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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
[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’.
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
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.
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
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
- This week’s new exhibitions (guardian.co.uk)
8 September 2011 § 1 Comment
Hauser & Wirth. Phyllida Barlow – RIG. Urban structures reacting to the gallery space. Until 22 October 2011.
Stephen Friedman. Paul McDevitt – Running on Woollen Legs. Disney meets De Stijl – fascinating! Until 1 October 2011.
Blain Southern. Marius Bercea – Remains Of Tomorrow. Beautiful but complex landscapes of a fractured society. Until 1 October 2011.
Sumarria Lunn. Modern Frustrations. In particular check out Tim Phillips’ excellent Hyperion – a corporate logo for a new age. 8 to 30 September 2011, just around the corner from….
Haunch of Venison. Adrian Ghenie. Complex figurative paintings back in HoV’s restored original space. 8 September to 8 October 2011.
Alison Jacques. Dan Fischer. Immaculate pencil drawings that ask searching questions about modern icons. 9 September to 8 October 2011.
Gazelli Art House. Air I Breathe. Latest exhibition from an ambitious and innovative pop-up gallery. 9 September to 7 October 2011.
Josh Lilley. Christof Mascher – Urban Ornamental. Painting, ceramics and sculpture recounting mythological narratives. 9 September to 8 October 2011.
All in all it is a mouth-watering selection, I have seen most (will try to review in future blogs) and cannot wait for the rest. Go on, get downtown and create your own gallery tour….
23 January 2011 § 1 Comment
The London Art Fair 2011 kicked off this last week with, let us say, a whimper rather than a bang. Despite being around for some 23 years, it has been on the way down for many years since Frieze stole its thunder a number of years back. Its decline this year was sadly rather evident.
The first thing to strike you was not who was there, but who was not. The big international galleries have long since avoided the fair: White Cube, Hauser & Wirth, Victoria Miro and the like steer well clear. Middle level galleries are now almost completely absent - the likes of Stephen Friedman and Flowers are largely gone. As for small, influential galleries like Carl Freedman – not a chance. Even little West End galleries like John Martin selling popular and easily accessible work – the galleries for who you would imagine this show is perfect are deserting the ship.
So who is left? There was a reasonably good selection of work from Modernist British artists – Ivon Hitchens, Roger Hilton, Alan Davie and the like – shown by galleries such as Anthony Hepworth, Austin Desmond and Richard Green. It was however thoroughly mixed in with contemporary work of generally poor quality from a multiplicity of small galleries - mostly little-known or ‘popping-up’ from unknown origins.
The whole was exhibited in a maze of alleys and passageways that seems ever more confusing and cramped year by year. The balcony stands afford such little viewing space that it is rather like having a gellery on a tube train whilst the Art Projects section showed some dire stuff in an assortment of back rooms.
The supposed ‘VIP’ tickets afforded a slightly more leisurely experience, but unaccompanied by any drinks until 6pm when some mediocre cava appeared in plastic glasses (the fact it was in relatively generous quantity was a minor blessing). As for the supposed ‘VIP room’ – I wont even go there!
Was it really as bad as I make out – probably not and I passed a pleasant enough couple of hours at the fair – but it was all slightly disappointing and not the sort of event to inspire the spending of large amounts of money on high quality art – even if you could find it. The first word from some dealers I spoke to backs up this impression – “the worst year yet”, “no buyers around” and “never again”. Verdict: C minus – could try harder. Will we see anything change next year – nope!
23 September 2010 § 1 Comment
Continuing on from the public gallery top ten here are my commercial gallery selection. This was a much more difficult choice and reflects the fact that curating a commercial gallery is in many ways a harder task. The potential range of art is usually much broader – a good gallerist will need have an eye for the best of these new artists, be able to develop existing ones and at the same time, let us not forget, run a business to make money. They have to curate interesting shows at close intervals in spaces that are often less than ideal. Many galleries can rarely exploit prime locations – with the cost of retail space in London at exorbitant levels – and they will often need to attract visitors to out-of-the-way locations.
There are however plenty of arty masochists willing to give it a go. A guideline figures for the number of London galleries is impossible to nail down – not least because they open and close faster than Wayne Rooneys flies – but it seems to be somewhere between 300 and 500. Picking a random selection and dropping in may seem like one way to look at some art, but it will produce very mixed results. A recent trawl around a series of ‘first Thursday’ galleries in the East End nearly made me slit my wrists in frustration – I found nothing that was close to worthwhile looking at over a period of over three hours. Ultimately only a fine curry and a beer on Brick Lane saved the evening!
My advice? Try sticking to names that you may have heard of or those recommended to you. At the same time why not try popping in to their near neighbours - these galleries may be riding on their famous neighbours coat-tails but are often are looking at the same market and at least can afford similar rents. Many of the best galleries are in small clusters in key areas - Hoxton, Vyner Street and Cork Street for example although some are out on a limb and need extra effort. Some the best are big and international, some are small and inventive. Here is a brief and very flawed guide to my ten favourites:
10. Stephen Friedman. An interesting international roster of established contemporary artists that include Yinka Shonibare, Thomas Hirschhorn, Yoshimoto Nara, Catherine Opie and David Shrigley. An OK gallery space close to Cork Street.
9. Hauser & Wirth. An International giant. Represent the estates of Eva Hesse and Allan Kaprow as well as Henry Moore. Founded in Zurich 1992, the London gallery is in a wonderful historic Sir Edwin Lutyens building on Piccadilly, another branch being on Old Bond Street and yet another opening in Savile Row on 15 October 2010. Important and impressive exhibitions by established artists but are they a little dull?
8. Maureen Paley. Ever black-clad Maureen was one of the first to present contemporary art in the East End. Promotes US and European artists as well as launching new talent from the UK. Gallery artists include Turner winners Tillmans and Wearing plus nominees Gillick and Warren. Always interesting and worth watching her artists.
7. Gagosian. Another international monster founded by Larry Gagosian with seven galleries: four in the USA, two in London, one in Rome and one in Athens. Built on the legacy of the New York School, abstract expressionism and Pop Art it also showed then contemporary artists like Basquiat. Expect museum quality exhibitions that feature artists of the calibre of Twombly, Picasso, Bacon and Warhol.
6. White Cube was set up by Jay Jopling in 1993 and is arguably one of most influential galleries of the past twenty years. Many of the very biggest names in art have appeared here, Hirst and the YBA’s of course amongst others like Kiefer and Orozco. Has very impressive spaces in both Hoxton and St James’s.
5. Timothy Taylor. A lovely space, just next to the exclusive Connaught Hotel (drop in for tea!), they feature a fascinating mix of established names like Arad, Riley and Katz with an, always interesting, selection of contemporary artists like Martin Maloney and Philip Guston. A good place to watch recently emerged talent.
4. Lisson Gallery. An impressive history which it has continued to build upon. Founded in 1967 artists included the likes of Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin and Art & Language with art that represented an ethos concerning art’s place in a wider cultural and social context. They have continued to feature those like Anish Kapoor and Julian Opie ‘identifying and supporting succeeding generations of artists, each with a radical and distinctive approach to the artistic possibilities of their times.’ Always interesting.
3. 20 Hoxton Square. Facing White Cube across Hoxton Square this gallery ‘is a collaborative project space, operating as a platform for emerging contemporary artists, whilst also acting as a creative hub for independent projects.’ They also have resident artists, a bookshop, screenings, artists talks and performances. Great place to spot emerging artists.
2. Haunch of Venison. Formerly the Museum of Mankind this vast neo-classical space just off Piccadilly includes ten separate gallery spaces. Often featuring multiple exhibitions its artists are contemporary, cutting edge and top notch. The curation is excellent and the space spectacular. Sometimes the vast open areas can overwhelm the art but who can complain when it features wonderful shows like the recent Joana Vasconcelos. Sadly it is all owned by Christies and widely despised in the art world. It loses money hand over fist and may not be here long – enjoy it whilst it lasts!
1. Victoria Miro. A fabulous big white-cubey space, a little out on a limb but near enough to Hoxton and East End galleries. Wonderful artist portfolio includes the likes of Eggleston, Neel, Doig, Ofili, Perry and Elmgreen & Dragset. The current Jacco Olivier is excellent too. Make the effort to get there and drop in to the excellent (charitable foundation) Parasol Unit gallery, next door.
Please suggest your own favourites or tell me who I should have included!
- Victoria Miro | interview (guardian.co.uk)
17 August 2010 § Leave a comment
The mid-summer lull in the London gallery schedules allows a moment for contemplation on what looks like a very mixed bag of Autumn shows. I just cannot quite work myself up in to a frenzy of excitment about this motley assortment of old hands and uninspiring newcomers.
Starting with public galleries the blockbuster Gaugin will undoubtedly be the major event of 2010 and amazingly his first major UK exhibition for 5o years. The Tate Modern promises that the exhibition will explore ‘the role of the myths around the man.’ Starts 30 September – stick it in the diary! Arrive after the 12 October and see what Ai Weiwei has installed as the 11th Turbine Hall commission. Recently involved in the Beijing Olympic stadium and then almost beaten to death for his political views he has said: ‘Everything is art, everything is politics. You can call it art or you can call it politics, I don’t give a damn.’ Should be interesting.
Over at Tate Britain the schedule, starting 8 September, is totally underwhelming. Eadweard Muybridge (yes, correctly spelt) was a the 19th century photographer who ‘proved that a horse can fly’ with multiple images and anticipated the coming of cinema with the zoopraxiscope. He also travelled and documented America of the time. Just about worth dropping in.
Rachel Whiteread Drawings is the other choice – but why? Her casts of varied spaces, apart from being a direct steal from Bruce Nauman are getting tedious. Now she says this: ‘A lot of the works that I’ve been making over the years have been part of a cyclical process. I often feel a cycle is incomplete and need to tread the same path again.’ So now having run out of (someone else’s) ideas all she can do is more of the same again, but this time in drawings. Keep well away! The Gagosian, Daniels Street, is taking advantage with their own Rachel Whiteread exhibition on the 7 September – and I don’t see any reason to bother with this one either.
The Turner Prize 2010 exhibition is of course at Tate Britain too – from 5 October. Calming down in its old age but an interesting selection. Dexter Dalwood and Angela de la Cruz painting, sound artist Susan Philipsz and the multi-disciplinary Otolith Group. I like Dalwood but the inventive Otolith Group have to be my favourite.
The second part of Newspeak: British Art Now opens at the Satchi on 27 October. Despite the overwhelming mediocrity of the show it is strangely compulsive viewing, and there is a particularly nice cafe. Apart from that I can not wait to update my critics Saatchi league table from my previous posts!
The Royal Academy’s Treasures of Budapest starts on 25 September. Although there will be the opportunity to save the air fare to Budapest it doesn’t seem to be a show-stopper, but worth a visit. It promises Raphael, El Greco, Manet, Monet, Schiele and Picasso amongst others.
Of the smaller Galleries the Camden Arts Centre always seems to have something interesting. On 23 September Rene Daniels’ opens. His interesting work is ‘permeated through and through with writing, word games, literary references, visual puns, and allusions to art movements, institutions, and mass media.’
Of the private galleries Hauser & Wirth’s opens its expansive new Savile Row space on the 15 October with a Fabric Works of Louise Bourgeois - hardly inspirational, but I look forward to seeing the gallery. Of their other exhibitions the Piccadilly branch has the first posthumous show of Jason Rhoades’ opening 24 September. The exhibition features ’1:12 Perfect World’, Rhoades’ scale model of his groundbreaking 1999 exhibition, ‘Perfect World’ in Hamburg. Ho-hum.
At Haunch of Venison there is the strange choice of Loud Flash: British Punk on Paper, starting 24 September, which nevertheless looks like it may be quite interesting. Meanwhile do not miss the excellent Joana Vasconcelos and quirky animal-stuffer Polly Morgan whose exhibitions are currently on until the 25 September!
At the White Cube, Masons yard Christian Marclay opens on the 15 October: ‘Over the past 30 years, Christian Marclay has explored the fusion of fine art and audio cultures, transforming sounds and music into a visible, physical form through performance, collage, sculpture, installation, photography and video.’ Meanwhile over at WC Hoxton on 13 October Mark Bradford’s ‘multi-layered collaged paintings incorporating materials found in the urban environment’. Both may be worth a look but hardly captivating.
The pick of the rest are Jacco Olivier at Victoria Miro from 7 September - Olivier fuses colourful paintings with video – his works are delightful and fascinating. Finally Marina Abramovic is at the Lisson - god knows what we will see from the ‘grandmother of performance art’ but it is well worth a detour!
There we go – the best of the autumn? Not great and, in respect of painting very lop-sided. The public galleries mostly with retrospective painting, the private with, well all sorts from taxidermy to performance but pretty much steering away from anything on canvas . No demand? No talent? Are the private galleries out of sync with what the public wants - or is it the Public galleries? I will leave you to ponder the mystery….
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- Saatchi to Donate His Gallery and Art to Britain (nytimes.com)
- In pictures: 10 Years of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall (news.bbc.co.uk)
- Nothing to see here – beyond the blockbuster exhibitions (guardian.co.uk)