Great and Hood

London
10.29.05

Left: Elmgreen & Dragset's duplicate Martin Klosterfelde booths. Right: Maureen Paley(s).


“Juanita, slap Fidel!” “Now, everybody DANCE!” Stumbling out of Andy Warhol's film The Life of Juanita Castro, 1965, into the blazing lights of an art fair café has to be one of the more jarring art-into-life transitions I've ever made. The film is being screened in a program selected by London’s cerebral art world playboy Cerith Wyn Evans for the mostly very interesting and well-selected “Artists Cinema” space organized by London-based nonprofit LUX and Frieze Projects. Throughout the Warhol film, which followed screenings of work by Ulla von Brandenburg and Kurt Kren, Evans wriggled with glee as if he was about to spr?ng from his finely ta?lored threads right into Ronald Tavel's lap. Who could blame him? I'd waited ten years to see this film again, and it didn't disappoint.

Giddily rehashing some of the better lines from the film, I head off for camping of a different sort. I approach the khaki confines of Andrea Zittel's hiking club, Interlopers HC, a tent-within-a-tent. Evidently art-fair visiting is the new aerobics: Many of the projects organ?zed by Polly Staple for Frieze this year involve a considerable amount of hiking, walking, and other calisthenic activity generally uncharacteristic of the London art world, despite its artists' penchant for psychogeography (other official perambulators ?nclude Martha Rosler, Richard Wentworth, Isabella Blow, plus Jay Chung & Q Takeki Maeda, while, off-site, Francis Al˙s's “Seven Walks” were presented by Artangel). But it seems that I have missed the last hike of the day led by the elaborately costumed Interlopers. No Baudelairean botanizing down the aisles for me, so I venture forth toward my preferred means of exercise: lifting a glass of champagne.

Left: Frieze Art Fair Artists Cinema curators Tirdad Zolghadr and Ian White. Right: Isabella Blow with artists from Andrea Zittel's Interlopers Hiking Club.


Every time I walk into five-star London institution Claridge’s I vow to discover the means of retir?ng there someday. Slipping into the stately dinner organized by gallerists Maureen Paley, Matthew Marks, and David Zwirner, I startle at the thrum of energy that accompanies a large gathering of the great, the good, the gifted, and the very rich. After a pleasant, but brief, reunion with Los Angeles collector Doug Inglish and MOCA's Ari Wiseman, I scan the high wattage crowd, which ranges from artists like Wolfgang Tillmans and Andrea Gursky to Tate top brass Sir Nicholas Serota and Sheena Wagstaff, from former Minneapolitans Douglas Fogle and Richard Flood to Warhol Foundation president Joel Wachs (conspicuously not acting like Ronald Tavel), and, for that matter, practically every American collector I can think of, from LA MOCA board member Michael Sandler and his wife Brenda to Chicago museum patrons Howard and Donna Stone.

Although tempted to linger at this very dignified affair, my champagne buzz spurs me past Maureen Paley's twinkly-eyed director Dan Gunn, out of the hotel, and down through Berkeley Square to heed the siren call of the paparazzi at the newest (and most glamorous) incarnation of Nobu, home of tonight's Cartier dinner in honor of Frieze Projects. I arrive just after Zaha Hadid, and see each fold of her Miyake drapery illuminated by the flash-popping of the publicity pirranhas. Once safely inside, after a drink in the company of almost every artist whose name has recently graced a major art magazine, I am thrilled to discover that I have been seated next to off?c?al Conceptual Conversationalist Ian Wilson. Talk about top ten dinner party companions—his banter with gallerist Jan Mot kept me in stitches. After a spirited evening of chit-chat and incredibly delicious, slippery, citrusy, sumptuous gastronomic delights, I head east for a nightcap in decidedly less glittering surroundings.

The Joiners Arms, a down-at-the-heels East End gay pub whose opening hours are more convenient than those of most London establishments, is not itself tonight. The usual crack whores and pool-playing speed freaks—and the art-fag elite who love them—have been largely replaced by aspirational international art youth celebrating itinerant London gallery Man in the Holocene, New York's The Wrong Gallery, and more, and who prance, dance, and drink desperately before last orders. I decide it's time to head home in order to be alert enough in the morning to appreciate Chrissie Iles's brilliant program of Thatcher-era film and video back in The Artists Cinema. Featuring the work of underknown British activist-artists like Stuart Marshall—whose film Pedagogue, 1988, is part of a body of work that makes him broadly comparable to Gregg Bordowitz—the screening seems a perfect occasion on which to consider the fate of bottom-of-the-barrel gay pubs in a very bullish market.

Left: Artist Donald Urquhart manning the DJ booth. Right: Artist Kirstine Roepstorff at the George & Dragon pub with an artwork by Terence Koh.


Left: Ian White. Right: Counter Gallery's Jo-Stella Sawicka and Istanbul-based curator November Paynter.


Stuart Comer