Dine Emdash

London
10.15.11

Left: Artist Sarah Lucas. Right: Dealer Jay Jopling with his daughter Angelica. (Except where noted, all photos: Linda Yablonsky)


THE FRIEZE ART FAIR always brings to London a frenzy of events that makes the art world feel expansive, lively, and consumed with display. Of course, the point is to put on a show—not just under the Regent’s Park big top but in every gallery, museum, private club, and bar—impressive enough to capture the art caravan before it moves on to the FIAC fair in Paris. I arrived on Tuesday, just in time to hear about all of the fetes I’d missed the night before: a reception for the Gerhard Richter and Tacita Dean exhibitions at Tate Modern, the launch of Thomas Dane’s slick new gallery with an Albert Oehlen show, the Rebecca Warren opening at Maureen Paley . . . the offerings sounded abundant.

But there was plenty more where that came from, starting with a VIP buffet lunch at the ICA, where Jacob Kassay would suffer an embarrassing conversation with critic Daniel Kunitz about the artist’s first institutional solo show, opening officially the next day alongside Frances Stark’s digital animation My Best Thing. “I think it’s poignant,” collector Shelley Fox Aarons said of Kassay’s exhibition, which contains both silver-plated, dipped-in-acid canvases and an installation of new, white monochromes gathered under the title Xanax. “Basically, there’s nothing there,” the vulnerable Kassay said, fumbling for answers to the mumbled nonquestions Kunitz put to him. “It’s just you and this object.”

That is the ideal condition for viewing art in most circumstances, but during Frieze week, it’s all about the collective experience. Victoria Miro smartly chose teatime to welcome the VIPs to the trio of Doug Aitken, Tal R, and Maria Nepomuceno exhibitions unfolding in her East End gallery, thoughtfully leaving everyone time to get to the crush of evening events in other parts of town.

Left: Artist Tal R. Right: Artist Doug Aitken.


Aitken greeted guests as if he were on fire, taking them around his two-story exhibition at Miro with an infectious enthusiasm; his group of new light-box photo works spelled out words like UTOPIA and RIOT, or the dates of culturally tumultuous years, like the shattered-mirror 1968. “They’re not meant be flat works but portals,” Aitken said. “This entire exhibition is like a core sample of the earth,” he added, one that brings “hot flashes” of the past into a perpetual present that also embraces Black Mirror, a multiscreen environment where Chloë Sevigny appears as a restive, digital-age nomad with no fixed identity or home.

That’s pretty much the way I felt as I raced to Mayfair for Josephine Meckseper’s opening at Timothy Taylor. Her mock retail displays suggest we are all being sold a bill of goods by a propaganda machine that extends from governments to an art world that sometimes seems to have lost all sense of proportion, particularly in an economy that threatens disaster worldwide.

Nowhere was that more apparent than at the opening of White Cube Bermondsey, Jay Jopling’s vast new 58,000-square-foot exhibition space in South London. A crush of what seemed like a thousand people were crowding the bouncers at an outer gate, while several hundred more were massing like the crows in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds in the courtyard beyond the fence. If there were any remaining doubt that artists in London excite the public the way movie stars at premieres in Hollywood do, this event would put it to rest.

Left: Outside White Cube Bermondsey. Right: W editor Stefano Tonchi with dealers Sadie Coles and David Maupin.


Inside the white whale, an industrial building given a sleek, modernist finish by Casper Mueller Kneer Architects, I had to keep reminding myself that this was a commercial gallery and not Tate Modern, or a stripped-down Taj Mahal. Several hundred more people strolled the airport terminal–size central spine, off of which were galleries where Minimalism ruled the day. The shows included solo presentations by three artists new to White Cube: the suddenly-in-demand California Light and Space painter Mary Corse, Romanian-born painter Marieta Chirulescu, and Berliner Kitty Kraus, who contributed a show of rickety-looking mirrored boxes featuring a single lightbulb each.

In the spacious South Galleries, curator Craig Burnett had organized “Structure and Absence,” an outstanding group exhibition of preponderantly gray and white works by artists such as Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, Andreas Gursky, Wade Guyton, Eileen Quinlan, Gabriel Orozco, and Robert Ryman, around Chinese scholars’ rocks in three connecting rooms. And in 9x9x9, a project space situated outside a larger, private viewing room, Cerith Wyn Evans created a dazzling installation, Beware-fresh paint, consisting a room-wrapping neon text, two round pieces of polished obsidian reflecting all the bug-eyes around it, and a chandelier of crystal flutes that played single notes when air was forced through them. “I feel like I’m at my degree show, standing here,” said the dapper, slightly sheepish Wyn Evans, as chosen people such as André Balazs, Michael Stipe, Sam Keller, Sam Taylor-Wood, and Aaron Johnson pushed by to get into the private room before repairing to Jopling’s home for an opening-night party.

Elsewhere, life went on as if nothing out of the ordinary were happening. In a large Georgian townhouse not far from Regent’s Park, dealers Sadie Coles, Gavin Brown, and Eva Presenhuber joined forces with the Modern Institute’s Toby Webster to host a pre-Frieze dinner for more than a hundred artists, colleagues, and clients. This affair was as relaxed as the Bermondsey Street opening was pumped—a family dinner as opposed to a royal convocation.

Left: Artist Martin Boyce and dealer Toby Webster. Right: Dealers Lisa Spellman and Glenn Scott Wright.


Martin Boyce, Georg Herold, Andreas Slominski, Jeremy Deller, Jim Lambie, and Valentin Carron were among the artists dining at three long tables filled out with the likes of nonprofit directors and curators Stefan Kalmár, Ann Goldstein, and Laura Hoptman; collectors Iasson Tsakonas, Martin Hatebur, Shane Ackroyd, and Hugo Rittson-Thomas; as well as Frieze fair cofounders Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover, who is sometimes mistaken for curator Jens Hoffmann. “More people think I’m Massimiliano Gioni,” Slotover noted. As I said: It’s a family.

This occasion was also the first sign that BlackBerry holders were going to be compromised during the fair by a nearly worldwide interruption of service. But it didn’t disrupt any of the night’s festivities. Of course not. Art people are a determined lot and they aren’t going to let an evening slip by unattended. While the Meckseper dinner at Hix, the Miro dinner at Shoreditch House, and the Studio Voltaire dinner at Kensington Palace Gardens were all simultaneously heating up, Lisson Gallery took over One Mayfair, a banquet hall in a converted church, for its annual pre-Frieze dance party, with gallery artist Haroon Mirza on the decks.

But I never made it there, thanks partly to the congested traffic in central London, but mostly because it seemed like a good idea to stop first at Fergus and Margot Henderson’s St. John Hotel off Leicester Square. Upstairs, Sarah Lucas had committed to a Frieze-week “artist residency” to help popularize the cozy, Formica-appointed hotel bar. When I arrived with Lambie, who had suggested the stop, Lucas was holding forth in her pajamas for friends like Coles and her charges Herold and Slominski and the Warhol Foundation’s Tim Hunt and his father, John. The few guests imbibed under sculptures of garden chairs and soiled plastic buckets that Lucas had made on-site and suspended from the ceiling by their kapok-stuffed, nylon-stocking legs. “I do want them to be sexy,” she told a young artist who named her as his spiritual leader. “But they have to relate to something larger too.” They certainly felt sexy. So Lucas. So London. It got late, and jet lag sent me back to my hotel to prepare for something larger—in this case the VIP preview at Frieze the next day.

Left: Artist Josephine Meckseper. Right: Artist Valentin Carron with dealer Eva Presenhuber.


Wednesday night, however, belonged to Emdash Foundation creator Andrea Dibelius, who showed up in a pink feathered Dolce & Gabbana tutu to cohost a dinner with Sharp, Slotover, and W magazine editor Stefano Tonchi at the newly refurbished Arts Club on Dover Street.

Emdash is the Frieze Foundation’s latest benefactor, and this posh event celebrated the first Emdash Award, which went to Anahita Razmi, a young video and performance artist based in Stuttgart. The first people I spotted were artists Ryan Gander and Pierre Huyghe, along with Calvin Klein designer Francisco Costa, Art Production Fund cofounder Yvonne Force, and Tate Modern director Chris Dercon. The eclectic guest list also included collectors Poju and Anita Zabludowicz (who proclaimed FIAC the choicer fair), Richard Chang, a newly svelte Klaus Biesenbach, and architect Zaha Hadid. Dinner was extravagant, delicious, and long—my table, where Frieze editor Jennifer Higgie and Frieze Projects artist Oliver Laric were also seated, was served at midnight.

Afterward, I started into Mark Ronson’s claustrophobic basement club, where a dance party was in progress before a live band. But when I saw a woman wearing a tiara of blue gems emerge, even Jose Kuri could not convince me we were still on the art planet, so I left with dealers Toby Webster, Nicky Verber, and Andrew Hamilton for the Groucho, where Lambie was set to DJ for another late-night party. We found New York club and restaurant promoter Tracey Ryans outside, waiting patiently in a thick queue at the door.

We weren’t so patient and em-dashed off to the St John again, clearly the Brit Pack’s new “in” spot. This time it was Gavin Brown’s turn to host a party for Frances Stark, who huddled with Wyn Evans to vocalize an improvised song that had more spirit than lyrics. It was lovely, though the performance seemed to go unnoticed by Marc Foxx, Daniel Buchholz, Stefan Kalmár (still gob-smacked by a dinner with Tom Ford), and Lucas, who was still in her pajamas. After last call, when no one (including the Hendersons) showed any sign of retiring, poet Olivier Garbay stood up and improvised another song. This one had lyrics. They consisted mostly of the words “Time to go home.” No one took heed. They didn’t have to. When you make your bed in the art world, you’re home for good.

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Artists Olivier Garbay, Cerith Wyn Evans, and Sarah Lucas. Right: Artist Frances Stark and dealer Daniel Buchholz.


Left: Curator Nicolas Trembley and artist Jürgen Teller. Right: Designer Tom Ford. (Photo: Miggi Hood)


Left: Collectors Phil and Shelley Fox Aarons. Right: Michael Stipe and artist Thomas Dozol.


Left: Restauranteur and hotelier Margot Henderson with artist Cerith Wynn Evans. Right: Artist Jim Lambie.


Left: Collector Richard Chang with Tate Modern director Chris Dercon. Right: Kunsthalle Zurich director Beatrix Ruf.


Left: Dealers Niklas Svennung and Chantal Crousel. Right: Calvin Klein designer Francisco Costa.


Left: Collector Agustin Coppel and dealer Jose Kuri. Right: Hotelier André Balazs and artist Marco Brambilla.


Left: ICA curator Matt Williams. Right: Collector Shane Ackroyd and Frieze Art Fair codirector Matthew Slotover.


Left: Artist Richard Phillips. Right: ICA director Gregor Muir and curator Aphrodite Gonou.


Left: Artist Oliver Laric. Right: Dealers Nicky Verber, Toby Webster, and Andrew Hamilton.