The Drang Gallery team visited London between the 14th and 18th October to indulge in the enormous energy of the Capital’s busiest week of Art Fairs. Our adventures led us from Regents Park to Christie’s, from Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery to the Royal Academy, each institution offering a fresh perspective on contemporary art.
Held in Regents Park between the 14th and 17th October, this year’s Frieze Art Fair promised to be spectacular – and we weren’t disappointed! From the White Cube to Gagosian and Hauser and Wirth, 164 Galleries from 27 countries exhibited a compelling selection of extraordinary work. Complete with Jeremy Herbert’s sensory installation enabling visitors to explore a section of the secret world beneath the venue, the fair was bursting with excitement. Tantalizing works by Gilbert and George, Tracey Emin, Mona Hatoum and Camille Henrot could be spotted amongst a colossal inflatable Felix, a selection of suspended apples and astonishing arrays of coloured glass. With so much to see, admire and question, our curiosity guided us towards the flamboyant revelers of Stephen Friedman’s ‘living-cartoon’ Cocktail Party and Anri Sala’s self-playing drum. The Fair’s glitzy and frenetic vibes revealed some of the most innovative and striking works of today’s contemporary arts scene.
A short stroll away in Gloucester Green, Frieze Masters offered an interesting perspective on centuries of human behaviour and creativity. The Fair’s eclectic ethos nurtured artworks and artefacts from the past to life for contemporary viewers. Impressive works by Barbara Hepworth, George Grosz and Egon Schiele could be spotted surrounded by illuminated Medieval manuscripts, authentic handmade globes, Egyptian jewellery and Chinese screens. We enjoyed the Fair’s refined and elegant serenity, a beautiful, ostentatious arrangement posing a contemporary outlook upon some of the world’s finest artistic treasures.
The day culminated with a visit to the Truman Brewery for the opening night of the 2015 Other Art Fair. Celebrating its 10th Anniversary, the show was already in full swing when we arrived and apparently achieved record numbers for both visitors and party balloons! Every artist had something fresh and original to present, including Jennifer Hooper’s delicate butterfly paintings, a collection of taxidermy, Rachel Ann Stevenson’s latest releases, intriguing photographic investigations and remarkable portraiture. The young and emerging artists enthusiastically explained their work to us and we left with our hands full of leaflets, postcards and tokens, our minds buzzing with the lively discussion and discoveries of new evolving talent.
The Multiplied Art Fair held at Christie’s welcomed us with beautiful prints, breathtaking photographs and delicate etchings alongside a couple of intriguing installations and Maurice Carlin’s ‘Publishing’ performance. The Fair provided an interesting perspective on artists’ editions, such as Sir Peter Blake’s latest Tattooed Portraits, a laser-etched moon and tiny jewel-coloured quivering birds in a jet-black sky. Our pens were poised to note potential artists to invite to exhibit in The Drang.
Our visit to the Newport Street Gallery and its inaugural exhibition, John Hoyland Power Stations, bought us up close to works selected from Damien Hirst’s own private collection and his unique curatorship stance. Hoyland’s abstract works graced the walls of the gloriously light and spacious gallery, designed by architects Curaso St John. A set of curvy stairs led us upwards to the second floor viewing platform, an alternative vantage point. Demonstrating an instinctive use of colour, form and tone, Hoyland’s dynamic works were arranged in loose chronological order enabling dialogues to emerge. His geometric motifs floating upon great washes of colour seemed to interact with the architecture of the Gallery itself, the venue complete of course with a small retail space for Psalms, keyrings and Mickey Mouse spot T-shirts!
In addition to pre-booked Fairs, we also had the opportunity to visit a selection of Galleries in and around Mayfair. We gained a valuable insight into a range of curatorship styles by observing specific details and gauging the overall feel and atmosphere of a number of exclusive exhibition spaces.
We rounded off the trip with a visit to Ai Wei Wei’s exhibition at the Royal Academy. Ai’s first exhibition in the UK offers a powerful commentary on Chinese culture and history, human rights and freedom of speech. Straight, a monument to the victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, consists of thousands of salvaged rebar forming an undulating landscape evocative of tectonic fissures across the gallery floor. Visually rich and multi-layered, the very act of straightening 150 tons of twisted steel can be considered a solemn act of devotion. The soaring array of bicycles and crystals in Bicycle Chandelier starkly contrasts S.A.C.R.E.D., a poignant installation highlighting the intimate surveillance of Ai’s recent imprisonment whilst also suggesting a spiritual journey. Ai’s contentious approach conquers censorship and illustrates his unyielding spirit in the face of injustice.
We returned to Devon and Cornwall energized and inspired by all we had seen; the many artistic revelations and associated discussions serving to enhance and inform our own Drang Gallery spaces.