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!
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!
- littlewhitehead getting bigger (akickupthearts.wordpress.com)