4 November 2014 § Leave a comment
Visiting one of the big art fairs, such as Frieze or art Basel, it is quickly self-evident that many of those visiting are not always particularly interested in the art. Naturally many are, but around this highly moneyed core orbit the people-watchers, hangers-on and parasites in a desperate see-and-be-seen dance, different groups each with their own specific agenda.
“The big collectors try to get in and out before anyone buys what they are after and certainly before the hoi polloi gets to look. And then you’ve got people who are just there for the social scene. So you have people texting or not paying any attention at all. It is as if the art is not there, or that they think it has no effect on them. But when you stop the moment you can see this weird world that is taking place” say Fischl
It is this world – which he usually desperately avoids – to which Eric Fischl has most recently turned a keenly tuned eye. As a starting point he took hundreds of photographs from which he selected, before editing and manipulating in Photoshop to construct an image to ultimately translate into paint.
As the series has grown so has the complexity of the resonances of the images, individually and in relation to each other. The paintings are a sharp social satire as much as they are a loving tribute to the world the artist knows best: the international art scene.
A keen observer of the relationships between people, and between people and their surroundings Fischl here demonstrates his acute observation of body language and the small details that reflect social relationships. Art fairs are notoriously busy, and these paintings give a sense of the energy and bustle as visitors move amongst the stands, apparently giving as much attention to each other – and to their mobile phones – as to the artworks on display.
Fischl has described this effect: “The space in these paintings is collapsed, cluttered, irrational and aggressive. Those depicted in the scenes seem oblivious to the mania of their condition. What I’ve discovered as I moved into this work is the essentially abstract nature of the art fair spaces. They are nearly cubistic in their flatness and their jarring collaged constructions. Layers of consciousness on top of layers of cross-purposes.”.
Also on show in Victoria Miro’s downstairs gallery are new works from the excellent Wangechi Mutu.
For more information on bothe exhibitions visit http://www.victoria-miro.com/exhibitions/current
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.
13 January 2012 § 1 Comment
Grayson Perry seems to have rather a marmite love-hate relationship with some of the British art world. I suspect that for his critics this is rather more due to the somewhat cosy relationship that he has with the mass media than his artistic abilities, after all what other contemporary artist appears on Have I Got News For You, features in documentaries or stars on TV chat shows? Perhaps he is rather too popular with the public for those who prefer their artists to be a bit more like, well, contemporary artists. In any case he is sure to be even more popular after this wonderful exhibition – will they hate him more or less? I suspect they’ll have to bite their lip and admit his great talent.
At the British Museum Perry has been given free rein to dig in to their vast collection and he has selected exceptionally well. Picking charming and quirky pieces – what else would we expect? – he celebrates the craftsmen and women who have made all those pieces that adorn the museum. Items cover two million years and feature diverse themes – you will find perhaps religious icons, grotesque masks, tiny reliquaries, strange totems, modern badges and pre-Columbian pots. There are inevitably plenty of phalluses, a bit of cross dressing, some sexual politics – all are linked by Perry’s own creations that are slipped in amongst them.
Jumping from culture to culture, leaping through time – and purpose – objects are juxtaposed to great effect. The biggest shock perhaps is that it is virtually seamless. The old and new mingle as if created at least by the same souls or spirits, if not the selfsame hand. Untold millennia of craft merges in to one fascinating, witty and often moving exhibition. The show culminates with the celebratory cast-iron ‘tomb’ which in the form of a boat carries a flint hand axe (the oldest artefact in the museum) as well as vials of blood sweat and tears, and sails ever onward. We emerge with feeling of connection with the past – a glorious celebration of human creativity and cultural diversity.
Grayson Perry is represented by Victoria Miro.
- Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman at the British Museum (telegraph.co.uk)
- Studio visit with artist Grayson Perry (lostateminor.com)
- Making connections (britishmuseum.org)
- Grayson Perry: the Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman – review (guardian.co.uk)
- VIDEO: Grayson Perry’s ode to craftsmen (bbc.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 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)
11 September 2010 § Leave a comment
Have you ever looked at a painting and wondered what might happen next? What about if the sun set a little or the model turned around? OK – I know that moving pictures have long been with us – the current Muybridge exhibition at the Tate giving early insight in to its origins – but Dutch artist Jacco Olivier, whilst combining the arts of animation, film and painting does actually create projected works that owe more than usual to the traditions of painting.
Using bold colours and free brush strokes Olivier repeatedly reworks initial paintings, the photographs of each stage in its development ultimately becoming an, often multi-layered, animated narrative. In his impressive painting style one glimpses the freedom of Matisse and the colours of the Fauves. Their semi abstract nature and emotional treatment of light evokes Howard Hodgkin, the abstract qualities often resemble those of Gerhard Richter.
There is little consistent theme to the works. Instead we are given a window in to a world where we glimpse what seem to be random, informal and seemingly insignificant scenes – simple scenarios from everyday life taking place in their own dreamlike environment. In the past Olivier has shown us such modest events as a plane flying overhead, a frog attempting to cross a road or whale lazily swimming by. He has said that his works represent someone “looking at the things outside, mixing them with his own memories and desires” although he does add “that’s all I need to make it work in my head, but is not necessarily something the viewer sees, or even has to see.” We do see a narrative, but it is just a part of the whole – we are still left to ponder on what is to come. There are no beginnings, no middles, no ends – no neat conclusions.
In the latest exhibition at Victoria Miro Olivier has become slightly less intimate than in the past. The works are larger in scale and have less emphasis on story-telling; the paint becomes more noticeable, the animation less so. His subjects, at least in Miro’s downstairs gallery, are traditional – the portrait, still life, landscape and the bather – the figures, where they appear, almost passive. A central family group is dwarfed as the landscape morphs about them (Reflection), a bather casually dries herself (Bath), a man slowly walks in to a pool of water (Transition), an aerial view of the countryside rolls uneventfully along (Landscape).
Upstairs is the impressive, twenty-four minute Revolution – a huge work that occupies the whole rear wall of Miro’s not insubstantial gallery. A day-in-the-life of an imaginary universe which, rotating slowly, reveals fantastical galaxies, clouds of gas and even a wiggling organism. The scale brings a physical presence as it evokes anything from Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey ‘light tunnel’ to electron-microscope images or Hubble supernovas.
One occasionally yearns for the continuously morphing images to pause for a moment. There is a desire to sink more deeply in to the works and admire their painterly qualities; to perhaps absorb their aesthetic beauty at a more leisurely pace. Despite this one must admit that Olivier has undoubtedly created work with unique charm. Lying part way between painting and film, beautiful, intriguing, enigmatic and strangely hypnotic this is a world that I very much enjoyed being part of. Now perhaps if I cleared out the spare room and painted the wall white….?
- London – Jacco Olivier’s New Works (09.07.10 – 10.02.10) (hustlerofculture.com)
- 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)