On a Haunch

London
03.16.09

Left: Artist Rebecca Warren with Bianca Jagger. Right: Artist Polly Morgan with Jude Law. (All photos: Ana Finel Honigman)


LAST MONDAY, following a short flight from Berlin, I stopped by the Serpentine’s preview for Rebecca Warren’s first survey in a UK public gallery. I’ve long been skeptical of the hype surrounding her untidy and ambiguously referential sculptures (which critics often seem to ascribe with feminist meaning), so I was excited to see how her exhibition stacked up.

Something about the work still seemed half-baked to me, but at least the crowd was hot. The Tate’s eminent Sir Nicholas Serota, artists Tracey Emin, Glenn Brown, and Mat Collishaw, musician Alison Goldfrapp, and Bianca Jagger made their way around Warren’s rough-hewn masses of abstract or vaguely figurative clay and bronze forms. Some were on plinths; others were positioned on the floor. The rest were in loosely assembled vitrines in which she combined her unglazed lumps with plush toys and neon lights. A gruff Juergen Teller wandered around with dealer Sadie Coles, eventually pausing to contemplate a beetroot-hued tartan print Warren had painted on a bulbous mound of clay. Meredith Ostrom, the fresh-faced and affable actress who played Nico in Factory Girl, caught me up on the details of her own upcoming exhibition. As we studied an especially elaborate composition involving miniature clay beer bottles, a skull with snakes in its eyes, a neon bulb, and a well-loved stuffed blue bunny, she dilated on art’s potential to inspire underprivileged third-world children.

Having had my fill of rough reality, I decamped early . . . ish. Enough time, anyway, to get a proper rest before the show I was sure would be great. The next night, I made my way to Haunch of Venison for the opening of their new Burlington Gardens space, in the grand building formerly occupied by the Royal Academy, which they were christening with a group show titled “Mythologies.” I was thrilled to be greeted at the entrance by John Isaac’s gleaming gold orb on a weathered plinth; the totemic ball was almost hypnotic, pulling me up the stairs toward the main exhibition space.

Left: Dealer Sadie Coles with artist Juergen Teller. Right: ICA artistic director Ekow Eshun.


Once upstairs, I had a nice chat with Jude Law about his sister Natasha’s upcoming show at the Eleven gallery, in collaboration with artist Daisy de Villeneuve. The exhibition is apparently a rogue’s gallery of composite portraits of the pair’s “worst female friends.” “My sister is the most nontoxic person I know,” Law dutifully noted as we studied Polly Morgan’s life-size wooden coffin stuffed with taxidermied chicks.

Leaving Law, I bumped into writer Louisa Buck, whose arm was in a serious surgical sling. She told me that she needed to have a torn tendon stitched up after an accident skating. I strangely assumed she meant “skateboarding,” but she disabused me. “What a nightmare, me as a middle-aged skateboarder,” she said. “I’d get demolished.”

Perusing the remaining twinkling and opulent objects, I came across “Mythologies” artist Tim Noble’s interpretation of Daniele Buetti’s glittering surfaces dotted with pinpricks exposing points of white light from the light box underneath. “It’s all about cocaine,” Noble suggested dryly before we stopped to admire a text message on his phone that Isabella Blow had sent him not long before she passed away. “We should try to call her,” he suggested as we watched Nancy Kienholz correct an off-kilter crucifix, one of seventy-six in a collaborative installation she made with her late husband, Ed. But phone calls to the dead are a bit macabre, even for Noble, and instead we joined the rest of the lively party en route to the Groucho Club.

Ana Finel Honigman

Left: Artist Nancy Kienholz. Right: Haunch of Venison director Harry Blain with Bodil Blain.


Left: Artist Wim Delvoye with “Mythologies” co-curator James Putnam. Right: Artist Tim Noble.


Left: Actress Meredith Ostrom. Right: Artists Rachel Howard and Mat Collishaw.


Left: Dealer Maureen Paley. Right: Artists Ellen Cantor with writer and performer Laurie Weeks.


Left: Artist Shezad Dawood. Right: Writer Louisa Buck.


Left: Harper's Bazaar's Kim Hersov. Right: Astrid Muñoz.