Art of England Magazine - November Column
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All the fun of the fair.
- By Stuart Semple
Isle upon isle of contemporary art is stretched out before me. Familiar faces fluttering in and out of gallery booths littering the fair like doorways in a corridor from the shining. Desperate dealers rubbing their hands together as another token contemporary mascot gets sent for bubble wrapping before being swapped for the unsold wares from the makeshift back rooms. No, this isn’t just the Frieze art fair, it more than that. This October London was literally a city of fairs.
I feel it’s time to lay some rumours to rest, I’m about as far from a party animal as you can get, preferring a retro dvd like ‘Lovejoy’ or ‘Poirot’ to a night on the tiles. In fact treacle tart and custard is my poison of choice these days. (Any donations gratefully received courtesy of the Art of England offices) I don’t have much hair to let down, but if I could I’d save it for Frieze week.
It’s wonderful that the world turns to London once a year to talk about contemporary art, but what I find slightly sad is the general public’s insatiable appetite for the art market, rather than art work. Wonderful though the fairs have been, Frieze has without a doubt taken the heat away from the work. In the old days people would get on a plane to see a museum exhibit. These days it’s to see Jake and Dinos Chapman doodle on a twenty quid note, and gossip about how much the Gagosian stand has shifted. Interestingly for the first year Frieze didn’t issue a statement on sales volume, which was followed by the auction houses. Still Frieze is a spectacle, celebrities clogging up the isles. I couldn’t see the Julien Opie’s for Lilly Allen’s, Naomi Campbell’s and princess Michael’s.
This year, I didn’t get to party like I normally do. I had my own show to contend with. It turned out to be a mammoth project, it was spiraling into disaster. As the doors flew open at the fairs, I was up most of the night with Paul and David Hancock trying to hang 20 foot by 10 foot billboards in mid air.
On the Tuesday night I popped next door, to ‘The Future Can Wait’. An absolutely gorgeously curated show of new British art talent. Tessa Farmer showed some of her tree root and fly pieces, minutely sculpted to show the animal kingdom attacking that of the human realm. I have a new hero of paint, and that’s Gavin Nolan. His haunting portraits have burned into my mind. I can still see them now. David Hancock put in a couple of his newer pieces and John Stark showed a couple of things I’ve not seen before. He just seems to get better and better, but sadly as he does so, it’s becoming almost impossible to get one for love or money. It had a great time as everyone was there, even my artist friends from out of town. It was especially lovely to see Boo Saville and Adham Faramawy, who I collaborated with on a project in New York. Both looking fabulous.
During Frieze every artist or gallery tries to make as much noise as possible. Take for instance Richard Prince’s piece, featuring a bikini-clad vixen in hot pants and a car that looked like it was from the new Tarantino movie ‘Death Proof’. Is it pure promotion or art? You decide. Whatever, it was entertaining.
Gallerist, Anna Kustera (who I did a show with in NYC in September) was in town so I took her on a whistle stop tour of Vyner St and some of the East End spaces. The Lucifer Effect at Primo Alonso, curated by Gordon Cheung was absolutely wonderful as was a show of Zac Smith’s drawings at Fred. He’s amazing, a Goth porn star who draws his co-stars. I wanted to buy some, only to be told that it was ‘museums first’ and that Saatchi had already snapped up most of them. Delicate, poetic, narrative mark making at it’s best. There was a humour and I loved the materials too. I guess I’ll have to wait before one graces my living room.
I have to give a quick mention to the new Dylan bio pic. Kate Blanchett was wonderful as Bob, the movie was perfect. I was thrilled to be at the preview and to hear Todd Haynes, talk about how he approached such a difficult task. I loved his non-literal translation of one of my favourite stories in rock history. I loved his movie ‘Velvet Goldmine’. It became something that shaped my youth, so it was a shame that I was the only one in the audience sporting some glitter! Anyway, I recommend you see the movie. You won’t be disappointed.
Art may be about the market. The press may like to speculate, they may like big numbers. Celebrities do guarantee coverage, but there’s some amazing stuff out there if you’re brave enough to look. I guess I’ll be enjoying an early night until this time next year. Lovejoy anyone?
By Stuart Semple:
Labels: adham faramawy, anna kustera, art of england, boo saville, david hancock, David Risley, frieze, gagosian, jake and dinos, john stark, Julien Opie, primo alonso, Richard Prince, Zac Smith, zoo art fair