dynamic and inspirational director of Modern Art Oxford – I felt that I had to make the quick trip to Oxford for the preview of this, his last exhibition.
On this years Turner Prize committee the 37 year old MAO director was considered to be one of an exciting new breed of adventurous curators, pushing boundaries and not scared of being radical.
The exhibition by Jean-Luc Moulene is typically adventurous. This is an artist with a low public profile in the UK (and probably most places?) but nevertheless well-regarded within the art world. His work encompasses photography, object-making, printing, painting and sketching whilst making complex theoretical examination of the relationship between image and object.
The exhibition looks at some of his work from the last twenty years together with pieces specifically made for the show. It commences in the Upper Galleries of the MAO spaces with a series of closely spaced ‘objects’ (he doesn’t like the connotations of the word ‘sculpture’) surrounded by photographs, collages and drawings. The objects are nondescript bronze and glass ‘knots’ which act as ‘cohesive exploration of the knot as a potential tool for understanding’.
If you did not know what you were in for before arriving you are therefore thrown in at the deep end. ‘The bronze knots are expired whilst the glass knots are inspired’ Moulene states. Aha – obviously! Got it now? No, me neither.
In another work Rich 2010 Moulene places a bottle of water beside a fire. It reacts to the uneveness of the floor and heat of the fire – constantly changing. A diamond on the top suggests a decanter and questions materiality and perceptions of value. Sorry to be a philistine, but I don’t want to read an essay before looking at an artwork.
More interesting are his huge monochromes in the next, darkened, John Piper Gallery. Made from BIC pen ink applied with a palette knife the colour is amazingly vibrant and deep and reflects the blue, black, red and green colours of standard biros. Across the end wall is The Three Graces 2012 - a film work or three nude sisters atop a windy hilltop near Oxford that nicely references the familiar classical subject. Apologies for the absence of photos, but none allowed at the gallery.
This is the (French?) thinking mans artist and whilst a visit to the exhibition may prove moderately engaging to the casual visitor it really requires a background of art theory and a more than passing knowledge of the French philosophers to really enjoy it and for anyone to say that they really understand what Moulene is really up to with these works.
Oh yes, and take a minute to enjoy a coffee on the Richard Woods commissioned furniture in the cafe.
Modern Art Oxford until 25 November 2012
- Turner prize judge Michael Stanley dies aged 37 (telegraph.co.uk)
11 September 2012 § 1 Comment
Quite coincidentally, a couple of days after I make cycle tour of the Clerkenwell arts scene (see last post) I have been reminded that the excellent CAS is moving to the self-same area. The local art galleries will be delighted with the cachet that their new neighbour will bring. Arcade Gallery, a few yards away will be especially pleased and can hardly have dreamed of the bonus of extra traffic which will surely come their way.
Due to open in October 2012 their new home will be in Central Street – purpose built and designed by award-winning architects, Carmody Groarke. In addition to accommodating offices, the newly designed premises will provide their first publicly accessible programme as well as providing greater visibility in the organisation’s mission to place new works of art in public collections.
The 3,000 square feet development is split across two floors in a new, mixed purposed development and will include spaces for hosting public events, seminars and small displays of the works gifted – both currently and historically – by the Contemporary Art Society to museums across the UK.
Looking further ahead, their new home will also host an archive of the thousands of works donated by the organisation over the past 100 years, along with a study centre and research facility focused on collection development for curators, academics and arts professionals.
Membership of the society is, alongside the Tate, the best bargain for people wishing to get a closer insight in to the Contemporary Art scene in London. For just £50 – and currently reduced even further to £37.50 – members get access to a good quality series of members events, tours, seminars and courses (some at extra cost). Collector members and patrons pay more for extra benefits.
For details of the Contemporary Art Society work and details of their current membership offer go to www.contemporaryartsociety.org
- exploring the clerkenwell art scene (akickupthearts.wordpress.com)
9 September 2012 § 1 Comment
The Clerkenwell art gallery scene in London is not quite as concentrated as that in say, Mayfair. Neither is it as cutting edge as that in Peckham or Vyner Street, not as hip and trendy as Hoxton nor comfortable as Bloomsbury. It is also not as expensive as the West End or Fitzrovia or even parts of the East end. Almost by default therefore it has recently become the area of choice for a new group of young and ambitious gallerists.
I took the opportunity of a rare sunny Saturday in London to jump on a Boris bike and take a home-made tour. A bicycle by the way is the perfect mode of transport for the maze of narrow one-way back streets, just off the busy main roads, where the galleries are tucked away. The galleries themselves have assisted the touring process by printing a neat little card featuring an extract from the A to Z on one side (upon which neat numbered red spots are liberally scattered) whilst the galleries are listed on t’other side. Seventeen to be precise.
A good place to start would be the Gagosian‘s newish space in Britannia St near Kings Cross. This big, slick space is totally atypical of the usual Clerkenwell gallery as well as being a little on a northern limb, so why not get it out of the way first and move on to the small (and very small!) spaces that typify the scene. It is also open on Saturday and has just opened its new Cy Twombly show - The Last Paintings - eight spectacular large works which are also shown with sixty-six of his photographs. You may not get the afore-mentioned map/card at Gagosian, but you should do at Work close by on Acton Street.
Rod Barton on Paget Street is a little off the track at Paget Street but usually well worth a side-trip to check out their shows which often feature recent graduates of the London art schools.
A little farther south Ancient & Modern and Madder 139 on Whitecross Street often have very interesting little exhibitions. I won’t run through all the many other galleries on the list but I will highlight a personal selection of those I would recommend that you should check out.
The first of these is Breese Little on Gt Sutton Street – the Little part being Henry, latterly of the Contemporary Art Society, so he should really know his stuff! The bold and colourful paintings of Tome de Freston are there in their neat little gallery until 15 September 2012 (above). Less neat and perfectly formed is the WW Gallery which is down an untidy back corridor and occupies a sequence of scruffy rooms – but we’ll let them off because it is a not-for-profit artist-run space. Despite the chaos it has some good artists – currently a great show from Ayuko Sugiura is on until 6 October (two images below).
Sell off any spare gold whilst you are in the warren of streets that make up Hatton Garden and then drop in to Tintype – a slick gallery with a small roster of interesting multi-media artists. Do not miss the Rokeby Gallery - well-established (since 2005) with some very well-established top quality artists and who exhibit at shows like the Armory and Hong Kong. A good show from Bettina Buck has just opened and continues until 20 October.
Finish off with the slick and well-organised Laura Bartlett Gallery. Sadly when I sped past they were on a break until October but they do usually have some very impressive shows from a quality stable of artists.
Got any energy left? You could always keep going west and start ticking off the Fitzrovia galleries. Not far from Laura Bartlett these start with great spots like Paradise Row in Newman Street or Rollo in Cleveland Street.
All too much? Finish off in Charlotte Street with a cold beer on the terrace of the uber-cool Charlotte Street Hotel. Cheers Boris!
- London’s independent art galleries: ten of the best (telegraph.co.uk)
- Mayfair’s art galleries under threat from developers (guardian.co.uk)
4 September 2012 § Leave a Comment
John Stezaker was announced as the Deutsche Borse Photography Prize winner at The Photographers Gallery last night. As I cleverly predicted in a recent blog Stezaker snaffled the £30,000 first price from the shortlist of four. Actually I can claim little credit for being particularly perceptive as there seemed to be a general consensus within those I haven spoken to about the award that he was the clear favourite for this years prize.
I feel rather sorry for the runners up because the playing field was not that level. The prize is judged on a ‘specific body of work’ and in this case it was Stezaker’s Whitechapel show – ie: a review of his entire life’s work – whilst his competitors merely offered up specific collections such as Rinko Kawauchi‘s Illuminations book.
Still, his win was well deserved. He received his prize from past winner Juergen Teller. All speeches were gratifyingly brief, with a very modest Stezaker making a short Oscar-worthy speech thanking everyone down to his 11 year old son.
The Deutsche Borse Photography Prize 2012 exhibition is at The Photographers Gallery until 9 September 2012
High House Gallery is currently featuring John Stezaker in The Momentarily Absurd exhibition, running until 16 September 2012. They currently have two works available for sale.
- deutsche borse prize at the photographers gallery (akickupthearts.wordpress.com)
- Deutsche Börse photography prize 2012 – review (guardian.co.uk)
- Deutsche Börse photography prize 2012 – in pictures (oxfordschoolofphotography.wordpress.com)
- Deutsche Börse Prize, Photographers’ Gallery, review (telegraph.co.uk)