Hauser & Wirth Somerset opens with Phyllida Barlow Gig

31 July 2014 § Leave a comment

Hauser & Wirth are one of the powerhouses of worldwide contemporary art with galleries in Zurich, London, New York, Los Angeles and Bruton. Yes, you read that right, Bruton – a sleepy village home to some three thousand souls, a handful of pubs and a couple of takeaways.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
So why Somerset? The first thoughts are that the site is perhaps ideal for the outdoor display of large scale sculptures or that it could be considered a refreshing alternative to the widely prevalent ‘white cube’ city galleries. But whilst these thoughts are both in some way correct it is soon apparent that there is much more to the story.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
Whilst Bruton may well turn out to be a great commercial success the deciding elements were much more personal. Back in 2005 Iwan and Manuela Wirth decided to live temporarily in England, at least in part so that their children were schooled for a while experiencing a different culture and language.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
Before long their attachment became much deeper. They developed a love of the Somerset countryside, moved in to their own medieval house before discovering the almost derelict Durslade Farm. They quickly purchased the 18th century property and set about its restoration.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
The work that has been done is astonishing – a labour of love that has drawn on their considerable contact list. The run-down buildings have been sympathetically restored with old stone, brick and traditional materials, whilst new extensions are hidden behind the old facades.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
The very best architects and designers were given virtual free rein and have given new life to the historic buildings, creating no less than five gallery spaces plus offices, educational spaces, bar, bookshop and restaurant. Outside a muddy pasture is now a stunning garden, created by Piet Oudolf no less – the internationally-renowned designer behind New York’s High Line and the Queen Elizabeth Park at the London Olympic site.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
I have yet to move on to the contents of the space and again it is hard to rein in the superlatives. The galleries will of course house some of the world’s finest contemporary art. Since the first gallery opened its doors in 1992 at the old Löwenbräu brewery building in Zurich Hauser & Wirth have steadily built up a remarkable stable of artists, now represening giants like Allan Kaprow, Paul McCarthy, Ron Mueck, Eva Hesse and Louise Bourgeois, amongst many others.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
The first to occupy the main gallery spaces is Phyllida Barlow, who recently wowed the art world with her striking installation ‘Dock’ at Tate Britain (see our review here), and is similarly impressive with this show. Entitled ‘Gig’ it commands the four varied spaces it occupies, her ramshackle aesthetic of accumulated fabric scraps and building materials nicely commenting on the cycle of dereliction and renovation work just completed at the site.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
As would be anticipated the bar and restaurant doesn’t just serve top quality food (courtesy of At The Chapel, Bruton) but is also an ‘installation’ by artists Bjorn & Oddur Roth with sundry fine artworks lining the dining room walls.
 With a big educational and artist residency programme plus a distinct community bias this is an establishment of huge ambition and matching quality. Bound to become an important fixture in the regions cultural and artistic landscape it’s future programme and progress is one to watch.

Phyllida Barlow dock at Tate Britain

7 April 2014 § Leave a comment

The latest commission for the imposing Duveen Gallery at Tate Britain is by sculptor Phyllida Barlow. Anyone who visited her impressive exhibition RIG, for Hauser & Wirth‘s Piccadilly gallery, would have been greatly impressed at how she was able to so totally take over such a selection of varied spaces. Using inexpensive, everyday materials such as cardboard, fabric, timber, polystyrene and plaster she created bold and colourful three-dimensional collages that utterly transformed the whole building – from the grand main gallery to the tiny former bank safe in the basement (AKUTA review here).

Phyllida Barlow Rig Tate Britain

At the time this was her finest achievement. Not only is this better but quite amazingly she manages once again to completely command the space despite its vast dimensions. Seven distinct works somehow take over this pompous neo-classical space in one glorious, over the top, bricolage of industrial debris inspired of course by London’s docklands.

Phyllida Barlow Rig Tate Britain

Stretching to the roof, tumbling across the floor, hanging from the ceiling and even encapsulating part of the structure Barlow’s dock has made the Duveen its own.

Phyllida Barlow Rig Tate Britain

Ambitious and exuberant it is hard not to laugh out loud and the audacious transformation. Upon entering huge wooden boxes hang from a lofty timber construction. Partially broken open they reveal broken pink polystyrene foam which tumbles out whilst on the reverse painted cardboard makes a wonderfully modernistic collage.

Phyllida Barlow Rig Tate Britain

Farther on a pile of broken pallets climbs up towards the rotunda whilst more broken and painted timbers, strewn with coloured canvas and assorted debris climbs up the wall. Opposite a grand romanesque pillar – as if an ugly embarrassment to be hidden away – is encased with cardboard and sealed with brightly coloured tape.

Phyllida Barlow Rig Tate Britain

Finally, what can only be described as the cardboard core of a giant toilet roll is suspended from another gantry as a the display’s ultimate sculptural statement.

Phyllida Barlow Rig Tate Britain

This is an ambitious work that truly works. Joyful and transformative it is a delightful contrast to self-regarding works of the world of old-fashioned and male dominated sculptural pomposity. Don’t miss.

Phyllida Barlow dock at Tate Britain, Millbank, London until 19 October 2014. Free.

Paul McCarthy – The Black & White Tapes at [space]

3 February 2014 § Leave a comment

Paul McCarthy is a heavyweight of the contemporary art world. represented by Hauser & Wirth his work can be found in the most important collections and most major public galleries worldwide. It is therefore somewhat of a surprise – and rather a coup for the gallery – to come across an exhibition of his work at [space] studios in Bethnal Green.

Bushed---Paul-McCarthys-T-007

The most familiar pieces by McCarthy are probably the debauched, graphic and tragi-comic sculptures and installations (example ‘Bushed’ above) but he is also well known for working in a broad spectrum of media, and emphasis upon performance as a tool for breaching established boundaries between genres.

While McCarthy’s earliest work explored and disrupted the formal properties of minimalist art, in the early 70s, he began to document himself executing swift, psychologically taut performances.

CRI_136045

In contrast to the spectacular ambition of his later installations and public sculptures, the Black and White Tapes (as these performances came to be known) feature the artist alone or lightly accompanied in his studio. Making use of whatever materials are in the room – emulsion paint, rags, a phone book, cotton wool and crucially, his own body, McCarthy undertakes single, repetitive or punitive acts for the camera.

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[space] has dedicated its largest gallery space to a thirteen period video monitors, equally spaced across the darkened room, all playing consecutively. Immersive a cacophonous it is a fitting environment for a McCarthy ‘experience’.

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In these grainy black and white video images we encounter the artist in action: drawing an emulsion line along the studio floor using only his face, tugging urgently at his testicles, whipping and swinging at the studio walls with a paint soaked rag and spitting directly into the lense of the fixed frame camera.

Adopting ritualistic repetition, making use of fluids and props and using his body to act out dysfunctional movements and traumatic narratives, the Black and White Tapes is essential to understand McCarthy’s later work and represent a vital document in the evolution of the artist’s practice.

Tip: Perhaps combine a visit here with a visit to galleries like Maureen Paley, Transition and Wilkinson Galleries in the local area. The Museum of Childhood is interesting and a few minutes walk down the road.

Until 16 March 2014

[space] 129—131 Mare Street, LONDON E8 3RH
tel020 8525 4330

Re-View: Onnasch Collection at Hauser & Wirth

18 November 2013 § 2 Comments

The must-see museum show of the winter season is a surprise. Not Klee at the Tate or another at a major institution but instead it is a show at a commercial gallery Hauser & Wirth – Re-View: Onnasch Collection.

Jerry Bell

Jerry Bell

Hauser & Wirth of course is not any old commercial gallery but an international powerhouse that represents many of the world’s leading artists. It has taken the unusual move to put aside all three of its London spaces to a non-profit show curated by their highly paid new partner Paul Schimmel, previously of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

The exhibition is that of the collection of former dealer Reinhard Onnasch, who owned galleries in Berlin, Cologne and New York. Seemingly a gallerist who preferred to keep rather than sell he gathered together an unmatched collection that has become a guide to major artists and movements of post-war art, particularly from America.

hauser___wirth__re_view_onnasch_collection

 The Piccadilly gallery features early assemblages and combines, most noticeably by Ed Kienholz – a master of the creepy assemblage and unsettling juxtaposition.

Ed Kienholz

Ed Kienholz

Over at Savile Row the galleries are dedicated initially to pop art, with a group of Claes Oldenburg’s faamous soft sculptures, as well as Jim Dine and Claes Oldenburg. Other minimalist and conceptualist art includes Richard Serra and Dan Flavin.

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Next door is another gallery featuring American abstraction, including works by Frank Stella, Ad Reinhardt, Cy TwomblyMorris Louis and Clyfford Still.

Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg

It would take a book to do justice to all the works and their interlocking influences. This is a museum quality display, beautifully curated and comprising works that even the Tate would die for.

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Naturally Hauser & Wirth are not exhibiting for the general benefit of the public at large but to boost their own standing. It oozes power, influence and money. It aims to place the gallery in an art historical context and looks to drag their own stable of artists along with it.

Paul Schimmel

Paul Schimmel

Take full advantage of the gallery’s attempt to inflate its standing and drop in whilst you are Christmas shopping in Bond Street (!) to see this wonderful show before it ends.

‘Re-View: Onnasch Collection’, Hauser & Wirth London until 14 December 2013

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spotted at frieze 2012

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 small oil by NY artist Amy Bennett. At Galleri Magnus Karlsson

One from handful of skilful watercolours by Maria Nordina – also at Galleri Magnus Karlsson.

The best from a roomful of large and impressive Jonas Wood pieces at David Kordansky.

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.

A dissection of a curator made of cake.

Something made of some substance made by somebody South American (I think?)

And outside, in the rain a pretty Yayoi Kusama from Victoria Miro.

phyllida barlow RIG at hauser & wirth

4 October 2011 § 1 Comment

At long last I managed to drop in to the much talked-about Phyllida Barlow exhibition in their Piccadilly space. A couple of years ago Barlow retired from her long-time post as professor of art at the Slade where she had built up a formidable reputation. The high regard in which she is held is evidenced by her rapid rise to the equivalent of art ‘stardom’ – a solo show with one of the top galleries in London.

And what a good exhibition it is. Barlow has filled the gallery with her sculptural work – from cramped basement rooms, to expansive wood-panelled main space and balcony and up in to the loft. When I say filled, I do not mean that her works sit neatly in the gallery rooms, but that they seem to occupy them entirely – wall to wall, floor to ceiling. Visitors are forced to step carefully through the works that stand, hang, spread or are stacked in the spaces.

Using industrial and low grade materials like concrete, plywood, plaster, rough hewn wood and cardboard Barlow effectively brings the claustrophobic world of the modern urban environment indoors. The large main space is occupied by a forest of wooden bars that stand in rough concrete bases. As you reach the first floor balcony you realise that this forest supports hugh concrete blocks, each covered with a brightly coloured fabric cover, that also occupies the aerial space of the room. Another large room has crudely-painted plywood constructions of varied shape and form whilst in the cellar more concrete, plaster and steel constructions respond to the architecture of the gallery. A ladder leans in to a loft where you can peer in at hanging objects that loiter in the semi-darkness.

The overall effect is disturbing and raw. The sculptures not only occupy the gallery but have taken it over and almost consume it. One realises just how dark and menacing the work actually is when you step back outside in to the hustle and bustle of central London and find it a whole lot sunnier and more cheerful than just a short while ago. Highly recommended.

By the way, for those of you that enjoy investing in good art, if Richard Saltoun’s gallery still has any Barlow watercolours left at pre-H&W prices (about £2-3k versus £4-5) I’d grab one fast!

RIG is at Hauser & Wirth Piccadilly until 22 October 2011

roni horn: recent work at hauser & wirth

18 September 2011 § Leave a comment

The new Phyllida Barlow exhibition has created something of a buzz. So I made some time to drop in to H&W’s expansive new(ish) Savile Row space. Sadly I got the wrong gallery – the Barlow show is on at the company’s Piccadilly location.

Instead I got Roni Horn. Her first show since the ‘aka Roni Horn’ solo at the Tate. The first room, with a reprise of an earlier work You are the Weather has one hundred photographs of a womans head, as she sits in an Icelandic hot spring – apparently. We are also told that she is ‘reacting to the weather conditions around her’ – even though, with a series of seemingly bored and vacant expressions,  you would be hard-pressed to detect any variation. The ‘viewer is voyeurised by the view’ – we replace the weather as the reason for her changing expression. Perception, location, identity, yawn. In the second room Horn has made pigment drawings which she subsequently has dissected and re-assembled repeadly. Pencil lines and notes reveal the process. They are OK.

It is all very delicate, meditative and influenced by her Icelandic connections. The works are deeply considered and carefully thought out, neatly made in appropriate media, are reasonably aesthetically pleasing and so on. In other words they neatly tick all the boxes in an art-studenty sort of way. I am sure curators also love them – big statements on worthy themes that fill large spaces but I found this particular exhibition rather uninspiring. Note to self: must get over to see Barlow asap.

Hauser & Wirth Savile Row until 22 October 2011

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