Art of England Blog - September
SUMMER IN THE CITY
This summer’s art season began with my desperate escape from the heat and humidity of NYC. I touched down in London just as it was all about to begin, on the first day of the Sotheby’s sales. Dizzying events were afoot and on a grand scale; Jeff Koons made The Incredible Hulk as iconic as Elvis, a blinged up diamond skull sent the auctions crazy, Warhol and Banksy got in the ring (indeed the ghost of Warhol loomed everywhere I looked) the Serpentine summer bash was more like the front row of a fashion show and most surreally, I got into a fight at the Art Car Boot Sale!
When the hammer is about to go down on a hoard of contemporary booty it sends sparks flying around the whole art community; no more so than when there is another wave of record prices. Tantalised by all the excitement I was keen to see who might be in town at the Gagosian opening for Jeff Koons, a few hours before the sale.
If nowadays, as it all to often seems, the success of an art opening can be gauged by how many a-list celebrities the gallery can coerce into standing together within the same four walls, the Gagosian private viewing was off the scale. After being snatched up in a social whirlwind, saying hi to Stella McCartney being papped with Keith Tyson and Larry Gagosian and having a hurried catch up with an old art dealer of mine, it became apparent that the art is perhaps an excuse for something else.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d been so excited to see this show (Jeff’s a hero of mine) but there was something missing in those paintings. I know they aren’t meant to have a heart, but the truth is, they were better in the re-productions I saw six months prior. I was left with a disenchanted hollow feeling; knowing about Koons’s team and resources I had wanted to see some really special painting. As I discussed the show on the way home, my cohorts and I concluded that our dear friend and fantastic painter David Hancock could have painted better than the whole Koons team with one hand in a sling.
On the way back my phone beeps - there’s been a new record. Now the sales are all about ‘records’ and this time it was a new record for Hirst, someone on the planet has parted company with 9.6 million big ones for a medicine cabinet. The sensation around his $100 million diamond encrusted skull has helped the market nicely. I’d have loved a gangster rapper to have put up the cash and to try to tie it round their neck. How awesome would it be to see Jay-Z walk out to Madison Square Garden with that weighing him down? I personally found all the bling and hype a bit too much and opted not to go and see it, to the utter disappointment of my friend John Stark, who believed it was actually quite a beautiful spectacle. For me art about money is getting tired. I’d like to see Damien staple £10 Million to the wall and sell it for £50 million. As a side note, whilst Jay-Z didn’t pick up the infamous skull, some big rap dogs are certainly picking up the scent of contemporary art. Kanye West was eager to divulge (on radio one last weekend) his plan to jet into Art Basel in order to sweep up some shiny new art wares. Lets see who fly’s in to the opening of our own London fair, Frieze.
In the summer calendar there’s one place you just have to be and that’s the Serpentine summer party. It feels more like a front row at fashion week than a normal fundraiser. However, it is a good cause and everyone had such a brilliant time. YSL had tattooed their logo all over the flowers and the giant balloon topped pavilion by Rem Koolhaas turned the world pink. One of my favourite colours… Stars like Linda Evangelista, Simon Le Bon & Tilda Swinton look even more heavenly with a pink glow. What’s more I got to pick one of the flowers and take it home…
Warhol was omnipotent this summer; there must have been 10 shows on at least, from Factory photos (which were actually amazing) at Monika Sputh, to Athletes at Martin Summers. My red carpet allergy came up again when I arrived at the Warhol Vs Banksy opening… I’m sure I do the most retarded walk whenever the attention falls my way. Anyways - I have to be honest there IS a dubious link between the two pop masters and a definite unnerving feeling when a voice of the streets becomes a commodity (£288,000 for one at Bonhams!) in a super slick a-list branded setting. The predictable question raised by all this is… When an artist becomes part of the establishment do they lose their anti-establishment edge? I think so! I enjoy cheap and tacky things and concepts, but even for me this was a bit much. There was nothing at all punk about having Sophie Ellis Bextor, Mark Ronson or Mika as adoring fans.
The most fun I had was scouting for artist made knick-nacks down at brick lane at the very hot and sunny, art car boot fair. This is a unique and rather special occasion; well known artists sell their wares from the boot of their cars. After wading through Emin’s, Westwoods, Blake’s and Tim & Sue’s and having finally settled on a Gavin Turk I found myself embroiled in a scrap with Uri Geller for his last car boot (He was actually selling boots of cars that he had signed!). In the end Uri won. I was not feeling the pain of dejection for long however, as it turns out Uri had actually commissioned me one especially as a gift. So I am now the proud owner of a signed white Mercedes bumper… I just have to work out how to hang the thing!