On the first weekend of March I went to Art 13, yet another art fair in London. Not that I have been to London Art Fair, Frieze or Zoo, but this one seemed to be one of the better ones (for my interest). It didn't feature any of the super-large galleries, which I quite liked, but did include galleries selling high-calibre work, a few more-experimental spaces, some publications and a performance focus.
It wasn't so OTT that it was incomprehensible, but it had enough muscle to present a powerful view of art from the UK - with some galleries from Europe, Asia and South Africa giving a little external flavour. I realise that sounds patronising, but perhaps that's what it felt like.
Because art fairs, like biennales, can be simultaenously overwhelming and underwhelming, you need to have a clear method for maximising your experience.
I was lucky enough to be able to go over 2 days. and, I have to say, over that time I think I nailed it. I did a loose sweep of the spaces of Friday and made it a bit social, catching up for drinks with Simone of discoballbreaker fame.
I'm not a long-time londoner, but I do visit galleries fairly regularly, so it was refreshing and enlightening to see some of these new-to-me galleries, meet some of the staff and get a feel for what kinds of works they're showing.
Fold gallery were showing a series of small works, mostly 2D, showcasing the intimate and accessible aspects of their artists' capabilities. I quite liked the relief sculptures by Mark Pearson, totems of bands like Wall of Voodoo* The rest of the show also struck me as something uplifting and comforting - like I could have walked into someone's home with a series of small works on the wall. Small enamel graphic paintings, patterns, etc.
Aando gallery is a German gallery which I had seen at a couple of the (comparitively awful) art fairs during my time in Berlin. It was great to see their works again, especially the work of a German pair Andreas Greiner and Armin Kiplinger - a live sculpture of evaporating water drops, forming perfect spheres of joy, rolling around on a hot plate, fed from a drip feeder. So simple and beautiful.
In my palatial home, I would have it in the hallway.
That's just how I would roll. In my palatial home.
Zimmermann & Kratochwill
When I wandered into this gallery space from the crew in Graz, what struck me was the images of nail art. I hoped that the artist Poklong Anading was critiquing the rise of it.
I fucking hate nail art. It may have something to do with a previous personal jealousy, but I am also a bit perplexed as to why it is a thing. I mean, I get having funky nails - that's way cool, but why now? It has got to be more than just fashion and/or recession (especially as Perth is not in a recession)
And why is Art moving into nails? Grumpy old woman rant....
Anyway, I went to speak to the lovely gallery directors and discovered that the artist isn't necessarily critiquing nail art at all, but was using it to talk about unskilled labour in the Phillipines, and that the objects on the wall were relevant to the process. I also saw a previous body of work featuring the cleaning rags found on the streets of Manila and really liked the singularity of focus and the street-references.
So we started chatting about the Phillipines (where the gallery has a partnership there as balance to its Graz operations) and of course ended up talking about Australian artists TV Moore and David Griggs and his influence in and from the Phillipines. These artists were the last I expected to talk about at the fair, but it was refreshing and comforting, in a way. I reconnected briefly with a particularly Australian (mostly male) art scene for just a second and realised it was something I was craving - that slightly rebellious laddish thing without the irony, the boldness of standing up straight with messy hair - I miss that.
It was so great to chat with these young women running the gallery and I admired their vision and ability to look to art outside the usual London/Euro scene, but still connect to it - it was like a mid-afternoon pick-me-up and I craved the hot, sweaty life of an Asian hood.
I have been meaning to get to IMT since forever. It was great to see what they were showing and I really liked the coal eyes for the wall by Laura Pawela (above).
It was such a simple idea and, from a commercial perspective, such a great piece. Cast silicone, coated in coal (which initially I though she meant kohl) and mounted on the wall at the height of the artist. Although, I guess they could be mounted at your height, or any person's height really. I love the idea that the works come with measurements - how high to hang them. And that their this slightly creepy, but incredibly beautiful works.
The last few art fairs I've been to have had lots of talks, but not so much actual performance. And i don't remember being at one that had a booth and a rolling programme dedicated to it. Even if i didn't get to see too much of it, it was an excellent piece of planning and it helped to make the fair more of an event
I got to see about 10 minutes of the Juneau Projects (above) and their bleak futuro-romantic epic, painting a picture of a future centered wholly around data mining, information and post-civilsiation. They read a spoken text work and played intruments - fluoro-pimped synthesisers, surrounded by fluoro plexi-glass toys and wearing wooden amulets. It was like Children of Men, Kraftwerk and last year's H&M range all in a blender.
I enjoyed watching it, and having something to watch. The aesthetic, which is part of the current fluoro woodsy scando flavour left me feeling a bit cold and the content slightly depressed. Probably because I'm still in denial and the truth hurts.
As someone who swims around between installation, drawing, performance, etc - it's always refreshing to know that there are galleries who are working with artists to expand that kind of practice into a way to maybe make a living from it. It's not easy and it's not perfect, but Ceri Hand are one of the galleries who are continuing to have the conversation with collectors and artists to bring them together in a way that can serve both sides as much as possible.
Despite my meh kind of attitude towards photography (which is entirely subjective), the performance detail from Bedwyr Williams with false beard, smeary make-up, damsel-in-distress look was striking and an obvious entry point into what performance brings to art collections.
Șükran Moral is a performance artist from Turkey whose work at the Galeri Zilberman stand was of a female mannequin in the middle of the space; legs-up, like in gynae stirrups, with a TV hiding her cunt. The movie was of a naked woman coming out of a haman, being covered by an attendent. Although the word Șükran has no significance in turkish per se, I love the that pronunciation of her name in Arabic/English is the equivalent of 'Thank You Moral'. What a great performance name!
It goes so well with the edgy pushing work that she makes.
I love contemporary turkish art - especially that of a performative nature and a lot of women are keening, striving to break out.
I saw a lot of it at TANAS in Berlin (thanks to the big Turkish contingent there) and I feel like they have a sense of freedom and energy that loads of european artists are unable to access at the moment.
I was slightly sheepish in admitting I hadn't ever heard of Jealous before going to the fair, but boy did i make up for that. I popped my head in to see a gorgeous A0 book open to a beautiful shade of aaaah-zure blue, referring to the seas of the world: Thomas Jenkins' Atlas. I spoke to Lucy, one of the gallery/studio staff and she took me through the whole Jealous way:their work, their methods, programs and I scored a couple of their newspapers too.
With real focus on print collaboration, they work with emerging artists to create limited edition print-based shows and publications to extend their practices. It reminded me a little of Lucas, Micky and Diego at Big Fag Press, but a little more white-glove.
Mental note: make a work that is Jealous-worthy one day.
I didn't manage to get back in time to see the live print-run, but Outsiders (the print-arm of Lazarides gallery) had set up 'shop'/press in the space and were printing and handing out free posters of some of their artists. spewin.
I have a bit of a hard-on for Conor Harrington at the moment, so it was great to see a couple of his prints kicking about. I coveted. Hard.
Given that, in a recession people don't have as much moula to spend on blingy things like art, having a print arm is excellent business from Laz and Co and I could see imagine that loads of people would leave the fair with a print or two under their arm, that will eventually become an original some day soon.
There were more traditional magazine publication stands along one side of the main hall, but they were pretty light on.
I know that everyone goes on about how print media is dead, blah blah, but i think somethig extra special could have been done with the magazines - online and offline that do continue to bring art to our mediated minds: e-flux, artsy, artinfo, zines, small magazines and even art bloggers. Ahem.
Mind had a stall, showcasing a series of work by Simon Sempel and giving away a free poster of his. Focusing on mental health, Mind have a project working with artists to highlight mental health issues and work with artists on related projects, insittutions, etc.
I am personally interested in what Mind are up to inconjunction with artists, because I have an ongoing belief that artists need to be embedded across most public sectors in order to provide a different kind of relationship to art.
I also think it's important to include these kinds of organisations/projects in Art Fairs - not just for awareness, but from an investment point of view. It could be an interested area to pursue in art fairs, an investor information section that supports organisations like Mind, those embedding artists in schools and prisons, etc.
Some of the projects for the art fair weren't quite as embedded as they could be - certainly not as much as I've seen in other art fairs. But there were still a few that I liked, including
The inflatable and mechanical flower by korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa, opening and closing/inflating and deflating at intervals - like something out of a nature time-lapse movie. It was so simple and so captivating, I regressed to a 5-year old and just enjoyed it. Imagine waking to that as your alarm clock in your palatial home? Hello, opening flower! OK, so it's nothing conceptually rigorous or challenging, but hey, sometimes art just needs to make me feel like waking up in the morning OK?
El anatsui is always a crowd pleaser and seeing a couple of his gorgeous, gorgeous works was like seeing your nan. A smile of nostalgia and comfort. I remember the first work of his I saw at the Venice Biennale about 5 years ago - massive wall-hanging that extended out across L'Arsenale floor. Damn.
Obelisk by Michaël Aerts
Made from custom road-cases, this sculpture is the imagined means by which a trad art piece might be transported around the world - complete with a pulley system and modular road-cases. As a form it was fun and also alluded to the globalised nature of art, the practicality to public art and gallery logistics. Also perhaps a reference to how a lot of art purchased for large collections ends up in storage in warehouse somewhere.
Overall, I quite enjoyed my time at the fair. I didn't feel like chucking it all in and becoming a human rights lawyer (which is my suicide bomber threat when it all gets too much), I felt like there was some new and interesting work to see, that there is still a market for good work for people to buy and that perhaps the commercial aspect to art isn't quite as disgusting as I have previously perceived.