Tuesday, 19 October 2010


I left Frieze on Friday and literally slumped down in a heap on the floor outside the tent in Regent's Park; a little pool of misery. I had to take myself off for a cup of tea and caramel waffles to pep up my spirits which had been culturally steamrollered. As usual, the fair was completely overwhelming even though I pretty much let the art wash over me like a cultural salve rather than allowing it to penetrate my consciousness, agitate my senses, provoke a reaction or illicit any kind of formulated thought at all. Since it is basically a glorified trade show, admittedly of very expensive agitprop high culture, it's just nice to notice general patterns and trends, pick out the shock-jocks,  creep round the stranger exhibits (the 10 embarrassed men by Annika Ström this year) and linger over pieces which personally appeal rather than try and make sense of it all. A selection of the latter piece (for me) are below. 
A grand cinematic statement that's part glamour of the silver screen, part decidedly un-glamorous industrial fundamentals behind the scenes
 I've always had a penchant for word collage creations like this, you want to make sense of it, you can't, you grapple... you surrender. I like the phrase 'Skitish friend in central Asia'
 Completely different from most things at Frieze, I liked this for the mix of instantly relating to it, aligning oneself with something about it, and then confusion when the white crosses are noticed, like there's something sinister and insidious lurking beneath the surface.

 Pretty much what i was feeling about half way round the art fair
 Reminds me of the two rather crazy golden palm trees that light up that used to belong to Elton John and which my Dad bought in a Sotheby's auction eons ago, and which i love.
 A George's Cross made up of £10 and £5. sort of so grim it's cool? In two minds.
 Love love love this Tracey Emin line drawing of a woman masturbating. Looks like the most elegant act in the world.
 50s cultural reference: Check.  Outward expression of what was going on internally: Check.
 Quasi-street signs with slightly non-sensical, existentialist phrases. Basically summed things up for me at that point.
" It comes with oblivion, per se. All in a day's work"

Friday, 15 October 2010

Multiplied Arts

Harland Miller print, £500, White Cube
While the whirr of Frieze continues apace in Regent's Park, the inaugural and alternative Multiplied Arts has set up shop very nicely thank you very much at Christie's on the Brompton Road. Filled with over 30 galleries (most of whom aren't at Frieze) the fair focuses on limited edition prints, artist box editions, and multiples, which means the prices are brought way down - they start as low at £9.99 but generally hover around the £500 mark, but big names still feature - Peter Blake, John Baldissari, Tracey Emin. Rachel Whiteread, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Harland Miller (above - GOD I LOVE THIS PRINT). It's such a wonderful opportunity to see amazing work that's actually affordable, in a space that's not frenetic or intimidating. I particularly liked The Vinyl Factory - artist/musician collaborations of album cover artwork, and the cosy prints at Elphicks, plus the stands of the ICA and the Whitechapel galleries, which sell limited edition prints by both big name and emerging artists, with the proceeds supporting the galleries.

Album cover from the Vinyl Factory

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Tracey Emin @ Louis Vuitton

I braved Louis Vuitton's new(ish) shop on Bond Street yesterday to have a snoop at the Tracey Emin  curated book shelf  in the 'Louis Vuitton Librarie'. To be honest it's a thoroughly intimidating experience, with about 702 staff greeting you emphatically as you enter the vastly spacious shiny, glitteringly gold and twinkling 3 floor store - light bounces off seemingly every surface: the floor to ceiling mirrors, gold chains, polished-to-within-an-inch-of-their-lives surfaces - buckles, glass cabinets, patent shoes and bags, watches, sparkling jewellery. It's the epitome of indulgently luxurious retail heaven, a sort of cloying, claustrophobic, decadent shopping overload that attacks you from every angle an inveigles itself into your soul. on the first floor though is the fabled Librarie, where there are a series of shelves that act as an art installation cum cultural shopping experience... artists curate a wall of books that have helped shape their lives, influenced their work and that they've written. It's a curious creation that works surprisingly well. Tracey Emin's books include, amongst others, a healthy smattering of Amistead Maupin, Graeme Green's The End of The Affair, Raymond Carver's What We talk About When We Talk About Love; A.A.Milne's Winnie the Pooh; Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote; Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky; Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov, plus a few of her own books. You can buy any of those on display. Sort of beats 'Waterstone's recommends', at any rate.
12 October - 30 November 2010

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Hell's Half Acre

Polly Morgan's flapping pigeon wings suspended and
frozen in time

A Bacon-like vision of hellish metamorphosis
Bodies cocooned in clingfilm hang from the vaulted ceiling
A ball of Swarovski crystals hang in a cloud of suffocating, claustrophobic dry ice - as the light reflects off the crystal, the ball seems to pulsate
An armada of gold boats hang suspended, their shadows eerily sailing along the exposed brick walls behind.
A video projection of flames is reflected in a sea of pitch black liquid

Hell's Half Acre is a phrase reverberating with cultural resonance. Here it's embraced for a subterranean lair (the Old Vic tunnels under Walerloo station) which plays host to a reinterpretation of the nine circles of hell making up Dante's Inferno, as curated by Lazarides. Nightmarish visions abound, in the labyrinthine tunnels dripping with damp, where footsteps echo eerily and shadows obscure clear vision - involuntarily creating monsters in your mind. It's curious - some artworks on show are indeed viscerally hellish: the bodies curled in foetal positions, cocooned in clingfilm and suspended from the ceiling literally made me want to vomit with disgust and shock; the nightmarish metamorphosis of figures writhing in agony always can't help but instill foreboding sense of dread; Polly Morgan's beautiful taxidermy plays neatly to Hitchcockian phobias of flapping bird wings; callous vandalism always upsets; as ALWAYS does a viciously barking dog (between the jaws of which you have to enter the exhibition); a pulsating ball of ethereal light in a smoke-filled corner first seduces then blinds and constricts... But other artists interpretations of their visions of hell left me entirely cold - cliched, flat, or just too left field. It's a weird exhibition, a bit overworked possibly, but interesting none the less...

Hell's Half Acre 6pm-11pm, The Old Vic Tunnels, Station Approach, SE1 7NN. Free.

Monday, 11 October 2010


I completely adore this picture, which was a Guardian Weekend reader picture, submitted by Jake Harris. It's SO DAMN COOL. I'm not sure i would have submitted it under the title 'action', though - surely there's  a word that would have been more fun? Hmmm.

Julien Schnabel: Polaroids


They are pretty impressive, really, these huge Polaroids, taken on a behemoth of a machine: a dolly-mounted, 20x24 inch 1970s camera. There are some poetic sepia pictures; intimate, off duty, snatched moments of downtime easiness captured on film. Others are in vibrantly bright colours, aggressive technicolour - often with paint streaked on top to exaggerate the colours and the mood. There are portraits of famous friends - Lou Reed, Mickey Rourke, Christopher Walken - and those of family.  my favourite were pictures of the fabulous creative spaces - both the studios and interior spaces where magnificent artworks hang. How incredible is the Montauk studio space (top picture)? the high green walls leading up to no ceiling but the piercing blue sky. I love the self portrait here of JS dwarfed by the towering walls and bright sky. I also love the crazy indoor decor, i'm guessing they are mostly rooms in the Palazzo Chupi - the mixture of so many grand-scale statement pieces, huge artworks, ornate chairs, beds, rugs - a sort of insanely luxurious boho style.

I only really know Julian Schnabel as a film-maker; the director of, amongst others, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and the upcoming Miral (which i've seen and though problematic, is a challenging and brave exploration of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict as told through the perspectives of four Palestinian women), so it was interesting to see his work as an artist/photographer. there's an easy creativity that oozes from these works. A mixture of fun, provocative daring, experimentation, petulance and devil may care, don't have to care confidence.

Julian Schnabel Polaroids is at Colnaghi gallery, 15 Old Bond Street, London W1 until 12 November.

Friday, 8 October 2010

The Social Network

I'm not even on Facebook (stubbornly remaining part of the Faceless few) and i loved this film. 'The film that defines a generation' is the tag line (along with the above), and I'd probably have to agree in many ways. It's Mark Zukerberg's voracious desperation to achieve status, recognition and popularity that's really his motivation, his driving force: to be accepted, applauded, to get girls. tapping into that, and sharing it with everyone else is the key to his success, whatever the personal cost in the end. It may sound mad. it is. but that's just it. everyone wants a bit of exactly what he did, which is what has made his success.

The development of the site, in a pique of post-dump rage, via the girl rating 'face-mash', idea stealing and friend dumping is intercut with two law suits subsequently brought against Zuckerberg by his former best friend Eduardo Saverin and the Winklevoss twins (the Winklevei as Zuckerberg calls them in the film). With a script by Aaron Sorkin it's fast paced, taught and punchy - no one's a cardboard cut out; a nerd, a jock, a good time boy, a Jew, an over privileged brat they each may be, and that's important to their identity, but it's not painted  in a cartoonish way. Your sympathies flit between everyone - they're all clever, dynamic and driven yet also selfish, myopic and overconfident. the complexity of the characters leads to an oblique reading of the film - i imagine everyone will take away something different, and that'll change every time you scrutinise the story.

It's out on the 15th October. See it.

The New Yorker Festival

The New Yorker has a festival; a weekend literary one. In NYC, obvs. anyway, by luck (the luck of the Icelandic volcano that postponed my trip by 6 months), I was in town for this year's one. Obviously i didn't go to all the events, but i did go to a few, my favourite being The New Yorker teaming up with The Moth. The Moth organises storytelling nights where speakers come and tell a story, a true story: no notes, lasting no more than 10 mins. We have something similar in London 5x15 (the one on the 18th Oct has a great line up), but it's less storytelling than a talk, still good though. The Moth nights also generally have a theme... this collaboration with The New Yorker saw New Yorker writers tell a true story about working at the New Yorker. It was completely fascinating as the stories behind the stories emerged - the luck of the first OJ trial expose by Jeffrey Toobin, Jane Mayer's story behind abuse at Abu Graib. they were completely engrossing - truly brilliant - and all without notes... no hesitation, repetition or confusion.

At another event I also heard Zadie Smith and Michael Chabon talk about their work - here's a video link to them discussing their preferences for writing fiction/non-fiction. Zadie Smith seemed on edge. Michael Chabon, well, i think i might just be in love.

NYC: I saw, I loved, I snapped

 Kara Walker, Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as it Occurred b'tween the Dusky Thighs of One Negress and her Heart, 1994.
What a title. what a image to cover an entire wall.
Hannah Hoch, Rome, 1925, Guggenheim (Chaos and Classicism exhibition)
Mussolini gets the Dada treatment

Marcel Gromaire, The Banks of the Marne, 1925, Guggenheim (Chaos and Classicism exhibition)
I love the sexiness of the strong lines, the muscular female rower - industry and angularity meet sex and sumptuous curves.
 Attrib Leni Riefenstahl, untitled, 1936. MoMA 
Makes me think of Busby Berkeley. shame about this German film maker's crazy Nazi connections.
 The New Photography 2010 exhibition at MoMA included work by Alex Prager - Desiree, 2008 (above) and a short film with Bryce Dallas Howard (still below). The latter was a shot in almost luridly bright Technicolor, but was a  desperately dark fairytale where a 1950s Hitchcock style heroine kills herself. Sort of Alice in Wonderland meets The Wizard of Oz meets Vertigo.

 Also in The New Photography exhibition  was work by Elad Lassry (above). More than the film itself, i loved its projection on the wall with the sight of the suspended red legs jiggling about. When you watched the reel run round the projector, you could occasionally see the individual stills whizz past.

 On a bookseller's stall in Williamsburg. Uppity women are the best.

 "Hell, Yes!" Outside the New Museum in the East Village, near hidden-away-down-an-alley, Taxidermy-adorned restaurant Freeman's.  

 de Chirico's ballet costume for Diaghilev's Ballet Russes... the classical and Grecian fashion craze goes a bit literal... love it. Guggenheim (Chaos and Classicism exhibition)

Whistler: Harmony in Pink and Grey (1881). The Frick
 I completely fell in love with The Frick collection. especially the Whistlers. complete emotional symphonies, i agree.

Whistler: Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland, The Frick.