8 December 2011


Group Shot - performersSHOP interior 1    Opening PughShop Interior 3 Opening performance 2
all images Courtesy ShowStudio     

Aggressive; exhibitionistic; self-flagellatory. Three words vividly evoked by the performances, sculptures and images on display at "In Your Face", a new exhibition which opened last Thursday at London’s ShowStudio. The space itself is the physical component of fashion uber-photographer Nick Knight’s slick web-platform of the same name. Dedicated to the slippery genre of fashion film, showstudio.com celebrates the pageantry and peacockry of fashion at it’s performative best. Aggressive, exhibitionistic, self-flagellatory. Three words that could equally be applied to the primal drives of the fashion industry itself, and its often brutal excesses.
Centred on a contextually apt if overly facile preoccupation with the corporeal, the show’s star-studded ranks include Mapplethorpe’s heroic, photographic rendering of the male body as structural form, Leigh Bowery-esque bondage gear from fashion’s enfant terrible, Gareth Pugh, and painter Anj Smith’s darkly surreal portrait, R.F. This is a show about fetishisation, about the overwhelming objectness of the body and its perverse, almost excessive presence.

4 December 2011


view of Abu Dhabi from Saadiyat IslandAbu Dhabi Art, 2011 Ground floor Keith Haring $4.5mln work at Galerie Enrico Navarra UAE Pavillion by Sir Norman Foster 
from above: view to Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi Art, Keith Haring $4.5mln work at Galerie Enrico Navarra, UAE Pavillion by Sir Norman Foster 

This year’s edition of the Abu Dhabi Art has taken the event to a whole new level. The fair moved to the new premises – UAE Pavilion designed by Sir Norman Foster in Saadiyat Island. The island is the future home for planned projects such as Le Louvre Abu Dhabi and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. While both museums are still under construction, the art fair should generate excitement and establish strong link with contemporary art in the area.

Abu Dhabi Art positions itself as a boutique-sized platform for the contemporary art: fewer galleries and a reasonable size of exhibition space. It is possible to see the entire fair in an hour. Boutique also means the most prominent international art galleries that bring selections of the most popular works by their best artists. This new context had a positive effect on the fair’s programme of talks and exhibitions. This year, the visitors had a chance to encounter iconic art dealers, such as Larry Gagosian and David Zwirner. There was also a wide range of contemporary artists, from the young Algerian star Adel Abdessemed to the market leaders, such as Jeff Koons. The discussion about the position of the Middle Eastern art scene within the global art world that included Peter Sloterdijk and Salah Hassan was another pleasant surprise of this year’s public programme.

26 November 2011


Ala Younis, Tin Soldiers, 2010-11 Wilfredo Prieto, Politically Correct, 2009   Untitled (Death by Gun), 2011, installation photo

On the crossroads between East and West, the Istanbul Biennial has a complex context of rich and diverse cultures, fused with troubled politics that it is meant to respond to. This year’s edition, curated by Jens Hoffmann and Adriano Pedrosa, had the desire to differ from intricate contexts that drove the curators to search for inspiration in traditional values of art, such as aesthetics. At least, this was the official claim made by Hoffmann and Pedrosa. For some mysterious reason, the Biennal found its own path and turned out to be very political. To be more precise: it was informative about the history of art activism in the second half of the 20th century. Some of the individual projects, such as Wael Shawky's film "Cabaret Crusades: The horror show file", Nazgol Ansarinia's "National Security Book Series" and Ala Younis' "Tin Soldiers" were among the most provoking participations.

22 November 2011


Third floor, two fire-doors and there it is: the temporary studio of Rasmus Nilausen - this summer, right in the middle of London, just across Tate Britain. The danish painter is incredibly thoughtful and charming - and he is in search of the perfect masterpiece that he is just about to make. Rasmus is not spiritual, but he loves the idea of chance transforming his work into something that he cannot control anymore. His paintings are full of curiosity and they invite into a universe of incomprehensible spaces and impossible structures. I spend an afternoon in Rasmus' treasure room, chatting about rap-music, masterpieces and diamonds. Even though he now moved back to his adopted home Barcelona, some of his paintings remained in the British capital to be exhibited in the New Contemporaries - Show at the Institute of Contemporary Art.

DSC05011The Observer_65x54_11

12 November 2011


Phil Maxwell Brick Lane launderette Petra Stridfeldt - Bandage Simon Roberts - Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station Nottinghamshire
From top: Phil Maxwell "Brick Lane Laundrette", Forty Years On @ Bishopsgate Institute. Until 30th November, Petra Stridfeldt "Bandage", Control @ Oxford House. Until 28th November, Simon Roberts "Ratcliffe – on- Soar Power Station"

This November sees more than 100 galleries and spaces in East London host exhibitions, talks and event as part of the Photomonth International Photography Festival. Expect a glut of shows with local outlook, such as Peter Kyte’s intimate glimpses of London explored on foot (Hoxton Furnace, until 31st December), a retrospective of the work of Phil Maxwell, whose camera has captured the ever changing places and faces of the East End over the last 20 years (The Bishopsgate Institute, until 30th November) and the unexpectedly beautiful forms of the plastic bags that float through Graham Barker’s shots of Regent’s Canal (out-of-the-loop.co.uk). There is also a global sensitivity evident in the featured exhibitions - which range from the surreal to the striking, occasionally by way of the utterly sublime - particularly in relation to the problematic notion of “home” in the kind of globalised, multicultural society that London’s East End has come to epitomise. The programme also includes a number of organised photowalks, talks, auctions and workshops

October – November, Various venues, For a full listings and a map of participating spaces, go to: www.photomonth.org

26 October 2011

20 October 2011


IMG_0470 IMG_0466 IMG_0459 IMG_0475  

Fearing last weekend’s sit-out-on-the grass-glorious autumn weather to be the last before London’s long and gloomy descent into winter, I spent Saturday and Sunday taking in the art on offer in the capital’s Royal Parks. To coincide with the closing weekend of Swiss architect Peter Zumthor’s hortus conclusus-inspired summer pavilion, the Serpentine Gallery (Hyde Park) had programmed a two-day “Garden Marathon” event featuring talks and performances by an impressive multi-disciplinary roll-call, including theorist Helene Cixous, musician Brian Eno and mathematician Marcus de Sautoy.

Zumthor’s pavilion itself, black-clad and angular alongside the restrained neo-classicism of the gallery building had a singularly austere elegance. Passing through the darkness of the exterior passages, visitors emerged in a courtyard garden bathed in autumn sunlight. Whilst most of the central floral bed had bloomed earlier in the season, it was the pavilion’s structural elements that remained visually absorbing. Looking upwards, the brutal symmetry and absolute black of the matt walls formed a bold frame for the blue sky overhead. Paths were split cleanly into areas of light and shade. The medieval hortus conclusus, or closed garden (examples of which can still be seen in surviving monastic cloisters) was said to emphasise the relationship between earth and sky by this paradoxical severing. It was a place for withdrawal and contemplation: of the Edenic and the divine. Creating a space at once open and communal and intensely isolated, Zumthor’s pavilion, with its shady recesses, demands lingering and prompts observations of a more secular nature, on the incessant and ever modulating passage from light to dark, visibility to invisibility.

16 October 2011


13-07_Chapter_VII_press04 17_Chapter_XVII_press06 17_Chapter_XVII_press02b_half 14_Chapter_XIV_Installation 06_Chapter_VI_press01c

Joseph Nyamwanda Jura Ondijo is a Kenian, superstitious healer, who has 9 wives, 32 children and 63 grandchildren. Latif Yahia declares to have acted as the body double of Uday Hussein. After taking Thalidomin, Dorothy Gallagher gave birth to disabled triplets. Shivdutt Yadav is alive, yet officially dead, because other Indian farmers are stealing his land. For her exhibition "A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters" Taryn Simon - a beautiful, 36-year old photographer from New York - researches tragic stories from all over the world. She collects portraits in front of neutral backgrounds, information about each individual and their "footnotes," which are items or pictures delivering further insights into their lives. These three categories are ordered in panels, and each panel-trio is ordered in chapters, making a total of 18 international stories. 

12 October 2011


P1011890 P1011884 P1011898P1011879

The Frieze week kicked off in London last night, which could only mean one thing: openings galore in the area surrounding the fair’s Regent’s Park venue. There was plenty to be seen, with Paul Morrison opening at Alison Jacques, Richard Tuttle at Modern Art and Charles Avery at Pilar Corrias amongst others. However, given the author’s current predilection for all things performative, the best part of the evening was spent in the packed-out basement of the David Roberts Art Foundation watching a series of performances programmed to (loosely) accompany the space’s current exhibition of the paintings of Miriam Cahn, an artists whose own work is steeped in the performative practices of 1960s and 70s feminism.

8 October 2011


Foyer - Josef Wolf - ohne Titel Raum 21 - Bernhard Leitner - RaumReflektion 1994 0031 Kounellis Tragedia civile dup Ausstellung 10 Raum 17 Becker 2010 1010 KO11_004 Raum 11 - Attila Kovács -  Synthese10-Kreis
from top: Josef Wolf 'untitled'; Bernhard Leitner 'Raum Reflektion'; Jannis Kounellis 'Tragedia civile'; Krimhild Becker 'untitled'; Attila Kovacs 'Synthese 10' 

"Thinking" - the title of the current 1-year show at Kolumba in Cologne explores contemplative occupations and its symbols via contemporary and old Christian art. How does that work? There is a focus on artists' books, on drawings and specifically on paintings and sculptures depicting Madonna with the Child. In a great example (room 21) a medieval devotional image is juxtaposed to a contemporary sound installation - an amazing experience. In comparison, a rather sad example is shown in room 6, where geometrical paintings by Rune Mields from the 1980s are positioned opposed to a 17th Century Christian calendar.

Kolumba is always torn between dynamic contemporary art and the maintenance of the old and religious. Founded as a Christian art space in 1853, Cologne's Cardinal Meisner (a strictly conservative believer) supported a complete renewal of the building's architecture and its concept in the 1990's. Since two years now, Stefan Kraus is the new museum's director carrying the weight of always creating a balance between art, Catholicism and original Roman ruins. 

4 October 2011


PAVONIA (1858)

Tucked away on a leafy, unassuming Kensington street is the house of Frederic Leighton, late Victorian President of the Royal Academy of Arts and the only British artist ever to have been knighted. A skilled draughtsman and elegant portraitist, Leighton was a contemporary of the pre-Raphaelites and whilst professing to be of a very different school, works such as the iconic Flaming June (1895) illustrate why his name is most commonly associated with those of Millais and Rossetti. All three were included alongside works by Oscar Wilde and William Morris as part of the excellent show about the Aesthetic movement in Britain at the V&A last autumn. The focus of the V&A show was “art for art’s sake” mantra of this group of artists and critics for whom the pursuit of beauty and the desire to surround oneself with the aesthetically pleasing was valued above all else. Nowhere is this sensibility more evident than in spectacular, Alhambra-esque Arab Hall at Leighton’s former residence. An interior oasis of sumptuous, peacock-blue Persian tiles and intricate Arabic and Venetian glasswork, the hall features a central fountain that sits beneath a high, gilded dome designed especially by Leighton’s architect, George Aitchison. Leighton was widely travelled, thanks in large part to the great wealth of his physician father, and frequently visited North Africa and the Middle East. Here he amassed a large collection of ceramics – particularly tiles, textiles and woodwork, some of which are accommodated in the Arab Hall.

28 September 2011


09_Boom-Boom_2011_oil-canv_51x40cm 08_untitled_2011_oil-canv_80x60cm
05_untitled_2011_oil-canv_60x50cm 03_Disco_2011_oil-paper_27x21cm

The German artist Tobias Buckel (*1978), currently based in London and Nürnberg, is one of most interesting emerging painters that I have met in London. His relatively small, yet strong paintings are complex and thoughtful; and his use of forms and colour seems self-confident but also curious to me. Fascinating constructions meet an open heart - never disgusting, but always a bit disturbing - I could look at these paintings for hours! For more information on Tobias' work look at his website www.tobias-buckel.de or visit his upcoming group show "Wanderlust" in London, which is supported by DAAD and runs from the 1st to the 6th of October. Additionally you can also see his work at the "Jerwood Drawing Prizeexhibition in London, which runs until the 30th of October.


23 September 2011




The British artist Richard Hamilton, who died last week aged 89, was destined to go down in the annals of art history as the “father of Pop Art.” It was an epithet that he wore lightly, once claiming in an interview that: “I don't think I'm particularly proud of it but I am willing to accept that I do feel some responsibility” for this revolutionary aesthetic shift towards the popular, transient, expendable, mass produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous and big business.
His most famous image - Just What Is It that Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing? - was produced in 1956, as post-war Britain entered a boom era of mass production and consumption on a scale previously unseen. It is a dense and urgent homage to consumerism, sex, modern aspirations and classic glamour, which does not so much blend high and low, new and old cultural forms, as pile them on top of one-another, slap-dash, to effect a jarring, iconoclastic disintegration of cultural hierarchies. Hamilton, like his long-time friend and mentor Duchamp, was concerned with asking the big questions about art (sometimes seriously, reflexively; at other times sardonically, with an irreverent wink). What is it? Where is it? Who is the artist? Who decides? All are questions that continue to inform and motivate art production and criticism today.