Frieze London 2018

5 November 2018 § Leave a comment

As soon as Frieze makes its annual appearance in Regents Park everyone knows that it is time to check out the London art scene. The annual schedules of the galleries – both commercial and public – are all heavily weighted towards the Autumn and the most important names carefully lined up for exhibition. This is the time when anyone can get an all-round view of global trends without leaving central London.

David Shrigley Frieze London 2018

With the twin clouds of Brexit and falling market confidence hanging over the art world, it was good to arrive at Frieze to receive a David Shrigley newsflash accompanying the Art Newspaper – NEWS: PEOPLE GATHER IN LARGE TENT. It helped to lighten the mood – for more of Shrigley you could visit Stephen Friedman where he took over the whole stand and showed some witty neon works alongside his more usual sketches and bonkers animations.

Julia Scher Frieze London 2018

Also lightening the mood were US artist Julia Scher’s pink-clad pensioner security guards who were regularly seen patrolling the fair.

Tatiana-Trouvé-The-Shaman-2018-Frieze 2018

As seemingly has been the trend for several years now the big institutional-type works were largely absent from a show that was dominated by smaller and mid-ticket works. An ugly and rather pointless exception was Tatiana Trouvé’s The Shaman which nevertheless apparently sold on the first day. Many other big name – big ticket items were perhaps held back for gallery events or even Frieze Masters.

Swiss artist Urs Fischer dominated the show entrance at Gagosian with a suite of iPad paintings printed on to reflective aluminium panels. All show his New York home with the image disintegrating across each set as if digitally erasing itself.

Marina Abramovic Frieze London 2018

Lisson Gallery had works from Marina Abramovic and John Akomfrah , whilst at David Zwirner were Wolfgang Tillmans and Chris Ofili. Tacita Dean was at Marian Goodman Gallery’s stand.

This years #metoo angled theme was Social Work, exploring how women artists looked at political activism within their work. With artists including Faith Ringgold, Sonia Boyce, Helen Chadwick, Nancy Spero and Berni Searle it was however somewhat underwhelming and could easily be passed largely unnoticed.

As usual though there was plenty to enjoy and here are a few of the other works that caught our eye:

Thomas Struth m.n.o.p 05, 2013, MAi 36 Galerie Frieze London 2018
Thomas Struth m.n.o.p 05, 2013, MAi 36 Galerie Frieze London 2018
Cindy Sherman Untitled Metro Pictures Frieze 2018
Cindy Sherman Untitled Metro Pictures Frieze 2018
Urs Fischer Gagosian Frieze 2018
Urs Fischer Gagosian Frieze 2018
Alice Neel, Harold Dyke 1971, Xavier Huffkins, Frieze 2018
Alice Neel, Harold Dyke 1971, Xavier Huffkins, Frieze 2018
Nicholas Party Portrait with Flowers 2018 Modern Institute, Frieze 2018
Nicholas Party Portrait with Flowers 2018 Modern Institute, Frieze 2018
Thomas Struth, Full Scale Mock up 3, 2017, Marian Goodman Gallery
Thomas Struth, Full Scale Mock up 3, 2017, Marian Goodman Gallery
Marilyn Minter Big Bang 2012, Studio 94, Frieze London 2018
Marilyn Minter Big Bang 2012, Studio 94, Frieze London 2018
David Shrigley, Stephen Friedman, Frieze London 2018
David Shrigley, Stephen Friedman, Frieze London 2018

Frieze 2018

Last but not least, as you leave the fair in Regent’s Park, perhaps to venture up to Frieze Masters, some twenty five different sculptures were dotted throughout the greenery and included Kimsooja (above), Rana Begum , Tracey Emin, Conrad Shawcross and Elmgreen & Dragset. They will remain until the end of Frieze week.

CELLOPHANELAND* were guests of Frieze London

For more information visit www.frieze.com

This post was also published at CELLOPHANELAND*

Frieze London

18 November 2015 § Leave a comment

The preview day of Frieze always provides plenty of visual stimulation – both on and off the exhibiting gallery walls. As we shimmied past the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hooper, Tommy Hilfiger and Valentino we made our way around the fair to see what was on offer this year.

Frieze London by reviewed by www.cellophaneland.com
 Most of of the big name international names were in attendance, amongst a grand total of 164 galleries that represented over 1000 artists from 27 countries. There actually seemed to be a lack of big name artist ‘blockbuster’ pieces at this years fair but there was still plenty to catch the eye in an event that is one of the annual highlights of the art world.

Frieze London by reviewed by www.cellophaneland.com
Frieze London by reviewed by www.cellophaneland.com

Glenn Brown was our undisputed favourite this year with a stand full of great pieces at Gagosian, including these examples of both oil and sculpture.

Frieze London by reviewed by www.cellophaneland.com

The young sensation Eddie Peake had two stunning works on show.

Frieze London by reviewed by www.cellophaneland.comThere were two superb Michael Fullerton portraits showing at the Carl Freedman Gallery.

Frieze London by reviewed by www.cellophaneland.com

The underrated Billy Childish had a large scale work, also at Carl Freedman.

Frieze London by reviewed by www.cellophaneland.com

A colourful large scale Allen Jones was a great example of his work.

Frieze London by reviewed by www.cellophaneland.com

Ai Weiwei has been dying his roots.

Frieze London by reviewed by www.cellophaneland.com

Self Portrait in bath by Tracey Emin underwhelmed us, but here are some others that drew our attention:

photo 2 copy 4IMG_6014photo 2 copy 6 photo 1 copy 7 photo 3 copy 3photo 3 copyphoto 5Frieze London by reviewed by www.cellophaneland.com

Frieze London runs until Saturday 17 October 2015. For more information visit www. friezelondon.com

For more information visit www. friezemasters.com

Images by CELLOPHANELAND* and courtesy of Frieze

How to do the Venice Biennale

21 November 2013 § Leave a comment

Arriving in Venice for the biennale as a newcomer you will no doubt immediately pick up a copy the official biennale ‘map’. You will open it up. And open it again. And again. Flapping in the Mediterranean breeze you will now have the equivalent of about 8 sides of A4 covered with maps and lists of venues and events.

All very intimidating. How, what, where? There will be a temptation to try and rush around, seeing as much as possible. It all looks too much – and then there is Venice to be enjoyed along the way as well. The good news is that its not nearly as complex as it looks and a few simple rules will help you make the most of even a short stay.

1. Avoid the Peak Season. Unless you want to attend opening events try to travel away from peak summer season. Venice is always busy but the biennale will be much quieter September to November and flights and hotels may be cheaper. Don’t forget when you are planning that the biennale closes Mondays.

2. Fly to Venice. Obvious no? Well not really, the likes of Easyjet and Ryanair actually fly to Treviso an hour or so up the road. Instead fly direct to Venice airport. I go BA from Gatwick.

3. Take the Ferry. Also seems obvious, but from Venice airport you could save some money and go by bus to the edge of town, then take a Vaporetto to your hotel. Dont bother. Spend a small amount more and take the Alilaguna ferry from the airport direct to San Marco or Rialto (amongst other destinations). Its quicker and you get a wonderful cruise across the lagoon for free. For convenience buy a return trip and an unlimited pass on the Vaporetti (for the duration of your stay) in the airport terminal.

Alilaguna

4. Book a convenient hotel. Check out the stops for the various airport ferries and book a hotel within a short stroll. All bags need to be carried down the passageways so, unless you get a private boat to your hotel with its own landing stage, travel light! Between the Rialto and San Marco they tend to be pokey and expensive so avoid this area but there is plenty more in districts like San Polo or Castello which are still very convenient. Avoid the Lido unless you have more time and want a beach.

Hotel IQs

Hotel IQs

5. Do the official biennale first. It comprises two main areas. The Giardini (gardens) has the major national pavilions in wooded gardens plus the main curated pavilion and is probably the best for the first day. You will need at least a half day for a good look plus a tea/lunch break. Arsenale, the second main area, is best left for the next day unless you want to go cross-eyed looking at art.

6. Satellite National Pavilions. Dont even think of doing them all! Ask for recommendations, read reviews and search the internet and cut down the list to the best half dozen. The alternative is walking up six flights of stairs in annoyingly remote locations just to find some dismal government sponsored propaganda.

Gavin Turk

Gavin Turk

7. Plan your visits. Although Venice is small it can take longer than you think to get around, especially when Vaporetti (ferries) are involved. It is also very easy to get lost and a 5 minute detour can quickly become half an hour. Map your stops and try and fit in the satellite pavilions en route to the larger attractions.

Marc Quinn Alison Lapper Pregnant

Marc Quinn Alison Lapper Pregnant

8. Its not just the biennale! Major (and minor) galleries take advantage of the biennale to have their own shows, not on the official guide. Again be very careful which ones you put on your schedule and check how long they run. Many only ‘pop up’ for a few weeks.

9. And More. The Venice institutions also put on extra shows. Amongst many don’t miss: Punta della Dogana & Palazzo Grassi (both owned by Christies’ Francois Pinault) with their contemporary exhibitions; The Guggenheim – Peggy’s extraordinary Modernist collection; The Fortuny Palace – a wonderfully diverse collection with a curated show blended in amongst it, all in an extraordinary dream-like location; Gallerie dell’Accademia – pre 19th century masterworks; Ca Rezzonico – museum of 18th century Venice that usually hosts a top contemporary exhibition.

Rudolf Stingel

Rudolf Stingel

10. Add a touch of luxury. Time visits to avoid meals at the Giardini and Arsenale – try local spots nearby. Later escape the crowds and drop in to the smart hotels for some luxurious relaxation time. The Hotel Gritti Palace has a perfect canal-side terrace whilst the roof terrace of the Danieli has breathtaking views. Of course they’re expensive, but you don’t have go wild.

Danieli roof terrace

Danieli roof terrace

There’s lots more of course – but I’ll let you have fun finding out the rest yourselves!

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The Venice Biennale 2013 – The Encyclopaedic Palace

11 November 2013 § 2 Comments

Most reviews of the Venice Biennale are posted soon after its opening in June/July. This is all very well for those writers who enjoy being in a sweaty summertime Venice thronged with tourists and queueing with the crowds to gain access to the most interesting pavilions. True, there are some exhibitions that only ‘pop-up’ for the first month or so of the biennale and naturally all the sleb-studded parties also only happen around opening time but on the whole it is a time I avoid like the plague.

Jeremy Deller

Jeremy Deller

I prefer to let the hubbub settle down and visit later in the year. With the end of the 2013 Biennale on the 24 November there is a big window of opportunity for take a trip during a quieter period when not only is the weather less hot and humid but there are fewer tourists, hotel prices are lower and tables are available at the best Osterias.

Last but not least of course you can take advantage of the prior reviews to plan visits to the best pavilions whilst avoiding the (too-frequent) time-wasting exhibitions in multitudinous back-alleys that you have just walked in circles for 30 minutes trying to find.

Jeremy Deller

Jeremy Deller

In the official Biennale there are, as usual, a plethora of dud pavilions. Surprisingly these include giants like Germany with an OK installation with a maze of interlocking stools by Ai Weiwei and little else, France with Anri Sala pointlessly punning on Ravel/Unravel – geddit? – and the USA where Sarah Sze has filled the pavilion with a student-like mess of bits and pieces.

Bill Culbert

Bill Culbert

Japan had chosen a very neat display of conceptual work from Koki Tanaka featuring collective tasks and collaborative acts in order to examine a new post-tsunami Japanese reality. For example groups of five musicians, writers or potters were asked to create a work together, the process being filmed whils other projects, reminiscent of sixties Ono & Fluxus were perhaps ‘Precarious Tasks #3 Walk from city to its suburbs’.

Koki Tanaka - A piano played by five pianists at once

Koki Tanaka – A piano played by five pianists at once

Vadim Zakharov’s brilliant Russian pavilion has a besuited businessman perched on a high rafter throwing peanut husks upon the public below whilst in the adjacent room gold coins are showered upon the ladies (only!) below who prolong the golden shower by collecting the coins in to a bucket which is raised – by another suited gent – and emptied on to a conveyor belt. A perpetual cycle of greed and exploitation is completed by the willing participants.Russian Pavilion

Jeremy Deller however has stolen the Giardini ‘show’ with ‘English Magic’. He cleverly weaves together truly diverse aspects of British society to create a witty and topical vision of one version of a national mythology. Amongst a number of threads Prince Harry’s appalling shooting of two rare hen harriers is revisited with a giant bird carrying off a passing Land Rover whilst Abramovich’s obscene yacht is cast in to the Venetian lagoon by Willaim Morris. There is of course a Deller trademark tea room – the ‘TEA’ spelt out in palaeolithic arrowheads – seeming much more relevant in an international location where it’s Britishness is self-evident.

Walter de a Maria

Walter de a Maria

The central Giardini pavilion and the Arsenale meanwhile I found to be rather a mess. The attempt to illustrate the thematic Encyclopaedic Palace  coming a cropper with a confusion of self-taught and outsider artists alongside more conventional names – big and small.

Iraqi Pavilion

Iraqi Pavilion

Elsewhere around town the exhibits from Iraq, Ireland & Cyprus, Wales, Lithuania and Angola stand out from the multitude. Rudolph Stingel is worth seeing at the Palazzo Grassi where he has carpeted almost every inch of the walls and floor with oriental rugs. Buy a twin ticket for the other Pinault exhibition at the Punta della Dogana. The wonderland of the Palazzo Fortuny is always worth a visit – this time with an Anton Tapies exhibition.

Rudolf Stingel

Rudolf Stingel

There is much more of course whilst watching over the whole event from its waterfront perch on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore is the giant pink inflatable sculpture Alison Lapper Pregnant by Marc Quinn. Eye-catching and impressive.

Marc Quinn Alison Lapper Pregnant

Marc Quinn Alison Lapper Pregnant

london art fair 2013

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.image_large-2

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.image_paisnel_davie

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’.79799_3998eeb58c3672a59d59c861a53eb43f

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.London_Art_Fair

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.Clay

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.

London Art Fair, Design Centre Islington (Angel Tube) 16 – 20 January 2013. £16.

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.

Paris Photo 2012

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.

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.

vip art fair fails – or not?

5 February 2011 § Leave a comment

Originally conceived three years ago by New York dealer James Cohan the ‘world’s first online only art fair’ has just closed. Billed as the first ‘to mobilize the collective force of the world’s leading contemporary art galleries with the unlimited reach of the Internet’ its inaugural fair took place exclusively online from January 22-30, 2011.

With further admirable modesty the show was promoted as ‘an unprecedented event’ featuring ‘critically acclaimed artists’ and ‘internationally renowned dealers.’  The ‘revolutionary design’ was promoted as a way to ‘view artwork online as never before.’ ‘Innovative technology’ promised to allow ‘visitors to zoom in to examine details of a painting’s surface, get multiple views of a three-dimensional work, and watch videos of a multimedia piece.’ 

In view of this expansive rhetoric there was only one thing that could possibly happen – and we all knew that it would didn’t we? It crashed. Hoorah! Not completely, but there were a plethora of problems with access speed and error messages, vip passholders couldn’t access dealer’s ‘private rooms’ whilst many galleries had their ‘online chat’ facility, which allowed interaction with clients shut down.

The organisers have said that anyone who paid $100 to enter for the first two days has been refunded and pass holders have been emailed: “If you have experienced delays error messages or slow processing speed while visiting the VIP Art Fair in the first two days, please accept our sincere apologies.”

A number of galleries have complained and said that they would not return although the organisers (of course) claim that it was a great success reporting some good sales: Sadie Coles HQ sold Rudolf Stingel’s painting Die Birne (2002) for a high six-figure price, while David Zwirner sold Chris Ofili’s sculpture Mary Magdalene (Infinity) (2006) in the mid six figures. Alexander and Bonin sold Mona Hatoum’s unsettling 3D grid sculpture Bourj (2010) in the low six figures, while James Cohan sold Yinka Shonibare’s The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (2008) for something between £25,000 and £50,000. Francis Bacon’s Man at Washbasin meanwhile went unsold to the chagrin of the Marlborough Gallery.

Instinctively many dealers and observers will feel that art should be something sold face to face and there is undoubtedly a good deal of schadenfreude washing around at the relative failure of this first online fair – I personally love the mental image of potentially pyjama-clad sales staff (they needed to man their lines 24 hours) faced with crashing systems in the small hours of the morning. Nevertheless the appeal for dealers in accessing a world-wide range of clients and expanding their databases whilst remaining at ‘home’ must have great appeal and the fair will no doubt iron out the glitches and, sadly, continue successfully in the future.

london art fair 2011

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!

london art fair gets ‘littlewhiteheaded’

1 December 2010 § Leave a comment

The London Art Fair used to be the city’s leading art fair until all of a sudden, back in 2003, Frieze leapt on to the scene. It is now a bit of sideline event – and it is far from happy! Not that it has done much about it, pottering along, much as it always has. The word is out that it wants to try to do something about it. Unless something very dramatic happens, like hell friezing over (see what I did there!), it is hard to see it ever get back to number one. Meanwhile it is making some noises about making the fair a little more, let us say, memorable.

Their first move has been revealed today by the young and go-ahead London dealers SamarriaLunn. Their artists littlewhitehead will be appearing throughout the exhibition, much as Simon Fujiwara’s brilliant archaeological ‘intervention’ at Frieze.

Craig Little, 29, and Blake Whitehead, 25, began working together after graduating from the Glasgow School of Art in 2007. Having become friends by default because “nobody else would speak to us”, their prerogative is to expose the inherent, unpleasant, and bleakly comic truths about society and the viewer.

The London Art Fair heralds the unveiling of their most provocative work to date: a Bible cast from the ashes of 90 copies of Mein Kampf. Doomed to enrage any number of religious groups, not to mention anybody who has ever taken a history lesson, this work is classic littlewhitehead. They claim that “to some extent, it doesn’t really matter that it’s made from the Bible and Mein Kampf”: The two books can merely exist as symbols for powerful and commonly adopted ideologies and more importantly, their destructive capabilities.

They have stated that “We don’t ever set out to offend, we just seem to have a knack for annoying people.” A favorite recent subject for the artists has been hostages. Victims are tied to chairs, bags pulled taut over their heads, knocked onto the floor and left there, helpless. They wait to be saved, only for nobody to come. These victims may well be hyper-real sculptures, but the stories on which they are based are real: unashamedly lifted from the newspapers and brought screaming into the physical world. In walking past the work as viewers, littlewhitehead demonstrate our choice to ignore, and in turn make us complicit in the act;

And even if their work fails to offend/impress then they at least have a new verb. To littlewhitehead – which I suggest means to be deeply disturbing – even when initially you are sometimes not sure quite why. We shall see!

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