16 Oct 2008
To orient myself in the art world I need to find the best guides and destinations. Frieze, Zoo and Connections art fairs coincide today. This is an opportunity to check out many of the key players in one go. My mission is to collect the business cards of as many exhibitors as possible and share the info - pause the clip for details. 11.00 Frieze Art Fair, Regents Park, London. On the first leg of the expedition I’m accompanied to the Frieze tent by artist Leila Galloway. It’s like the New Year sales and we’re at the front of the queue. The doors are opened and the throng floods inside, carrying us with it. Under the big top the art sophists and protagonists champion their prodigies. Galleries display their wares with the aplomb of a Rodeo Drive boutique. This is art gastronomy - Michelin style. In the mêlée I come across the cognoscente of art cool - Gavin Brown. It’s been many years since we holidayed with him in New York.
(holiday pic, Times Square/ W43 St, 1997)
At that time his gallery was beginning to make waves in the art scene. In the intervening years he’s turned into an art tsunami. At another display I came across Wim Delvoye’s tattooed pigs. In ‘94 I made a proposal to the BAC featuring tattooed pigs. Before getting out of the starting blocks I was emphatically trumped by the brilliant artist Xu Bing. In "Cultural Animal”, Xu’s subversive and hilarious use of calligraphy and pigs put pay to my idea. In the Argentinean zone I bumped into the ‘unremittingly fabulous’ Patricia Lima and her artist beau Gregory, grandson of circus showman Billy Smart. This was a timely cue to exit the big top. 16.00 Zoo Art Fair, the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Zoo is perceived as a counter point to Frieze but their goals are in essence the same. Here the audience is more youthful, the sales pitch less overt. I can’t help feel that its credentials have been compromised by its relocation from London Zoo to the RA. Inside I’m met by guards in military uniform. This is ‘Action No. 60, durational intervention’ by Reza Aramesh - performance art for sale. More of a convention of stripper-grams than platoon, these soldiers wouldn’t go amiss at a Tyneside hen night. Durational Intervention curtailed and things start to look up. Here the art is more visceral and doesn’t take itself too seriously; Zoo has the convivial air of an arts degree show.
18.30 The final leg - Le Book’s ‘Connections’ is the tradeshow for the creative industry. This is where photographers and illustrators agents show portfolios to prospective clients. It is strictly a photographer-free zone: I’ve surreptitiously acquired a pass and I’m posing incognito as an art director. It has been over 17 years without representation. This is an opportunity to meet with some of the best agents and assess the competition. My guide and interpreter for the evening is Ed Webster of 4Creative. Ed is something of a mentor and champion of my work - the geezer’s a diamond. I'm primarily interested in folios - presentation, how many images, what format etc. The portfolios contained anywhere between 30 and 100 images, many were comprised of ‘stories’, each with up to 10 shots. Pixel perfection stifles almost everything here. I need some air, marathon over, I limp home. Conclusion: there's no great mystery, the requisite basics for survival in the art world are agents and galleries.
Thursday 16th October. I’m in London acclimatising for tomorrow’s art fair marathon. I take time out from checking facilities in the East End and make a trip to Hoxton Square. The White Cube is festooned with explosions of metal and glass. Josiah McElheny’s: Island Universe transforms the space into a celestial foyer befitting a Vegas hotel- portal to the temple of high art. Reminiscent of planetarium projectors, chrome rods trace trajectories to stars and constellations of hand blown glass and electric bulbs: the Big Bang materialised. Who is the Creator; artist, curator?
‘Creatures Great and Small’ at the Kinetica Museum reminds me of the time I met Jim Whiting (above). In the 80’s Jim was synonymous with his dislocated androids, his ‘Purvey Legs’ and the automatons in Herbie Hanckock’s music video ‘Rocket’. With Jim’s creations there was always a frisson of pending laceration as pneumatic pistons belched life into metal limbs with terrifying force.
At Kinetica there is no imminent fear of hospitalisation. Here the exhibits vie for my attention like freaks in a cyber sideshow. ‘Creatures Great and Small’ takes a broad swipe at the genre and succeeds in giving the uninitiated an insightful inauguration. Best in Show must go to Tim Lewis for his tour de force ‘Pony’. With an empty trap in tow, Pony tentatively sniffs the air as it tiptoes up to the visitor on satin gloved fingers. The drama of the exhibits resonate with the work of Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller at the Fruitmarket Gallery. Their Killing Machine (which tragically committed auto-mechanical suicide one week before the end of the show) would have not gone amiss here.