Frieze Fair London 2014: Articles, Reviews and Interviews

  • The Best of Frieze London 2014 - Nick Mauss at Frieze.
  • The Best of Frieze London 2014 - Carsten Holl
  • The Best of Frieze London 2014 - Smile Room
  • The Best of Frieze London 2014 - Ed Fornieles
  • The Best of Frieze London 2014 - Marvin Gaye Chetwynd’s Hermitos Children 2
  • 100 Hamilton Terrace

    Nick Mauss at Frieze. Courtesy of Linda Nylind/Frieze.

The Best of Frieze London 2014

Everything to know about the most talked about art, people, and parties from the annual art fair.

Frieze Special Projects and beyond: You Can Dance
Fleet-footed, catch-it-if-you-can kind of work isn’t what you expect from an art fair. At this year’s Frieze Art Fair in London however, dance was dominant. The fair’s Special Projects fully embraced their not-for-profit status with a slate of live commissions that won’t be hugging the walls of collectors’ homes.

Nick Maus for instance, had the Northern Ballet’s unitard-clad performers strutting in loose formations to a moody, improv soundtrack composed by Kim Gordon and Juliana Huxtable, from an unembellished rehearsal space to the fair’s crowded corridors.

The show-stopper though came from Adam Linder, exhibiting with Berlin’s Silberkuppe, as part of Frieze Live, six galleries focusing on performance art. A former member of Michael Clark’s company and the Royal Ballet, Linder glide danced around the confines of the gallery booth. For anyone not familiar with hip-hop choreography, it’s like Michael Jackson’s moonwalk, but more ethereal and graceful, as if he were literally dancing on air. Linder was working more than mesmerizing moves however. His choreographies were an embodiment of art writer, Jonathan P Watts’s observations of the crowds and art at the fair.

At the Fair: Smile Please
Solo presentations are the obvious way for galleries to stand out within an art fair’s visual clamor. While you can always trust the Megatron of blue chip operations, Gagosian, to stay ahead of the pack, this year Carsten Holler’s Gartenkinder provided an unexpected moment of reprieve from the seemingly endless rounds of air kisses and deal brokering. The delights of his play area included a giant dice that concealed a climbing frame accessible only to the very small, a vast mushroom that emitted tinkly music when rocked and a scarlet rubber octopus. It was as big a hit with grown-ups as the kids, whose pure enjoyment of this wonderland was a neat reminder of the pleasures of imaginative play.

Salon 94 went for a similarly feel-good vibe with its Smile Face Museum. Acid yellow dominated curator Mark Sachs’s ever-expanding collection of smiley face ephemera, from furry slippers to key rings, which offset work by a wide array of artists playing with the superficial cartoon cuteness of the universally recognized symbol for happiness. Works that mined its double-edge veered from faces created with cigarette burns to bright, flat paintings of squiggly lines and dots that reveled in surface.

Beyond the fair: The Kids Are Alright
A Frieze week, “one to watch,” Ed Fornieles’s first big show, “Modern Family,” in a UK public gallery, left you in no doubt that the young British artist’s heart now belongs to L.A. Two of the presiding gods of the West Coast art scene, Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy, had evidently left their mark on a deliriously messy installation that invoked the city of dreams with film set lighting, jiggling pornstars on flat screens and a bubbling Jacuzzi, as well as gross food and an obscene mash-up of cuddly toys.

This was very much an orgy of pop culture for the Internet age however. Loosely themed around a family picnic and home, works unfolded with the surreal logic and speed of an internet search from giant headstones embossed with flowers, fruit, and apple pie coated in a gelatinous resin goo, to sturdy translucent legs filled with Cheerios and a fountain where the statue of a mother and child playing are rudely punctured by grey pipes. Throughout a day of special performances, a family of young actors struck tableaux vivants, bringing the collision between online unreality and lived experience home.

Best Bash
Marvin Gaye Chetwynd’s biggest film project yet, Hermitos Children 2, at the not-for-profit stalwart Studio Voltaire in South London, was one of the week’s highpoints. Renowned for her carnival-esque performances that rethink high art and pop culture with a troupe of delightfully disheveled performers and homemade props, Chetwynd’s work is always about doing things your own way. In a gallery decked with loose, giant paper prints that featured clowns, leopards and bikers, her sex crime detective show unfolded on a stack of boxy old TVs, with plenty of cross dressing, crazy dancing and a sinister dildo seesaw.

Guests at the gallery’s celebratory dinner at patron Valeria Napoleone’s regal home on Kensington’s Palace Green were treated to a night of Italian home cooking surrounded by her collection of all-woman art, including Helen Marten’s voracious assemblage sculpture, Ida Ekblad’s urban expressionism and Julia Wachtel’s cartoon characters. In the crowd were designer and artist Julie Verhoeven, who created a number of Chetwynd’s costumes, Chloé director Clare Wright Keller and the artist and her face-painted collaborators.

The New Art Hangout: The Rosewood London’s Mirror Room
Since it opened last fall, in a 1914 Belle Epoque building boasting a grand, seven-story marble staircase, Rosewood London fast gained a reputation for timeless glam. Owned by the brand behind New York’s Carlyle, its décor, from the colored glass and polished red leather that dominates the dining room to the wood paneled bar full of Gerard Scarfe cartoons, is aimed at discerning tastes of all ages. It has also become the theatre crowd hang-out thanks to the likes of Kevin Spacey and The Old Vic hosting the 10th anniversary party for its 24 Hour Plays Celebrity Gala there.

The close of Frieze week bucked this trend, with Art Review magazine’s party in the Mirror Room, cohosted by the young Hong Kong billionaire collector Adrien Cheng. The throng, including artist Michael Elmgreen, Art Basel director Marc Spiegler and artist-filmmaker duo Forsyth and Pollard, fresh from the success of their recently released Nick Cave film, 20,000 Days On Earth, knocked back Absolute vodka cocktails while sizing up their post-fair state in the mirrored ceiling and walls.


Bloomberg News:

Collectors Get Big Playground at $2.2 Billion Frieze Week

Source: Gagosian Gallery via Bloomberg

Gagosian Gallery at the Frieze Art Fair will show “Gartenkinder,” a children’s playground by Carsten Holler. The… Read More

Source: Frieze, Linda Nylind via Bloomberg

Attendees view works of art during Frieze London on Oct. 19, 2013.

Source: Christie’s via Bloomberg

Peter Doig’s vibrant green basketball court titled “The Heart of Old San Juan” is estimated at 4 million pounds to 6… Read More

Source: Otto Naumann via Bloomberg

Rembrandt’s “Portrait of a Man With Arms Akimbo” has an asking price of $48.5 million at Otto Naumann’s booth at Frieze Masters.

Frieze Art Fair in Regent’s Park opens tomorrow to select wealthy collectors seeking to snap up artworks by contemporary stars and Old Masters from a Cy Twombly canvas for $24 million to a Rembrandt portrait for $48.5 million.

Coinciding with the fair, Christie’s, Phillips and Sotheby’s will auction 972 works at their day and evening sales estimated at as much as 264 million pounds ($426 million), or more than double the 118 million pounds of art that was sold at the equivalent auctions last year. New buyers “from all pockets of the world” are purchasing art and pushing up prices, said Suzanne Gyorgy, head of art advisory and finance at New York-based Citigroup Inc.’s Citi Private Bank.

“In 2008, when certain parts of the art market were hit hard, the high end still did very well,” Gyorgy said. “Private sales carried on. A lot of wealth is still being created and more wealthy people are becoming collectors.”

The artworks offered at Frieze, auctions, galleries and a half-dozen satellite fairs in 2013 had been estimated at as much as $2 billion last year. Values probably will be about $2.2 billion, or 10 percent higher, this year, according to insurers.

Robust Market

“The contemporary art market is very robust, and the active buyers of art are heavily engaged,” in spending money on these works, said Andrew Gristina, national fine art practice leader at Travelers Cos., which is insuring a number of galleries at Frieze. “The fair remains a popular event and you would expect an equivalent amount of pieces of high quality to be brought there.”

Contemporary-art sales at public auctions globally totaled 1.5 billion euros ($1.9 billion) in the 12 months to July 3, up 33 percent from the previous year, according to a report by Paris-based arts data researcher Artprice. The figures don’t include commissions. Similar sales in 2000 were less than $90 million, Artprice said.

“Contemporary art, which used to be the weak link in the art market, is now almost as important as the modern art segment,” Thierry Ehrmann, chief executive officer of Artprice, said in an e-mail.

Frieze, which started in 2003 and expanded to New York in 2012, was the seventh-most attended art fair in the world from the fall of 2013 through June 30, with 70,000 visitors at the London event, according to a report by Skate’s, a New York-based art market researcher.

Giant Mushroom

Frieze said it expects attendance this year to remain at 70,000, with 162 galleries at the main fair. Frieze Masters, a sister event also at Regent’s Park that shows modern and historic works, will have 127 galleries. Last year 152 galleries exhibited at Frieze and 130 at Frieze Masters.

At the main fair, Gagosian Gallery will offer “Gartenkinder,” a children’s playground by Belgian artistCarsten Holler. The installation includes a large-scale die that children can play inside and a giant mushroom that rocks like a toy. Gagosian declined to give a price.

Tanya Bonakdar gallery, based in New York, has a large-scale painting by Danish-Icelandic artistOlafur Eliasson priced from 150,000 euros to 200,000 euros.

Some galleries are likely to get a business boost from artists who have simultaneous museum shows.

Rembrandt Portrait

Eliasson, who created public waterfalls at four sites in New York in 2008, is showing other works at Tate Britain that are inspired by the paintings of J.M.W. Turner. David Zwirner’s booth at Frieze has an $800,000 cloth work by American sculptor Richard Tuttle, whose new piece featuring vast sways of fabrics will be shown at Tate Modern’s massive Turbine Hall starting tomorrow.

One of the most expensive works at Frieze Masters is a Rembrandt 17th century portrait of a man with arms akimbo, being offered at New York’s Otto Naumann gallery for $48.5 million. A Twombly paint, crayon and graphite canvas from 1959 is at Van de Weghe Fine Art for $24 million. A 7,000-year-old figurine of an Aegean neolithic idol is at Rupert Wace gallery for 450,000 pounds.

The major auction houses will offer works by postwar and contemporary masters.

Christie’s kicks the auctions off this evening with the sale of 44 works from the Essl Collection of contemporary art in Austria, expected to fetch as much as 56.8 million pounds.

Richter’s Abstract

The works come from Karlheinz Essl, the founder of hardware store chain BauMax AG, and include coveted German postwar artists. Gerhard Richter’s 1985 red, yellow and green abstract is valued at 7 million to 10 million pounds. Sigmar Polke’s 1975 fiery red portrait “Indian With Eagle,” is estimated at 1.5 million pounds to 2 million pounds. Martin Kippenberger’s 1992 self-portrait is valued at 2.5 million pounds to 3.5 million pounds.

In a separate evening sale on Oct. 16, Christie’s will offer 46 lots with a high estimate of 47 million pounds. Peter Doig’s oil on canvas of a vibrant green basketball court titled “The Heart of Old San Juan” is estimated at 4 million to 6 million pounds.

Phillips’s evening sale on Oct. 15 will be the first in its new London home at 30 Berkeley Squarein the wealthy Mayfair neighborhood. Phillips, owned by Moscow-based Mercury Group, said the sale of 47 lots, featuring works by Christopher Wool, Richter, Damien Hirst and Richard Prince, is estimated to fetch as much as 23 million pounds. Wool’s untitled alkyd and acrylic on aluminum image of black birds is estimated at 1.8 million to 2.2 million pounds.

Sotheby’s evening sale on Oct. 17 has a high estimate of 35.1 million pounds for 59 lots. AFrancis Bacon portrait of a man in a suit is valued at 1.5 million to 2 million pounds.



Eight Photo Discoveries to See at Frieze London and Frieze Masters

Keiji Uematsu, courtesy of Yumiko Chiba Associates
Stone/Rope/Man II, 1974 – Fortuitously, the Japanese sculptor, who is known for his installations that appear to distort gravity or depict magnetic forces, was at the gallery booth as I approached it. Keiji Uematsu said of his photographic work: “I’m interested in changing the relationship of an installation using my body. I want to create work where a lack of a single element will cause the entire structure, the invisible existence of things and their relationships to collapse like a cosmos.” I do hope, that when the relationship between stone, string and motion collapsed, the stone didn’t fall on his head.
Just like every year at Frieze London, the majority of fairgoers were dressed in the obligatory art-fair black. And just like every year, the bigwigs of contemporary photography Wolfgang Tillmans, Ellad Lassry, Ryan McGinley, Andreas Gursky, Jeff Wall, and Thomas Struth were strutting their stuff on the gallery walls. But, among the best-selling greats, were also some unexpected gems – some well-known, others less so. Frieze Masters, showcasing art from ancient to modern and only in its third year, was perhaps the biggest tour de force, with four dedicated photography galleries enticing audiences with works by Lionel Wendt, Keiji Uematsu and Charles Sheeler among others.

“With Frieze Masters we decided from the outset that we would give photography the same platform as painting, drawing and sculpture,” says Victoria Siddall, director of both London-based Frieze fairs. “We felt it was very important not to put the photography dealers into some kind of ghetto as they sometimes are at fairs.”

In this slideshow, I present my favorite picks from across both fairs.

Anne-Celine Jaeger is a contributor to TIME LightBox and the author of Image Makers, Image Takers, published by Thames & Hudson. She previously wrote for LightBox about Jean-François Leroy.

Read more: Eight Photo Discoveries to See at Frieze London and Frieze Masters – LightBox





Barber & Osgerby Reimagines the Frieze Art Fair

London-based designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby are directing their creative talents to a new interior scheme for this month’s Frieze Art Fair in London and a variety of other projects

Oct. 7, 2014 11:13 a.m. ET

DESIGNING MEN | Edward Barber (left) and Jay Osgerby, seated on the Tip Ton chair they designed for Vitra, in their newly expanded Shoreditch offices. Photography by Thomas Giddings for WSJ. Magazine

EDWARD BARBER AND JAY OSGERBY met in 1992 as first-year architecture students at London’s Royal College of Art and became friends almost immediately. A little bored and more than a little underfunded, they jumped when an acquaintance put them up for some freelance work designing a bar. Soon they were skipping classes and running on adrenaline and cigarettes and the occasional round of drinks with the bar owner. (“He was sketchy,” says Barber. “The whole thing was sketchy, actually.”)

Their routine eventually caught up with them.

“I remember one course where we had a morning crit on a project, and we’d been up all night doing the bar,” Osgerby says. “Both of us were standing there, and it was like the firing squad—literally bang, bang, bang. It was awful. Not only did our teachers want to get rid of us, so did everyone in our class. We had jobs, you see.”

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They’re still getting the jobs. Since co-founding Barber & Osgerby in 1996, two years after graduating from RCA, the duo, both 45, have maintained one of the more active design offices in London. Fueled by curiosity about how objects are made and used, they’ve produced a range of work—like the bent-plywood Loop table for Cappellini, the perforated torch for London’s 2012 Olympics and the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch, with its convivial, rabbit-hutch lobby—that, while stylistically diverse, always manages to look original and somehow inevitable. Their enthusiasm for research and craft has endeared them to industrial design giants such as Knoll, Vitra and B&B Italia, and the furniture they create for these companies possesses a lucid, streamlined beauty.

FINE LINES | From left: B&O’s projects include a current installation at the V&A Museum’s Raphael Gallery and a limited-edition Iris table for Established & Sons. Courtesy of Barber & Osgerby

Clockwise from top left: Frieze Art Fair; Loop table for Cappellini; coins commemorating the 150th anniversary of the London Underground Courtesy of Barber & Osgerby (loop table, coins); Courtesy of Universal Design Studio

From left: Interior at the Ace Hotel Shoreditch and solar-powered lamp for Louis Vuitton Courtesy of Barber & Osgerby (lamp); Photograph by Mads Perch, Courtesy of Universal Design Studio

This is a busy moment for Barber and Osgerby, with a full spectrum of their work on view across London. First is a new interior scheme for the Frieze Art Fair, held each October in a tent among the ancient oaks of Regent’s Park. Over on Exhibition Road, London’s Science Museum launches Information Age, a 27,000-square-foot permanent gallery, four years in the making, that traces the history of communication over two centuries, from the earliest telegraph receivers to the Soviet BESM-6 supercomputer. Next door at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the designers have temporarily turned the barrel-vaulted Raphael Gallery into an engine room for art, where a pair of massive whirring blades mounted above visitors’ heads reflects Renaissance paintings to the crowd below.

The first two projects are the work of Universal Design Studio, a division Barber & Osgerby launched in 2001 to handle their architecture and interiors practice. In 2011 they complemented Universal with MAP, an industrial design consultancy focused on strategy and innovation. From the beginning, the two have pursued jobs that overstep the neat boundaries of industrial design work, and the firm’s tripartite structure lets them take on projects up and down the supply chain, from conception and planning (the Google Chrome Web Lab in 2012) to the end user (solar-powered lanterns for Louis Vuitton the same year). “In a nutshell,” says Osgerby, “MAP is about thinking, Universal is about building and Barber & Osgerby is about making.”

All three divisions, employing some 60 people, occupy a newly expanded Shoreditch office that meanders through a former warehouse building on Charlotte Road. The principals share a desk in each of the three studios, though they can often be found in one of the basement rooms devoted to model making, a passion for both of them since boyhood. At RCA they developed the habit of drawing opposite each other at the same desk and sequentially folding heavy card paper into experimental shapes. “It was really fraternal,” Osgerby says. “It still is. We both come from families with three boys—I was the oldest and Ed was in the middle—and I think that’s how we’ve managed to get on the way we have.”

Outside the office their lives are notably different. Barber is unmarried, a voracious traveler and a photographer. Osgerby has a wife and three young children and regularly bikes the six miles between the office and his home in Greenwich. And yet they are on a plane together almost every week, sporting identical brown beards and dressed as though from the same closet: jeans, sneakers and loose cotton blazers. (When a new acquaintance mixes them up, Osgerby, the more diminutive, volunteers the mnemonic that “Jay” is shorter than “Edward.”) They juggle factory visits, exploratory meetings and promotional trips, using the travel time to evaluate new jobs and chart the studio’s professional course. As their opportunities have grown, notes Barber, their goals have become more far-reaching. This is especially true in product design: “If you can reinvent an archetype for its function, and not just in a styling way, that’s really something,” he says. “Like the soda bottle to the can—same function, new take. That was reinventing the archetype. That’s big.”

This past summer the studio won a competition for its most ambitious project to date, one that will expose several archetypes to re-examination—the Crossrail train, part of a new high-speed transport line that will hurtle east–west through London and its suburbs in under an hour. It’s a quintessential Barber & Osgerby job: The studio will conceive of not just the train and its contents, but the travel experience as a whole, including acoustics, signage and how people enter and exit the cars.

The Frieze tent, temporary and sprawling at 215,000 square feet, offers an intriguing set of opposites: It’s about creating engagement, not about passing through, and the commission has a budget that is “hilariously small,” notes Frieze co-director Matthew Slotover. It also targets the chauffeur-driven cultural elite—a group the designers have never sought to cultivate—rather than commuters.

“We haven’t wined and dined the art world,” Osgerby says. “We’ve never hung out and been part of the clique—in fact, we’ve never done that with any clique. We’ve just set out to do our own thing.” Perhaps because of that, and despite accolades within the design community (not to mention OBEs bestowed on them by the Crown in 2013), Barber and Osgerby haven’t attained the level of fame that some of their RCA classmates—architect David Adjaye and fashion designer Christopher Bailey, for instance—have.

This doesn’t concern them. They’re less interested in courting status than in the opportunities that tend to float by in its wake. Deyan Sudjic, head of the London Design Museum, believes the pair will make a lasting contribution to the design landscape in a decisively modern way. “They demonstrate a certain pragmatism that was perhaps shaped by their early experiences as students,” he writes in his foreword to the duo’s 2011 monograph.

The designers might put it differently. “We’re over there, beavering away,” Osgerby says. “And people are finally curious.”


The Frieze Effect

As the art world congregates in London for the Frieze art fair, fashion businesses stand to profit.

Frieze art fair | Source: Courtesy

LONDON, United Kingdom — In 2003, the Frieze art fair launched as a modest event in a large tent in London’s Regent’s Park. But twelve years on, the fair and its sibling event, Frieze Masters, attracts 70,000 visitors from around the world and has become the centrepiece of a week-long, city-wide programme of art events. Any cultural organisation that aspires to international status will hold a launch of some kind this week, from the unveiling of Richard Tuttle’s monumental installation at Tate Modern to fly-by-night events in derelict office blocks. As gallerists, collectors, curators, critics, artists and curious civilians converge on London for private views, talks and parties, it can be easy to forget that the increasingly buzzy atmosphere surrounds a marketplace. Frieze exists for the buying and selling of art — and, as it grows, the acquisitive urge of those it attracts has been flowing out of the fair and into the city’s fashion retailers.

“Our customers always love our events during Frieze. It’s our busiest time of the year,” says Adrian Joffe, chief executive of Dover Street Market, whose original store is positioned on Dover Street, in London’s Mayfair, a stone’s throw from a number of blue-chip art galleries. Unlike London Fashion Week, which brings with it an entourage of press and store buyers, Frieze attracts an aesthetically sophisticated, wealthy clientele that makes for an excellent fit with the store, which is run by a subsidiary of Comme des Garçons. “Our customers during Frieze are like the ones that come to us all the time — fashion-forward, independent, creative, curious, cool, strong, interested in art and design, daring, lovely and wonderful — there are just more of them about during Frieze,” added Joffe.

Dover Street Market actively tempts Frieze-goers with a richer-than-usual programme of exhibits and events, which this year includes installations by French artist Nicolas Buffe and designer Ann Demeulemeester, as well as the unveiling of Louis Vuitton’s Icons and Iconoclasts collection, featuring a collaboration with the artist Cindy Sherman.

Dover Street Market's 2013 Frieze window by Rei Kawakubo, featuring the work of Katsuhiro Otomo | Source: Courtesy

The Frieze private view on the Tuesday night of the fair often more closely resembles a long snaking catwalk — or perhaps the red carpet of a film premiere — than an art gallery, peppered as it is with the gorgeous, the extravagant and the brilliantly peculiar. Under the flooding white lights of the big tent in Regent’s Park everyone is on display. But it’s not all about billionaires’ wives wearing 12cm heels and 10cm skirts as they eye up the Oscar Murillos and ponder which will best match their carefully curated scatter cushions. The Frieze effect is also important to fashion brands that court those working in the creative industries.

“Our heads of design Karin Gustafsson and Martin Andersson are always at the fair,” says Atul Pathak, head of communications for COS. “We find that we are fortunate enough see a lot of our collection represented in the outfits of the people in the fair itself. It makes us feel that we are talking to the right audience.” In previous years, COS has supported Frame, a section of Frieze dedicated to young galleries. “We think our customers have a strong interest across the design world and in contemporary art — it feels like it’s integral to the brand.”

For the last few years, the family-run, Italian luxury goods company Etro has launched artist collaboration projects to coincide with Frieze week. This year, they are unveiling an accessory collection created with the Japanese artist Mika Ninagawa, accompanied by celebratory events aimed at those in town for the fair. “We are keen collectors of contemporary and ancient art,” explains creative director Jacopo Etro, adding that, as a house known for its prints and patterns, his family’s interest in art provides it with an important source of inspiration. For Etro, Frieze carries “a particular atmosphere, a moment of sharing and joyfulness, spreading energy and positivity all around the city…. You can feel excitement in the air.” Whilst the house’s artist collaborations are meant to represent a celebration of creativity, Etro is happy to say “that these kinds of projects have a good impact on sales as well.”

The relationship is, of course, a reciprocal one, benefiting not just retailers, but also the participating artists. “The art scene in Britain has changed a lot in recent years,” notes Linda Hewson, creative director of Selfridges. “The fact is that the arts need public and commercial support now more than ever to ultimately reach as wide an audience as possible.” This year, Selfridges’ Old Hotel will act as an off-site project space for Frieze and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, with live events staged by performers including Korakrit Arunanondchai and Boychild. “We go to Frieze every year and have done since its launch,” says Hewson. “It’s part of our cultural research into the global art scene, market and trends. The fair is an important moment on the cultural calendar in London because it creates a buzz of peripheral art happenings and openings.”

Selfridges first hosted an ICA off-site project last year and it drew thousands of new visitors – a much larger audience than would generally visit the cerebral, iconoclastic ICA’s comparatively diminutive galleries on the Mall. Positioning itself somewhere between the glitz of Frieze and the grit of the ICA suits Selfridges well, explains Hewson: “If you consider Frieze as aspirational in terms of the cultural elite who attend and spend, then there is an overlap with our international clientele. If you consider the ICA as being on the knife’s edge of contemporary creativity then perhaps the more pertinent overlap is with our savvy London clientele who relate to such art forms more. But good, even great, exciting art draws audiences from all walks of life.”

Korakrit Arunanondchai and boychild, part of Selfridges' Frieze week live programme | Source: Courtesy, Photo: Charles Roussel

Such off-site projects, performances and events are of increasing importance because the consumer who attends Frieze is, as Hewson notes, looking for something that is one-of-a-kind, unique, experiential.Alexander McQueen, which first became an official sponsor of the fair in 2013, is, this year, putting its name behind Live, Frieze’s inaugural performance art programme. And, for the first time, this year, Gucci is one of the sponsors of the Frieze Masters fair, which is held on a separate site and focuses on historical art.

For both brands, the choice of association is telling. Gucci has allied itself with the talks programme of Frieze Masters, which features names that may be familiar to the brand’s customer base, including South African artist William Kentridge and best-selling author and ceramicist Edmund de Waal. Meanwhile, Alexander McQueen is stepping up to support challenging live art, including an explicit critique of lifestyle branding by the New York-based collective Shanzhai Biennial, which tallies well with the house’s history of spectacular and often provocative shows. “Performance art has had its highs and lows in terms of acceptance and popularity, but it’s certainly the most experimental art practice and there’s a new and rejuvenated energy,” notes Jonathan Akeroyd, chief executive of Alexander McQueen. “As a brand, Alexander McQueen has always been at the forefront of pushing boundaries.”

In describing the fair, Akeroyd makes an important distinction between the convivial, welcoming atmosphere of Frieze and the comparatively quiet formality that many associate with galleries and museums. Part of his intention in supporting Frieze is to help broaden the audience for contemporary art, as well as profit from the crossover potential with the fashion industry. In addition to showing works from the Sadie Coles gallery in a glass vitrine in their Savile Row store, Alexander McQueen will host events that bring together key players from the art and fashion industries.

“Lee McQueen was a big collector and Frieze was always a highlight of his year; he would also ensure that he was always one of the first to visit the fair on the opening day,” explains Akeroyd. “Obviously being a creative company pretty much all of our staff have a high level of interest in the art world and it is great that we all now feel more connected to the fair through our involvement.”




Beyoncé and Jay Z Match During Date Night in London: See the Cute Coordinating Couple!

Beyonce, Jay ZSplash News

Beyoncé and Jay Z are taking London!

The 33-year-old “Flawless” singer and her 44-year-old hubby stepped out in London Wednesday night dressed in coordinating black and white outfits.

For their date night, Bey looked super fashionable in a black and white polka dot skirt and a black and white patterned blouse under a black motorcycle jacket. Beyoncé completed her monochromatic ensemble with black sunglasses, black and white striped heels and hernew blunt bangs. And for her man, he sported black pants and a white hoodie under a black jacket.

Talks about one cute coordinating couple!


Beyonce Knowles, Jay ZNeil P. Mockford/GC Images

As for their outing, Bey and Jay attended the annual Frieze Art Fair together in London’s Regents Park.

Earlier today, Beyoncé and Jay were spotted leaving an art gallery together looking cute and colorful. Bey looked chic in a white skirt that featured a black, orange and blue pattern paired with a black and white top, sunglasses and black heels. Her hubby followed behind her wearing black pants and a gray designer hoodie.

Beyoncé has been out and about a lot since debuting her new bangs the other day. Bey stepped out in Paris Tuesday morning with the surprising new ‘do.



Bloomberg News

Hirst Tops Sales as Buyers Pick $2.2 Billion Frieze Art

October 15, 2014

“Forgings” by American Sculptor David Smith

Mnuchin Gallery sold one of four sculptures from the 1955 “Forgings” series by American sculptor David Smith for $2.5 million at Frieze in London. Source: Mnuchin Gallery via Bloomberg

Damien Hirst, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol works sold for more than $3 million each as wealthy collectors got first dibs at the opening of the Frieze Art Fair in London.

Select guests including billionaire Indonesian collector Budi Tek, who opened a private museum in Shanghai in May, actress Sienna Miller and architect Zaha Hadid packed 162 galleries this week at the main contemporary art fair in Regent’s Park and 127 booths at Frieze Masters, a sister event showing modern and historic works.

Frieze Week is Europe’s biggest concentration of commercial fairs, public sales and gallery shows, offering as much as $2.2 billion of art. Frieze, whose organizers expect 70,000 people to attend the two fairs, runs through Oct. 18; Frieze Masters closes Oct. 19.

Contemporary-art sales at public auctions globally totaled 1.5 billion euros ($1.9 billion) in the 12 months to July 3, up 33 percent from the previous year, according to Paris-based arts data researcher Artprice.

Dealers reported brisk sales in the first two days of the fair. Within the first hour of the Frieze Masters preview, Mnuchin Gallery sold one of four elongated varnished steel sculptures from the 1955 “Forgings” series by U.S. sculptor David Smith for $2.5 million to a private collector.

“Americans know David Smith, but we need to broaden his audience,” Robert Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive whose New York gallery specializes in postwar art, said of the artist who died in 1965. “I’ve already had a lot of interest from non-U.S. collectors.”

Many of the bigger sales were at Frieze Masters, which had booths showing works by Francis Bacon, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet and Old Masters such as Rembrandt and Peter Paul Rubens.

Warhol’s “The Scream (After Munch),” a 1984 work inspired by the Norwegian artist, was sold by Skarstedt Gallery for about $5.5 million to a private collector.

Formaldehyde Fish

At the main fair, Hirst’s “Because I Can’t Have You I Want You,” a 1993 diptych of glass-enclosed fish in formaldehyde, fetched 4 million pounds at White Cube within minutes of the opening preview. The gallery, with branches in London, Hong Kong and Sao Paulo, also sold a 2001 piece composed of an electric microphone, metal stands and electrical cords by David Hammons for $4 million.

“I can’t keep up with the sales,” said David Maupin of Lehmann Maupin, which sold British artist Tracey Emin’s embroidered calico of a reclining woman in a price range of 120,000 to 175,000 pounds. The New York and Hong Kong gallery also sold Mickalene Thomas’s 2008 work composed of rhinestone-encrusted portraits in the 60,000-to-100,000-pound range.

Kaws’s Creature

“Final Days,” an almost 7-foot-tall black sculpture of a creature with big feet, hands and ears by Brooklyn, New York-based artist Kaws sold for about $300,000 at Galerie Perrotin, which has galleries in New York, Paris and Hong Kong. An almost 10-foot-fall 2014 bronze sculpture of a standing sausage by Erwin Wurm sold for 250,000 euros at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, which is in Paris and Salzburg, Austria.

Sigmar Polke’s untitled 2003 gouache on paper abstract, sold for $800,000 at Michael Werner Gallery of New York and London. New York’s Marianne Boesky Gallery sold drawings and a sculpture by Diana Al-Hadid, who was born in Syria and lives in Brooklyn, made of stainless steel treated with plaster and fiberglass at prices from $20,000 to $120,000.

1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair London 2014 – Articles, Reviews, Interviews





How She Did It: The bravest thing I’ve done? Set up an African art fair in London

How She Did It showcases your stories of work success. Here, Touria El Glaoui explains how she used her passion for art to launch an African art fair in London – and says that, in business, nothing ever turns out quite as you expected

Touria El Glaoui, 39, is the Founding Director of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, a platform for artists, galleries, curators, independent art centres and institutions dedicated to promoting African and Africa-related art.

Established in 2013, 1:54 takes place annually in October at Somerset House in London, bringing together exhibitors from countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, France, Italy, Germany, UK and the US.

El Glaoui, who lives in London, has co-curated several exhibitions with her father, the Moroccan artist Hassan El Glaoui who was famously discovered and encouraged to attend art school by Winston Churchill.

Here, she explains how she did it.

1:54 draws together galleries, curators, artists, art centres and museums both from Africa and working on Africa-related projects to promote art by established and emerging talent to an international audience.

By taking place during Frieze Week (one of the world’s leading contemporary art fairs), 1:54 builds on the burgeoning popularity of contemporary African art. It presents a rare opportunity to explore the emerging market and acquire works, in an environment supported by some of the most influential people and organisations in the world.

There is also a ‘critical conversations series’ to stimulate discussion and debate with some of art’s most inspirational thinkers. The programme comprises lectures, talks, film screenings and panel discussions.

The Magid Books by Sitor Senghor, an artist appearing at 1:54

What motivated and inspired you to start your business?

Being the daughter of an artist in Morocco, I have always been exposed to art and its discourse. My father encouraged me to engage in a number of art forms. My earlier work allowed me to travel extensively to different African countries, so I would immerse myself in the art scenes and ecology as I went. That’s what motivated me to initiate the fair and give others the chance to delve into the African art scene.

What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?

I piloted the idea to peers and advisors from the art industry to see whether there would be demand. I also did vast amounts of research – knowing your market is vital.

How have you raised awareness?

1:54 had a limited marketing and communications budget. By reaching out to influential people, we attracted press attention. During the week of the first fair, last year, word of mouth seemed an effective tool in propagating excitement, which is turn, encouraged audiences to visit.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

The hardest task has been raising awareness and finding appropriate sponsors to support the project. It’s a process that requires a sensitive and considered approach – targeting the right people, in the right way.

1:54 takes place at Somerset House

How do you overcome challenges?

Discuss and work through the different possibilities. There are always alternatives.

What do you love about running your own business?

I enjoy the autonomy and being at liberty to follow your instincts. I work with a great team who are passionate and very much engaged.

How do you stay motivated through difficult times?

By thinking about the response we’ve already had. Hearing that 1:54 has challenged the perception of contemporary African art and being able to identify more artists working and living in Africa, definitely fuels our impetus.

What advice would you give to other budding entrepreneurs?

Securing a source of revenue, or funding, upfront is more productive than consistently having to find sources along the way (although not necessarily simple). It feeds confidence into your project – for yourself, your team and your customers.

How I did it

One of the artists featured at 1:54, Rotimi Fani-Kayode

When I face a big challenge I…

Break the concept down and think about alternative methodologies and approaches I could adopt.

My greatest fear is…

Losing those that I care deeply about.

The most courageous thing I’ve ever done is…

Initiate 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair.

If I could go back in time to when I was 20 I would tell myself…

To be true to yourself and do something you love.

I believe…

That the projects your time and energy is invested into should inspire you.

The biggest lesson I have ever learned is…

It doesn’t matter how much you plan, the outcome is always something other than what you anticipated.

My favourite business tool or resource is…

Discussions with professionals and friends from the industry.

My favourite quote is…

By Churchill in response to impending cuts in arts funding to make way for the war effort, succinctly asking: ‘Then what are we fighting for?’

1:54 returns to London on 16 – 19 October at Somerset House.



The four-day event — the largest such fair outside Africa — opens today and showcases the work of over 120 artists in the grand setting of Somerset House in the heart of the British capital in a bid to reach a global market.

Some 27 galleries from around the world are represented at “1:54″ — named after the number of countries in Africa — and the event has doubled in size since it debuted last year.

“What is exciting about 1:54 is showing that Africa is global, we are not in a bubble,” said artist Sokari Douglas Camp, from Nigeria’s Rivers State but based in London.

“I don’t understand why Africa has to be separate, it is part of this planet and has been communicating for centuries,” she added, standing next to one of her steel sculptures depicting a person straining under the weight of a bucket full of flowers.

Cameroonian Adjani Okpu-Egbe, who dreamed of becoming a footballer before turning to painting, believes that the new wave of African artists can be as important as the continent’s superstar sportsmen in raising its cultural profile.

“There are many different things that make us happy and art is one of them,” he said. “Art can reach out as much as football.”

In “The Journey of the Underdog” — painted on four wooden doors — Okpu-Egbe colourfully depicts himself being devoured by a bright red, sharp-toothed monster, meant to represent his domineering father.

‘Great sense of humanity’

As with many artists represented at the fair, the 33-year-old is self-taught, giving the collections a fresh sparkle to western eyes, according to 1:54 founder Touria El Glaoui.

“There is a lot of influence from their life context and you can see that,” she said. “You can understand what you see, it’s not too conceptual.

“They are not trying to be pleasers, they are not trying to comply to a typical group of collectors or institutions, which is amazing.”

On the perils of producing work to impress art’s power brokers, Okpu-Egbe said: “The best way to please people is when you are pleased yourself.

“If you are standing on a strong foundation, you can stretch out your arm and help.”

The painter, who is now based in south London, pinpointed “platforms and resources” as the biggest obstacles facing artists in Africa, calling the dearth of art museums in Cameroon “unbelievable”.

Having established the fair in London, founder Touria El Glaoui, daughter of famous Moroccan artist Hassan El Glaoui, said there were plans to bring it to New York and Africa itself.

Reflecting the shortage of artistic materials, much of the work on display is fashioned out of recovered materials including charcoal sacks and plastic oil containers, and is heavily influenced by the local environment.

“There is a lot of politics, that are very visible and sensible in their production,” explained the event’s artistic director Koyo Kouoh. “There is a great sense of humanity.

“It’s not about the artist, it’s a very important voice in portraying society.

“The power they (artists) have is to challenge and tease consciousness and I think African artists do that best because the society and environment is so challenging,” she added. — AFP

- See more at:



Spotlight on African art: an interview with Touria El Glaoui, founder of 1:54 fair

 LONDON  |  16 October 2014  |  AMA  |    |  

In October 2013, Touria El Glaoui founded 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London. The fair is a platform for galleries, artists, curators, art centres and museums and aims to bring art from African artists to an international audience. With the fair’s second edition taking place from 16 to 19 October during the capital’s Frieze Week, AMA spoke to El Glaoui about 1:54 and her vision for the future of African art.

Where did you get the idea to bring African art to London?
I understood there was a very important gap to bridge between African art at auction and artists on the continent and from the diaspora, and the wider contextual framework of art today. I think that there’s not one reason, but several reasons to bring 1:54 to London. When I was travelling to Africa for other jobs, I was seeing some wonderful artists who didn’t get visibility beyond their borders in Africa. Based on what I’ve been doing for my Dad [Moroccan artist Hassan El Glaoui], I’ve always been surprised that he has had two careers: one in Paris with amazing visibility, with international exhibitions, all over Europe and the US; and another career when he decided to go back to Morocco to become an artist there, which was really different from what he had known in Paris. I put those factors together relating to how important  the visibility of artists from the continent and from the diaspora is, for example. The only way to improve that was to do it somewhere which was already a very international hub, like London.

Is there something particular about London?
During the 12 years that I’ve lived there, London has shown that it has such an international culture, a platform for everything — you have museums already showing amazing exhibitions, there are all types of fairs all year long that are taking place. But I think London is very international; especially when it comes to its openness — there are all these different art fairs specialising in different parts of the world like Pinta for South America, and Art 14 having this Asian angle; those take place in London as well. It just made more sense, from a promotional perspective, for all the artists to be in London.

Contemporary African art is experiencing a period of growing interest at the moment. Why do you think this is happening now?
I believe that it is one of the last continents to be discovered; there has not been this focus on Africa yet, so I think collectors in general have a curiosity and enthusiasm about new talent; young talent and new art. I believe that this is just the normal progression; that at one point the focus will be on Africa, but also that this is happening right now because there’s so much focus on Africa in the media, from an economic perspective — I think both are linked. We have some of the strongest economic growth in African countries right now, and that reflects in the development of different art scenes on the continent and in the diaspora. I really want it to be something that is constant; I don’t like to use the words ‘trend’ or ‘boom’ or creating a ‘buzz’; I prefer to think that this is just a moment that we are having, giving visibility to these African artists; I do hope that it’s not temporary. It correlates to the economic growth in Africa, and the fact that we’re doing this event in an international city like London will give it a lot of focus.

People often talk about ‘African’ art, and as is shown by the fair’s name, Africa is actually this huge number of different countries and cultures — so what’s your take on the idea of a shared African identity?
Actually, I’m not doing it thinking that there’s a shared identity; the name we chose was to remind people that when they talk about Africa — and this is something that I’ve seen for years, people talk about Africa like it’s a big country — there are 54 countries; first of all, people don’t even know there are 54 countries in Africa, but part of the title was really making sure that they understood that we were trying to showcase as many perspectives as possible from this huge continent, and being able to showcase as many exhibitors and artists as possible. We’re really humble about the fact that we’re definitely not conceptualising the fair as ‘African art’; we’re conscious of the fact that it is a question of us giving the spotlight to those artists who have not been given it before. Today we have more than 100 artists at 1:54, and we’re very proud to be able to say that this is a platform where you can see many artists coming from the continent, showing their work. We are not trying to categorise any artist; we just like giving them the spotlight, creating a stronger platform and rebalancing the number of artists being present internationally.

What do you think the future is for the African art market?
In the future I want to see a stronger but steadier market for African artists, from the diaspora and from the continent. I know there is a stronger presence already; I started the project around African artists not just for international art fairs, but also for international exhibitions. I hope that this will be a continued evolution; there are different events taking place that I’m really proud of, for example the director of the next Venice Biennale, Quin Wasabi, will be a Nigerian-born director, which is quite an interesting development for contemporary African artists. I believe there will be a much greater presence of African artists, so I’m very curious about seeing the Venice Biennal this year. We also know that there are a lot of exhibitions taking place in international museums in 2015 that will include contemporary African artists, or that will feature solo shows of African artists. This is what we want the contemporary African art scene to be; part of this international art circus. We don’t want to be ‘the African art fair’, we just want to be a platform for discussion. We have a forum here where African artists are present, discussing contemporary African art and its production on the continent or in the diaspora. We want this to be this international rolling ball where people can experience contemporary African art.

The fair is taking place during the London Frieze week; what kind of opportunities does this give you?
We purposely chose to do 1:54 during Frieze, as the collector base is already present in London for the fair — so for us, there are only benefits. We’re doing it during Frieze so we can open the market to international collectors; we wanted to not only attract African collectors to the fair, but those who may not be familiar with artwork coming from the continent or the diaspora. For us at the moment — we’re a very young fair, this is only our second edition — we only benefit from being at such an event. At the moment I could only tell you good things about this fair taking place around Frieze; since our first edition, they have put us on their VIP website where their VIPs can access 1:54, so we’re really happy with this collaboration and we’re really happy with the people it brings to the fair.

How do you select which galleries you will exhibit?
We have an open call, like all other fairs, in early February, and we ask all the galleries to apply. We have a selection committee that chooses galleries with a contemporary programme; it’s a much smaller scale than other fairs but we have the same selection process. The galleries are led by the artists they present and their contemporary programme.

What do you think the highlights of the fair are going to be this year?
We are increasing the number of galleries: we had 15 galleries last year, we have 27 this year, coming from the continent, so we are really proud of that. There is a small video installation from one artist, we have different presentations from different galleries, so the audience will be able to see a larger portfolio of some of the artists. We also have a book store which we are very excited about, where you’ll be able to find publications on African artists. This is our response to something that we’ve been seeing — we usually have a very hard time finding publications on African contemporary artists or artists from the African diaspora, so we’re really proud to have this new book store. We have extended to a new wing as well, and we are also doing a very strong forum of four days this year, which features amazing artists’ talks and debates on contemporary African art. A lot of people came last year — 6,000 visitors — we got a lot of good press saying that our first edition was really successful, and there was a lot of hope for us. I think people will come again this year, and maybe some of those who weren’t able to see it the first year around.

I think 1:54 has to be experienced; it’s in the beautiful location of Somerset House; I wish everybody could experience it, because it’s quite different to any other fair. There’s an intimacy between the galleries and their rooms, with their artists, with their audience;  it’s quite special, I can’t describe it well enough! There’s such an experience in coming to the fair, seeing all the different works coming from the different countries, coming from the different places in Europe and artists being present to explain their work. It’s a very touching and unique experience.




African Art Fair in London: Africa Set to Launch its Biggest Contemporary Art London UK / Africa News
09 Ekim, 2014 | 16:25

African Art London

African art giant, 1:54 is set to entertain the city of London with its Contemporary African Art Fair which will begin from 16 to 19 October.

This is the second time 1:54 is organizing event of this nature to showcase the world about the best of African art.

The event will be held at Somerset House, a historic building and major cultural arts centre in the heart of the city of London.

The fair will be open to the public from Thursday 16 to Sunday 19 October, 2014, from 10am to 6pm daily with special attention to customers who wish to transact business by buying some items.

Prices for arts that would be display are relative cheaper in order to make it moderate for visitors to be able to purchase some to beautify their homes.

Reduced admission fee is also available for 13-18 years and full time students with valid cards but admission for children less than 12 years is free of charge.

In touring the event by visitors, there would be excellent introduction to the exhibitors’ galleries and a convenient way to see a tailored view of the fair in a short visit. Public tours are designed for individuals and groups (10 people or less) and are available on Wednesday – Sunday, 15.00 and 17.00 on daily basis.


Items to be showcase at the event include galleries, artists, curators, art and museums involved in the preservation of African artifacts. The galleries will be limited to only 27 carefully selected best African arts, telling the story of the African people to new international audience.

Officials at 1:54 say the event will also showcase educational and artistic program including lectures, film screenings and panel debates featuring leading international curators, artists and art experts.

The objective of including this educational program is to promote Africa related projects activities aimed at projecting the base value of African art by establishing effective mechanism to take care of emerging African art talents and help connect them to international audience.

1:54 is initiated by market developer, Touria El Glaoui under the auspice of Art Africa Ltd to help in the development of art in Africa.

The origin of African art is estimated to be more than 6000 years old and it started as wood carvings. But contemporary African art is more of the social surrounding including nature, abstract interpretations of animals, plant life, mystery creatures such as dwarfs and natural designs.

Issaka Adams / NationalTurk Africa News



October 10, 2014 4:20 pm

Sub-Saharan artists making waves

From established figures to rising stars, African art fair 1:54 returns to Somerset House
‘Azonto’ (2013) by Romuald Hazoumè

‘Azonto’ (2013) by Romuald Hazoumè


ast year, among October’s proliferating events and exhibitions in London, there was a smart new kid on the block. 1:54: Contemporary African Art Fair set up shop in the neoclassical apartments of Somerset House, offering a platform to 15 galleries and not-for-profit spaces, with work by 80 African artists. The title hints at the impossibility of representing all 54 countries in one event, but the fair included galleries both in the west and in Africa, showing artists working within Africa and in the wide diaspora.

Some were hesitant. Cécile Fakhoury, based in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, who represents the painter Aboudia, whose work is currently on display at the Saatchi Gallery as part of Pangaea: New Art from Africa and Latin America, comments: “I was not sure about the project. I want to be a contemporary art gallery in Africa, not necessarily a contemporary African art gallery.”



  • Among 15 galleries only six were from Africa, reflecting the imbalance of power in this nascent market. There were others who, noting the sponsorship of the event by Christie’s, feared that African art might merely be being lined up as a target for the next art investment feeding frenzy.

The fair’s founder is businesswoman Touria El Glaoui, daughter of revered Moroccan artist Hassan El Glaoui, and she had high ambitions. She asked the Tanzanian-born, RIBA award-winning British architect David Adjaye to design the fair, and put together an impressive series of talks to provide critical context. Hans Ulrich Obrist was in conversation with Berlin-based Nigerian-born performance artist Otobong Nkanga, whom he presented this June in his 14 Rooms at Art Basel; the 2013 Venice Biennale winner of the Lion d’Or, the Angolan artist Edson Chagas took part. As did Chris Dercon, director of Tate Modern, basking in the afterglow of Tate’s 2013 show of its recent purchase, Benin artist Meschac Gaba’s exuberant Museum of African Contemporary Art.

‘Hippo’ (2014) by Ransome Stanley

‘Hippo’ (2014) by Ransome Stanley

With prices congenially low in comparison with elsewhere in London, dealers reported excellent business. Fakhoury comments: “I sold a lot of work. I met many museum curators and many good collectors. You could feel the interest.”

Next week, the fair returns to Somerset House, this time with 27 galleries taking part, 11 from Africa. You will be able to see work by 113 artists from established figures such as Benin artist Romuald Hazoumé, South African Ernest Mancoba (who died in 2002) and London’s Sokari Douglas-Camp, to rising stars such as the Nigerian Peju Alatise (Art Twenty One), Sammy Baloji from the Democratic Republic of Congo (Galerie Imane Farès) and London-based Cameroonian Adjani Okpu-Egbe (Knight Webb Gallery).

1:54 is just one expression of a current ferment of interest in contemporary African art. It has been a slow build. The Goodman Gallery from South Africa, exhibiting at Frieze, has been in existence since 1966, nurturing the careers of both black and white artists. The October Gallery in London was founded in 1979 to bring attention to African as well as other “transcultural” artists. In 2002, the British Museum’s purchase of the “Throne of Weapons” by Mozambican artist Kester led to collaborations with contemporary African artists, while in 2011 Tate launched its African Acquisitions Committee.

‘Untitled Tete’ (2014) by Aboudia

‘Untitled Tete’ (2014) by Aboudia

The touring exhibition Africa Remix (2004-07) showcased figures such as South African photographer David Goldblatt and the Ghanian master El Anatsui, while in 2007, Hazoumé was awarded the Arnold Bodé Prize at Documenta 12, in Kassel, Germany.

Internationally, influential critics such as Okwui Enwezor, now director of Munich’s Haus der Kunst and Simon Njami, curator and co-founder of the art journal Revue Noir, have long fought to create a space for African artists within the global art world. Enwezor’s appointment as curator of the Venice Biennale 2015 is just one indication of the current changed status of African art.

Today, however, it is the market, not just the not-for-profit spaces and museums, that is taking note. Besides the African artists on view at Frieze and Frieze Masters, who include the magisterial South African William Kentridge, African art is on view next week at many other commercial galleries, including the three-year-old Tiwani Contemporary and the brand new Sulger-Buel-Lovell. At Bonhams’s fifth Africa Now sale in May, 10 new records were broken, with Nigerian and Ghanaian artists achieving prices well into five figures. Art fairs in Dubai and Johannesburg have also opened up new markets to African art.

‘Privilege Heritage’ (2014) by Adjani Okpu-Egbe

‘Privilege Heritage’ (2014) by Adjani Okpu-Egbe

But as Ross Douglas, director of the Joburg Art Fair, explains, the key to the transformation has been the beginnings of a local market. Until recently the only country within Africa to have a mature market, of mostly white collectors, was South Africa. Now rising wealth in Nigeria has combined with a growing interest in buying art to stimulate a strong art scene in Lagos, with auction houses, commercial galleries, not-for-profit spaces and the emergence of significant private collections.

At this year’s fair in late August, Douglas says, we began “to get a sense of the pan-African art market”. Besides local collectors, both black and white, there were many Nigerians, with buyers from Zimbabwe, Zaire and Ghana, and “collectors were looking for artists across the African continent”.

Until recently the only mature market was in South Africa. Now rising wealth in Nigeria has stimulated a strong art scene in Lagos

This new pan-African vibrancy is confirmed by Joost Bosland of the highly regarded Stevenson Gallery, which is also exhibiting at Frieze this year: “Increasingly our artists come from all over Africa. Ten years ago none of them were showing.”

Bomi Odufunade, a Nigerian and the co-founder of art consultancy Dash & Rallo, points out that until recently, in the absence of viable internet, mobile phone or even flight connections, it was hard for collectors and artists to connect across the continent. Today, as an art adviser – to Congolese collector Sindika Dokolo, the lead sponsor of 1:54, among others – she encourages her collectors to start locally, then reach out across the continent to the diaspora and beyond. In her view, “this is more representative of how we have all influenced each other”.

Far from being an imprisoning concept, she hopes 1:54 will set both artists and collectors free.


1:54: Contemporary African Art Fair runs October 16-19,




African contemporary art eyes int’l market

LONDON, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) — A major contemporary African art fair kicked off in London Thursday, with dozens of African artists seeking opportunities in Europe and beyond.

The 1:54 African Contemporary Art Fair, one of the largest of its kind held in Europe, featured paintings, sculptures, photography and installations.

The fair comprised 27 selected galleries representing over 100 international artists from Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, France, Italy, Germany, Britain and the United States and so on.

Inaugurated in London last year, this year’s fair has doubled in size, aiming to expand the presence of contemporary African art in the international market.

“For a very long time, there was no role for African art in the international art market, but from last year to right now … countries have the exhibitions done with African artists, so I know it is getting stronger and stronger,” said Touria El Glaoui, founder and director of the fair.

Mariane Ibrahim-Lenhardt, director of U.S. based M.I.A Gallery, which mostly presents contemporary African artists, described the 1:54 as a party for Africa related art to join in the international art market.

After being around with African artists for several years, she decided to devote herself to creating a market for them.

“The people are looking at African contemporary art, is more like they realize that this is a big thing … maybe later there would be a greater demand,” she said, adding that “we are all on the edge and we are waiting for it.”

The organizers are also aspiring to take the fair to other parts of the world, particularly in Asia.

“The Asia market is curious about everything and it is happening in art,” Glaoui noted.

She listed Singapore and Hong Kong as the most probable locations for the fair when it is held in Asia.

Apart from the exhibition, the fair has also created an online platform named “Artsy” to help African artists to gain access to the international market.

Glaoui said the online platform opened the door for African artists to get in touch with the whole world’s collectors.

“For them, it changed everything,” she said.

The participants have also voiced their surprise at the diversity of the African contemporary art on display.

“Just like the artists from many other parts of the world, African artists are talking about gender, political, social, environmental issues and so on. They are a window of the society,” Ibrahim-Lenhardt explained.

“For me, when talk about Africa, it is about the entire human civilization,” said Marcia Kure, a Nigerian artist living in the United States.

The 1:54 African Contemporary Art Fair will be held from Thursday to Sunday in London’s Somerset House.


Reports from Frieze Fair Week London 2013


Dr Michael Petry

Artist, curator and author, director of MOCA London



Frieze Week, London

Posted: 14/10/2013 23:17

In the total art madness that is Frieze week I have decided to try to post works and people of interest through out the week. Oddly it really started last week for many London galleries as they attempted to beat the rush of overlapping private views that occur this Monday to Friday. The show I would single out from last week was James White’s exhibition at the Max Wigram Gallery.

But on to the official week

Day 1

Jeff Elrod at the Simon Lee Gallery (15 October – 23 November 2013)



Jeff Elrod and his work at the opening

Kehinde Wiley, The World Stage: Jamaica at the Stephen Friedman Gallery (15 October – 16 November, 2013)


Wiley talking about his work (video still)


Detail of a Wiley painting


Artist Ajamu X at the opening

Gayzed, The Annual Gay Photographers Network exhibition, Strand Gallery, (15 – 20 October, 2013)


James Barrett with his portrait of the photographer Jay Morthland

Other Fairs this week:

Multiplied Art Fair 2013 at Christie’s (18 -20 October)

Sluice Art Fair (19 -20 October)

The Other Art Fair (17 -20 October)

The Independent Artist Fair (16 – 20 October)

This Blogger’s Books from

Dr Michael Petry

Artist, curator and author, director of MOCA London

London Day 2

Posted: 16/10/2013 09:24
Read more

 Day 2 in London saw the start of a huge number of private galleries launching shows for the major fall season. Brand leader Gagosian Gallery had a massive group show of blue chip artists called The Show is Over, and White Cube went with Mark Bradford at their museum-like Bermondsey space.

Blain Southern had one of the most stylish shows called CANDY featuring the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Damian Hirst

2013-10-16-f1.jpg 2013-10-16-f2.jpg

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled, 1992, artists Maciej Urbanek and Mathias Vef
2013-10-16-f3.jpg 2013-10-16-f4.jpg
2013 Turner Prize finalist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (right), and picking candy


Jennifer Mc Sweeney and Vanessa Arelle, Head of Cultural Affairs, Mexican Embassy

At Other Criteria artists Tim Noble & Sue Webster launched a multiple edition of 10 bronze casts of their “nipples and assholes” called Portraits from the Bottom Up.


Tim Noble


Portraits from the Bottom Up, Tim Noble & Sue Webster

At the MOT International gallery they gave German artist Ulay a mini retrospective

2013-10-16-u2.jpg 2013-10-16-u1.jpg

Ulay in the 1970s and in the gallery
And finally at Stuart Shave/Modern Art, they went with a solo show of the British painter Nigel Cooke


Kirk McInroy, Modern Art, Director and Gavin Delahunty, Head of Exhibitions & Displays, Tate Liverpool

Dr Michael Petry

Artist, curator and author, director of MOCA London

Frieze: Day 3

Posted: 17/10/2013 14:33

The opening of the Frieze art fair was in a much improved tent this year. The ceiling was higher and the aisles wider so that the whole thing felt a lot better, not so crowded and easier to view the work. The following images are of pieces that took my fancy and are in no order of preference or even when I came across them at the fair.2013-10-17-da.jpg

Doug Aitken, You/You, 2012, wood, mirror and glass


Wolfgang Tillmans, Karl Marseille II, 2013, inkjet print


Elad Lassry, Untitled (Man, Strainer), 2013, C-print, walnut frame, 4 ply silk


Elmsgreen & Dragset, Tomorrow, marble and earth


Elmsgreen & Dragset, He, 2013, epoxy resin, silver coating, lacquer


John Giorno, WE GAVE A PARTY FOR THE GODS AND THE GODS ALL CAME, 2009, graphite on paper


Angela De la Cruz, Roll (Green/Ochre), 2013, oil, acrylic on canvas


John Currin, Rosebush, 2003, oil on canvas

Mark Flood, Orange Diamond Mute 2, 2013, acrylic on painted Coroplast sign


Tania Bruguera, Plusvalia, 2010, installation


Marcus Coates, Ritual for Reconciliation: Golden Silk Orb-Weaver Spider (Genus Nephila) USA, 2013, pigment print on rice paper

All the images were taken on my handy mobile phone


Dr Michael Petry

Artist, curator and author, director of MOCA London


Day 4: The Aftermath

Posted: 19/10/2013 10:24

And now for something completely different. Thursday night in London was the West End Night with most of the contemporary galleries staying open for all those visiting London to have a look after a long day at any one of the fairs.

But it was also the opening of a completely different type of show called Big Deal No 5, a massive group show (over 100 artists) in a central London underground car par (Cavendish Square). The show was organised by Geoffrey Leong and curated by artists Vanya Balogh and Cedric Christie and looked vastly different from other events on offer in London.


Martin Sexton, Spectre of Marx


Rebecca Scott, No-one gets abused in the bed of human rights


Amy Sharrocks, Rolling Umbrellas


Danny Pockets, Kebabs & Chicken


Demelza Louise Moreau, The push and pull of the gaze

2013-10-18-MW2a.jpg 2013-10-18-MarkWoods1a.jpg

Mark Woods, The Unchanging Nature of the Fetish Object


Roger Clarke, Red Knob


Nicola Hicks, Profit is God


Roberto Ekholm, Untitled (O wave)


Sophie Dickens, Landscape


Karolin Schwab, three places


Perry Roberts, Nobody knows what I really think

Big Deal No 5
Cavendish Square car par lower level 3
18 – 20 October
11am – 7:30 PM

Dr Michael Petry

Artist, curator and author, director of MOCA London

Day 5: Sluice Alternative

Posted: 20/10/2013 11:52

Sluice art fair is completely different from the usual clean white visual aesthetic of modern art fairs, where sales are paramount and visual clutter to be avoided. Sluice goes for odd spaces and mainly artist run galleries and there is a wild performative aspect to the fair. For 2013 it is in an old factory space that reminds me of former times in New York, London and Berlin, when the have a go spirit saw artists flock to Alphabet City, Hoxton and the Former East all now transformed to chic places to shop (if not live – well maybe the grandchildren can for a few years).The following images are my pick of the fair.

Rob Leech, (A touch of ) Instant Tan, 2012, printed self-adhesive vinyl (the colour taken directly from an image of Amy Childs)


Gary Petersen, Untitled S, 2012, acrylic & oil on panel, Theodore:Art, Brooklyn


Sam Curtis, Centre for Innovative and Radical Fishmongery, performance installation at Division of Labour, Malvern


Esther Planas, performance installation, Five Years gallery, London


Joshua Raffell, installation at Studio 1.1, London


Sarah Doyle, Falling in Love With Greta Garbo, 2013, watercolour paintings & looped annimation


Chris Hawtin, painting and sculpture installation at C&C Gallery, London


Philip Newcombe, Hooligan, 2013, installed polished aluminium football stud at Fort gallery, London

And perhaps my own personal favourite was Dave EvansArtist’s Car Bumper Stickers part of the TOOOLS shop “of items to assist your navigation of art fairs worldwide” at Liverpool’s The Royal Standard gallery.

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The Art of Not Making: The New Artist/Artisan Relationship


Previews Oct. 17, 2013

Frieze London: Welcome to Art History, Level One

by Iphgenia Baal

Gagosian Gallery’s booth at Frieze, featuring sculptures by Jeff Koons.

One of the last preparations before doors open to the Frieze art fair tonight is the installation of Richard Long’s mud painting at London’s Lisson Gallery. The mud is applied directly to the wall, and the floor needs to be covered with a protective sheet. When the work is finished, there is a clean black line along the bottom of the wall that draws the eye. In an environment where everything is slick, the work stands out as a refreshing example of healthy earthiness.

Now in its 11th year, Frieze London 2013 (Oct. 17-20) hosts some 170 exhibitors (up from last year’s 120), attesting to the fair’s status in the global art market. Exhibitors represent 34 countries, making this year, according to the organizers, the fair’s most international outing yet.

Countless satellite fairs like Moving Image and (new this year) Strarta have sprung up, and London galleries schedule exhibitions of their biggest hitters to coincide with the fair’s opening; see Tim Noble and Sue Webster at Blain Southern. At the preview, all the familiar faces from the art establishment were present: museum directors like Nicholas Penny (National Gallery), Ralph Rugoff (Hayward) and Nicholas Serota (Tate), as are artists like Grayson Perry, Anish Kapoor and Martin Creed.

If Frieze truly is nothing more than a temple of consumerism at its most devout, then the altarpiece is Jeff Koons’s bronze megaliths of lobsters, kittens and candies, showing at Gagosian Gallery. The rumored $10 million price tag (which the gallery declined to confirm) reinforces the notion that cash is king. Yet only a booth away, at Berlin’s Esther Schipper, Pierre Huyghe’s aquarium works house horseshoe and arrow crabs—this living ecosystem is utterly unconcerned with cash flow. Even if his aquarium pieces do come with a price tag of $165,000 each and a life span of 15 years, here “prehistoric life forms that pre-date all this,” as a gallery representative describes it, are top of the food chain.

Still, the chief traffic is buyers. Dealers in the Frame section, reserved for 18 galleries founded post-2003 (16 of whom are Frieze first-timers) all told A.i.A. that sales were good. There are some lively examples here, like Berlin-based artist Ryan Siegan-Smith’s works concerning memory and mnemonic techniques in a mixture of video, installation and drawing at Malmö’s Johan Berggren. Seemingly everyone’s favorite were Marlie Mul’s sand and resin puddles at Milan’s Fluxia, for about $5,500.

In the main exhibitors section, Laura Bartlett is returning for her fifth year with a sampler of artists including Cyprien Galliard, Nina Beir, Ian Law and Allison Katz. “Art fairs are where the relationship between gallerist and artist is both least and most romantic,” the London dealer told A.i.A., “but underlying everything is the same yearning, seeking out treasure.”

No one is forthcoming about what they are selling, for how much and to whom, but A.i.A. did overhear one dealer comparing shopping styles. “The Europeans walk round for days writing notes, then do all their buying on the Sunday. If the Americans want it, they buy on the spot.” One pair of arty spectacles with a New York City rasp dropped $80,000 on two Warhol drawings at New York’s Cheim & Read with the comment, “I just came off my medication this morning!”

On the whole, the air is less frenzied than past years. Air kisses have given way to a more serious crowd. Combined tickets to Frieze and Frieze Masters are $80 this year, so it is less about networking and more about cold, hard currency. “The market has matured,” an English collector told A.i.A., “and people are here to do business.”

That includes the crowd at Frieze Masters. Now in its second year, Frieze Masters provides a greatest hits of everything up until 2000. If modern art has been knocked off its perch by the growing strength of the contemporary market in recent years, then Frieze Masters addresses that balance. Dealers bring out prestige works of Japanese Gutai and Russian Constructivism, with 12 galleries focusing on Brazilian modernism.

Most galleries at Frieze Masters are returning exhibitors, but some pulled out, deciding to concentrate on the main fair and its reputation for guaranteed sales. “We did both fairs last year, and did well at Frieze but we didn’t make any money here” at Frieze Masters, Elliott MacDonald, representing Pace, told A.i.A. “But when you don’t do a fair, you always have the sneaking suspicion you are missing out.”

MacDonald’s suspicions may be right. Walking into Cheim & Read, one of the dealers says loudly on speakerphone, “I can’t tell you exactly what but a very nice thing happened today.” One museum director (who wished to be unnamed) put a reserve on the entire exhibition documenting artist Rose English’s feminist dressage performances at London’s Karsten Schubert.

There are no bargains at Frieze Masters. Sam Fogg, a London specialist in medieval art, has maybe the most beautiful object in the entire fair: an illuminated manuscript from the Book of Kings, selling for $8 million. New York-based Hans P. Kraus Jr. has a Julia Margaret Cameron album for about $7 million; portrait subjects include Darwin and Tennyson. Then there is The Census at Bethlehem by Brueghel the Elder, which hasn’t been on the market since it was bought directly from the studio 400 years ago by an English family who has kept it in Kenya in recent years.

Frieze Masters contextualizes Frieze London in a way the organizers probably never intended. It backs up contemporary works as often as it tears them down. Korean artist Kyungah Ham is showing an embroidered canvas at Kukje Gallery (Seoul), a clear homage to Alighiero Boetti (showing at London’s Dickinson as part of Frieze Masters). But when quizzed, the exhibitor told A.i.A., “No. Not like Boetti. Original.” On the flip side, the three Michelangelo Pistoletto works on sale by different galleries at Frieze Masters are called out by Gavin Turk’s Pistoletto’s Waste (2013) at Vienna’s Galerie Krinzinger at Frieze London. Turk’s work mimics the originals’ mirrored stainless steel, but replaces the boy and dog pictured in Pistoletto’s series with an image of black trash can liners.

Where inclusion in Frieze once meant you had made it, Frieze Masters makes the main fair look increasingly like level one in a long-drawn-out strategy game, with the question now being: How many of the works showing at Frieze London will make it into Frieze Masters in 10 years’ time?


Galerie Gmurzynska participates in Frieze Masters London 2013

Frederick Kiesler (1890–1965) was an architect, exhibition designer and artist responsible for changing standard notions of how we display art. Kiesler is most well known for his designs for Peggy Guggenheim’s museum-gallery, Art of this Century (1942–1947), as well as his influential designs for important Surrealist exhibitions including ‘Bloodflames 1947.’

Curated by noted art critic Nicolas Calas, ‘Bloodflames 1947’ was a major avant-garde and the last exhibition of the Surrealist group in New York held at the Hugo Gallery, and heavily focused on the work of Wifredo Lam. 

Galerie Gmurzynska is pleased to announce a retrospective exhibition of historic proportions by Wifredo Lam at Frieze Masters, London installed in an environment based on designs by Kiesler. The exhibition is a career spanning survey of Lam’s groundbreaking oeuvre.

Lam was a vital part of Guggenheim’s legendary collection and Kiesler’s design for her Surrealist gallery is considered one of the cornerstones of mid-20th century art. Galerie Gmurzynska will present Lam’s work on similar iconic floating curved walls inspired by Kiesler’s designs.

The main focus of ‘Bloodflames 1947’ was a curtained area where one could recline and contemplate a work by Lam, which was hung on the ceiling. Galerie Gmurzynska will recreate this curtained area with Kiesler furnishings at Frieze Masters presentation.

This is the first time that these designs have been recreated. 

Wifredo Lam (1902–1982) was a central figure of twentieth century art. He integrated himself into every major artistic circle and movement of much of the twentieth century. He greatly inspired Picasso, was a member of the Surrealist movement and also explored alternatives to the abstract expressionism of the 1950’s. Lam participated in the most important international exhibitions of his time such as “documenta” II and III in Kassel, Germany and the Venice Biennale in 1972.

The exhibition was organized by Galerie Gmurzynska in cooperation with the Estate of Wifredo Lam and the Austrian Frederick and Lillian Kiesler Private Foundation, Vienna.

Galerie Gmurzynska represents the Estate of Wifredo Lam worldwide.

A portfolio on the ‘Bloodflames 1947’ exhibition will be published by Galerie Gmurzynska on the occasion of this exhibition, featuring documentary images, articles and texts showing the important contemporary reaction to this exhibition and the influence of Wifredo Lam’s work on its continued influence.

A major monograph will also be published, it will be extensively illustrated with documentary images, many never before published.

Galerie Gmurzynska at Frieze Masters, Stand B7

Photos by Will Amlot/Galerie Gmurzynska


Reporting from Frieze: Eight Exciting Discoveries at the Contemporary Art Fair


I really wasn’t sure what to expect this year of Frieze, one of the world’s leading contemporary art fairs, which takes place every October in Regents Park, London. At its inception ten years ago, the fair was a vibrant, colorful event, with lots of artists milling around – both emerging and established – as well as curators, gallery owners, collectors and art lovers. But over the years, the ticket price has increased to the point where some artists now feel reluctant to pay the entrance fee for something that, as one journalist put it, “is basically an art supermarket.”

Upon entering the temporary structure built by architects Carmody Groarke, and walking into the first of many gallery booths, I realized that, if this is a supermarket, it’s a high-end model.

In fact, I was so impressed by most of the art on display that I made a call to a reluctant artist friend and said, “Even if it means you’re eating nothing but beans tomorrow, come have a look.” After three days of full immersion, I attempted to select my eight favorite photographs. In no particular order, they are:

1) Tacita Dean, The Book End of Time, 2013, Frith Street Gallery

There is poetry in the frailty of this object, as if one gust of wind could shatter the book into a galaxy of crystal splinters. According to the gallerist, Tacita Dean immersed J.G. Ballard’s 1960 story “The Voices of Time” in a stream, on a salt plane in Utah, for several weeks to get this effect. The artist then used photography to document the outcome of her experiment, as the book was too fragile to move. To me, the book appears like a physical manifestation of the death of the printed page, made all the more apparent by gallery owners preferring to show artists’ work on iPads rather than with the help of a catalogue raisonné.

Tacita Dean—Courtesy of Frith Street Gallery

Tacita Dean—Courtesy of Frith Street Gallery

The Book End of Time, 2013

2) Thomas Ruff, photograms, 2013, Konrad Fischer Galerie

“What exactly is going on here?” I wondered as I stood in front of the large-scale Thomas Ruff photographs. I have to say, even after the kind gallery assistant explained Ruff’s working practice to me for this series, I remained slightly confused as to how exactly a virtual darkroom was used to create this photographic magic. Nevertheless, it left me entranced.

Thomas Ruff—Courtesy of Konrad Fischer Galerie

Thomas Ruff—Courtesy of Konrad Fischer Galerie

r.phg.s.06, 2012

3) Wolfgang Tillmans, Karl Marseille II, 2013, Juana de Aizpuru

After lots of conceptual art, it’s quite refreshing to stand staring straight into a man’s crotch. Greying sports socks on train-seat fabric has never been the most arousing of combinations but Tillmans certainly tickled my feathers with Karl Marseille II.

Wolfgang Tillmans—Courtesy of Galeria Juana de Aizpuru, Madrid

Wolfgang Tillmans—Courtesy of Galeria Juana de Aizpuru, Madrid

Karl Marseille II, 2013

4)  Koji Enokura, Symptom-Lump of Lead to the Sky I, 1972, Takaishii Gallery

I admit I knew nothing about the Japanese artist Enokura before seeing this photograph, but it stopped me in my tracks. The graphic elements of the image — the criss-crossing lines of the square paving stones, the vertical lines of the wall and the darker and lighter elements of the photograph — really enticed me, as well as the fact that it left me wondering, How is this lump airborne just so?

Koji Enokura—Courtesy of Taka Ishii Gallery

Koji Enokura—Courtesy of Taka Ishii Gallery

Symptom-Lump of Lead to the Sky Ⅰ (P.W.-No.41), 1972

5) Raphael Hefti, Lycopodium series, 2012, Ancient & Modern

The Swiss artist Hefti creates his photograms using photo-sensitive paper in a pitch-black underground storage facility. A modern-day alchemist, Hefti then lights the spores of the flammable plant “witches moss,” thereby achieving “color explosions” with enchanting hues.

Raphael Hefti—Courtesy of Ancient and Modern

Raphael Hefti—Courtesy of Ancient and Modern

Two works from the Lycopodium series, 2012

6) Anne Collier, Negative (California), 2013, Marc Foxx

According to the gallery, the photograph is a reconsideration of earlier source material from Collier’s archive. Its life-size print is alluring, drawing the viewer into the scene. The silvery sea looks like mercury or even mountain snow, adding a sense of mystery and suspense to the image. Will I drown if I follow her in?

Anne Collier—Courtesy of Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles

Anne Collier—Courtesy of Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles

Negative (California), 2013

7) Shimabuku, Gift: An exhibition for monkeys, 1992, Wilkinson Gallery

Tucked away in the far end of one of Frieze’s long aisles was the Wilkinson Gallery. Having assessed the contents of countless booths, I felt by this stage that Shimabuku had not only created a gift for the monkeys with this image, but a gift for me, too.

Shimabuku—Courtesy of Wilkinson Gallery

Shimabuku—Courtesy of Wilkinson Gallery

Gift: Exhibition for the Monkeys, 1992

8) Akram Zaatari, 60 Men Crossing Ain El Helweh Bridge, 2007, Sfeir Semler Gallery

 This is a collection of exceptional black and white images from the Hashem El Madani Archive. Hashem El Madani was a photographer working in Saida, Lebanon, between the late 1940s and ’70s. His archive is maintained by the Arab Image Foundation, of which the artist Akram Zaatari is a founding member. In these images we see men, young and old, crossing Ain El Helweh Bridge in their suits, on bikes, laughing, chatting, some walking leisurely, others in a rush. The bridge and its characters have come alive all over again, thanks to Zaatari’s fabulous archival work.

Akram Zaatari—Courtesy of Gallery Sfeir-Semler, Beirut-Hamburg

Akram Zaatari—Courtesy of Gallery Sfeir-Semler, Beirut-Hamburg

Sixty young men posing while crossing the Ain el Helweh bridge, 2007
The 36 photographs were made by Hashem el Madani in Saida, Lebanon, early 1950s. Each here measures 22 x 15 cm.

Anne-Celine Jaeger is the author of Image Makers, Image Takers, published by Thames & Hudson. She previously wrote for LightBox about Jean-François Leroy.

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October 17, 2013 7:26 pm

Frieze London: report

By Jackie Wullschlager

An unlikely star emerges from among variable new work at Frieze London
'Groovy Spiral' by Dan Graham at Frieze London©Lisson Gallery’Groovy Spiral’ by Dan Graham at Frieze London

The first conversation I overheard at Frieze London was an American collector suggesting to her husband that they buy Dan Graham’s glamorously minimalist seven-metre curving glass and mirror sculpture “Groovy Spiral” as an alternative hallway for their latest home.

In fact, “Groovy Spiral” at Lisson Gallery is the fair’s most democratic, inclusive work – despite its $600,000 price tag. Framed in steel, it resembles from the outside a three-dimensional question-mark, or perhaps semi-colon, momentarily punctuating the rush and crush of too many people, pictures, prices. Walk inside, and its mirrored surfaces dizzyingly blur, mute and distance you from the crowds, who are reflected on a long white wall opposite as a frieze of pale shadows.

 This is Frieze in microcosm: a glassy, self-referential world all its own. Jeff Koons became a record-breaking market presence by sculpting banal, kitsch objects glorifying another alternative reality, Disney-like and infantilised; Gagosian has literally raised the roof of Frieze’s tent to showcase his giant hanging sculptures “Sacred Heart” – a stainless steel blue balloon tied with a pink ribbon – “Lobster” and the aluminium/rubber “Titi Tyre” modelled on children’s inflatable ducks. I loathe Koons, but as a statement of his role in conceptual sculpture’s history, Gagosian’s display is unassailable.

If all its booths were like Lisson’s and Gagosian’s – clear, decisive, committed – Frieze would be pure provocative pleasure. Certainly structural changes made to echo the sober elegance of last year’s Frieze Masters have benefited this fair: wider aisles, softer lighting, fewer exhibitors. But among the galleries themselves, too many have responded to Masters’ cut-off date of 2000 by assuming in contrast an unconsidered contemporaneity: haphazard, provisional hangs; slick, unoriginal work, much of it dated 2013.

Even at big-name spaces, some market-stall juxtapositions are so discordant that pieces argue each other out of existence. Alex Katz’s 34 small studies, landscapes and flower paintings, marvellously abbreviated dramas of light, shade and time (more than half of them sold by yesterday), struggle amid the surrounding installation of Rob Pruitt’s “Safety Cones” jokily adorned with sunglasses, smiley faces and hats at Gavin Brown’s enterprise. Affectingly wan and melancholy, Ron Mueck’s diminutive hyper-realist “Woman with Shopping”, looking as if she is about to stride out of Hauser & Wirth’s stand, is not helped by the backcloth of a massive, violent Paul McCarthy painting (already sold to a European collection for £750,000).

The best displays, aping Frieze Masters, are intensely curated and concentrated. Pace’s exploration of global portraiture is outstanding. It includes Romanian wunderkind Adrian Ghenie’s painterly depictions of epoch-changing figures – “Charles Darwin”; a scrawled-over face of Hitler in which paint seeks revenge on history – in dialogue with both Hiroshi Sugimoto’s uncanny photographs such as “Lenin”, modelled on a waxwork, and Li Songsong’s “Marshal”, a historical painting built up in impasto brushwork on panels roughly stuck together, disjointedly overlapping, so that the image never coheres. These in turn relate to the grid-patterned self-portraits with which Chuck Close questions realism and abstraction.

Saleable, accessible painting of wildly varying quality dominates the fair: highlights among new works are a free cascading landscape by Hurvin Anderson (sold by Thomas Dane in the fair’s first half hour for £130,000), a Jules de Balincourt cityscape (Victoria Miro), Chris Ofili’s monumental black figures playing out classical myth (David Zwirner, sold on the first day for $500,000).

Sculptural presentations tend to be more radical. Stuart Shave’s Modern Art intriguingly groups artists who test the limits of informality and non-traditional materials within a rigorously abstracting, post-minimal aesthetic: Karla Black’s foil and nail varnish “Living Conditions”, Eva Rothschild’s steel and lacquer “Hansel and Gretel”, Bojan Sarcevic’s burning candle on onyx “Tridiminished”, the mix of charcoal drawings with plaster and fibreglass in Matthew Monahan’s gently Gothic column “A Certain Time of You”.

Argentinian sculptor Adrián Villar Rojas was all but unheard of in London until his theatrical exhibition, focused on a charging elephant, opened last month at the new Serpentine Sackler Gallery. At Marion Goodman and Kurimanzutto he balances this figurative work by more abstract clay and concrete pieces, at once strong and fragile-looking, surfaces gnarled and cracked, which seem to belong to a fossilised jungle (the large looping, circular piece at Marion Goodman is called “Innocence of Animals”). Rare, delicately inky works on paper evoke ruined cityscapes. A sort of visual descendant of Borges and García Marquez, Villar Rojas drowns out the hype and sales pitches here with a vibrant magical realism making him the un-
expected, very popular star of Frieze 2013.


PAD London – report

By Caroline Roux

This user-friendly fair joyfully mixes decorative arts and design with fine art
Thomas Lemut armchair from FumiThomas Lemut armchair from Fumi

If visitors to the Pavilion of Art and Design (PAD), which takes place in a Mayfair marquee during Frieze week, are in any doubt as to what to do with their high design purchases when they get them home, Timothy Jeffries has the answer. Jeffries, the director of photography specialists Hamiltons Gallery, has kitted out his booth at the fair as a Belgravia sitting room – all velvety brown walls and classy Irving Penn photographs. But then, with a nod to more decadent tastes, he has furnished a dimly lit back room with black brick walls and Araki imagery of complicated bondage techniques, where trussed-up women gazed balefully down onto a black leather Mies van der Rohe daybed. A large-scale Richard Avedon is hung at the perfect height to allow contemplation of 1990s supermodel Stephanie Seymour’s carefully topiaried pubic hair.

The booth’s design is more sad than erotic, suggesting a world in which sex is more likely a transaction than a pleasure. And it isn’t representative of a fair whose annual mission is joyfully to mix 20th-century and contemporary decorative arts and design with fine art in a “do try this at home” kind of way (assuming your home is an airy apartment in the 7th arrondissement, or a duplex on the Upper East Side).

 Dealers love the London edition of PAD, a Parisian product that’s now onto its seventh year in the UK. With just 60 galleries, largely of European and US origin (though this year SMOGallery from Beirut joined in), it attracts the high rollers who are in town for Frieze Week.

If Frieze Masters is about connoisseurship and Frieze London about the highly competitive collecting of the contemporary art world, PAD is about comfort and shopping, and the booths are organised accordingly. At Stockholm gallery, Modernity, a pair of Alvar Aalto gleaming black Paimio chairs sit on a stunning rug by Marta Maas Fjetterstrom (an underrated designer of the 1920s and 1930s, though this carpet was posthumously made in the 1950s).

At the Downtown, from Paris, a serious sofa and chairs by Jean Royère, created for a Paris apartment in the 1960s, are shown off against a cream rug, while a stunning Royère lighting arrangement (“Liane”), of seven white shades on meandering black stalks, creeps up an adjoining wall.

London art dealer Robin Katz, a tub-thumper for 1960s and 1970s British artists including Bridget Riley and neglected talents such as Bob Law (“I feel quite patriotic about bringing this work back to people’s attention,” Katz said), has furnished his stall with a Nakashima coffee table and a “school of Rietveld” chair. “The furniture’s not for sale,” he said. “I just like being an interior decorator for a week.”

The New York gallery Van de Weghe adjusted its set economically too, showing a suite of recent Ross Bleckner paintings at around $100,000. The same gallery is showing Picasso’s “Nue Allongée” (1968) on its Frieze Masters stand at $8m.

The PAD formula certainly works. On the opening night alone, sales were ridiculously brisk. Fumi was relieved of a Rowan Mersh shell sculpture and a jesmonite table by Studio Portable within minutes. A brilliant green table by Marc Newson (at €300,000) was snapped up from Galerie Kreo, Paris’s most sophisticated design gallery, along with vintage Gio Ponti mirrors and work by the Campana Brothers. A sleek, masculine carbon fibre shelving piece by Pierre Charpin was under consideration by several buyers. “This really is a commercial fair,” said Clemence Krentowski, the elegant Alaia-clad co-director of Kreo. “The user is at the centre of all this work. Sure, it’s nice if there’s a story behind the piece, but this,” she pointed to the Charpin, “is still a shelf. Otherwise, we’d be at Frieze.”

Not that useability is always the goal. An unlikely new arrival at the fair is the Paris-based Jean-Christophe Charbonnier, specialist in 17th- to 19th-century Japanese armour. Glossy helmets in iron and lacquer sell for £24,000-£60,000 and are proving to have crossover appeal with design-oriented buyers seduced by their sculptural form and exquisite execution.

Next spring, PAD will make its first foray to Los Angeles, and Gregory Gatseralia of SMOGallery has already signed up. “I’m excited about it,” he said. “I’m waiting for Brad Pitt to come along and buy something.” If LA is anything like London, the chances are reasonably high.


Jeff Koon’s Tweekie Pie

Frieze Masters, Regent’s Park, London – report

By Jackie Wullschlager

The fair’s second edition encapsulates 21st-century shifts in taste and taste-making
Monet’s ‘L’église de Varengeville; soleil couchant’ (detail) (1882), unseen for more than a century, is at DickinsonMonet’s ‘L’église de Varengeville; soleil couchant’ (detail) (1882), unseen for more than a century, is at Dickinson

Who needs museums with walls when a pop-up version in a Regent’s Park tent makes art look fresher, brighter and more surprising than it does in any public institution?

Unrivalled among fairs worldwide for its quality, range, seductive displays and scholarly interest, Frieze Masters is an emblem of 21st-century shifts in power, as private galleries rather than museums increasingly determine currents of taste, how we experience art, and historical interpretations of it.

The fair has grown up since last year’s launch. The jumble of top-class works from ancient times to 2000 still delights: a small pink-hued Tang dynasty “Pottery Figure of a Court Lady” at Ben Jannssens, a gorgeous off-kilter Cézanne cupid at Acquavella, and Lisson’s theatrically recreated Richard Long walking piece are formally and emotionally arresting highlights. But the overall feel is more serious, less showy, with many galleries attempting to dig deeper, stake significant positions and juxtapose old and new in revealing not gimmicky ways – Jackson Pollock’s early drawings alongside the tribal masks that inspired them at Washburn Gallery and Donald Ellis; Leon Kossoff’s tensely wrought charcoal/oil versions of Old Master suffering (Titian’s “Flaying of Marsyas”, Rembrandt’s “Blinding of Samson”) at Mitchell Innes Nash.

Last year’s high standards have provoked competition to boast trophy pieces, including Monet’s scintillating “L’église de Varengeville, soleil couchant”, from a French private collection, unseen for more than a century, at Dickinson, and Modigliani’s elongated, melancholy “Bride and Groom”, one of only two double portraits the artists ever made, deaccessioned from New York’s Museum of Modern Art and on offer at Landau. Both galleries are new to Frieze, and Robert Landau’s often important works do not reach public eyes as he neither sells nor lends to museums (“they take too long to make up their mind and send 17 committee members to have a look”). Along with an unusual Fauvish Chagall “Still Life” (1911-14) and a rare 1905 Derain “Collioure”, Landau has the monumental, transitional “The Sleepers” (1965), favourite of Picasso’s dealer Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler – it hung above his desk until his death.

The subject, a naked woman and a black-suited gentleman reclining on the grass, reprises the “Déjeuner sur l’herbe” series but bold facture and slangy language inaugurate Picasso’s late style. The flattened forms and disruptive contrast of curves and angles merging the two bodies were inspired by Japanese erotic prints – such as the elegantly explicit 17th-century woodblock “Scenes of Lovemaking” by Sugimura Jihei, at Sebastian Izzard. Such chancy, do-it-yourself contextualising is a chief pleasure here.

Best stand? Mnuchin Gallery’s mini-retrospective of Willem de Kooning, centred on a sunburst pink/lemon abstraction “Flowers, Mary’s Table”, was the magnet throughout yesterday’s opening. The savage “Woman” series, highly textured sculptures (“Cross-Legged Figure”, “Hostess”) and emptied-out late paintings all excite in London, which seldom sees de Kooning, and missed the reassessments at MoMA’s 2011-12 retrospective.

Running close for erudite reappraisal and tour-de-force display is Mnuchin’s neighbour, Gmurzynska, which precisely reconstructs a seminal 1947 Wilfredo Lam show, with surrealist compositions hung at crazy angles off the ceiling, and mask-like portraits and “Jungle” paintings playing figuration against abstraction, Picasso against Pollock. Lam, the continent-hopping Cuban communist son of a Chinese railroad worker and African mother, embodied globalisation before the word was invented. He embodies too the nerve centre Frieze Masters aims to hit – blue chip but not fully discovered modernism. A Tate show is under discussion.

Who makes history? Increasingly the market – which is why modernism, its nuances still to be negotiated, triumphs in impact and scope here over Old Masters as marvellous as Velázquez’s “Portrait of a Gentleman” (Otto Naumann) and Antonello’s “Madonna” (Moretti), and energises our response to them. Seventeenth-century polychrome wood/silk religious figures at Coll & Cortés look like modern mixed-media installations; austere ancient sculpture at Rupert Wace takes on modern echoes in Hans Josephsohn’s enigmatic stele form (1953) at Hauser & Wirth.

I lost count of the numerous Calders on every aisle – following last year’s sensational six-metre “Rouge triomphante” at Helly Nahmad, Calder is this year’s must-have – but how bizarre to find his abstract metal shapes in primary colours flapping even among the jewel-like Brueghels, Avercamp and 15th-century Master of Schongau at De Jonckheere. Free-floating, upwardly mobile and in august but unexpected company – Calder is the poster-boy for Frieze Masters.



Saatchi’s and Christie’s Present THINKING BIG Today

Saatchi's and Christie's Present THINKING BIG Today

Exhibition: 12-18 October 2013 | The Sorting Office, 21-31 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1AP Auction: TODAY, 17 October 2013, at 5pm | Christie’s London, 8 King Street – St. James’s, London SW1Y 6QT

London – The Saatchi Gallery and Christie’s are proud to announce Thinking Big, a special auction of major contemporary sculpture and installation offered to support the Saatchi Gallery’s continuing policy for free entry to all exhibitions, and free education programme for schools.

To accommodate the monumental scale and scope of the work, Thinking Big will exhibited not at Christie’s, but at The Sorting Office, a vast former postal depot in central London, to coincide with the Frieze Art Fair in October 2013.

Francis Outred, Christie’s Head of Post-War & Contemporary Art, Europe, says, “We have been working with the Saatchi Gallery on this project for about a year now. This exhibition and auction will be pioneering in that all the works will be offered without estimate or reserve. In addition, a state of the art exhibition at the Sorting Office, a huge ex postal building in the heart of London, will house major sculpture and installation from across the last twenty years beginning with the Tracey Emin and the Chapman brothers to Berlinde de Bruyckere, who is one of the stand out artists at this year’s Venice Biennale. The artists come from five different continents and the exhibition and auction will be a fundamental celebration of the sculpture in the 21st century. Thinking Big refers to the huge ambition and imagination of the artists here, as much as it does to the scale of their work, and to the power of educating young people about art.”

Thinking Big features the work of 50 artists who have been shown at the Saatchi Gallery, including YBAs, such as Tracey Emin and the Chapman brothers, as well as newer talents such as Toby Ziegler, Kader Attia, Conrad Shawcross, Kris Martin and Sterling Ruby. Among the many leading contemporary artists included are Berlinde de Bruyckere, whose work at the Belgian Pavilion was a highlight of the 2013 Venice Biennale; Gert and Uwe Tobias, who had a solo show at London’s Whitechapel Gallery earlier this year; and David Altmejd, Karla Black and Liu Wei, all of whom were selected for Art Basel’s Art Unlimited show of large-scale sculpture this year.

Philippa Adams, Senior Director, Saatchi Gallery, comments: “Thinking Big aims to provide the broadest possible access and opportunity to museums, institutions and collectors alike by offering these works with no estimates and no reserves. This will be the first time in history that works of this scale will be so readily accessible. To this end, our endeavor is to reflect the Gallery’s commitment to constantly support and showcase emerging talent. We hope this new platform will bridge new dialogues and the works from this sale will be seen by new audiences across the world.”

The Saatchi Gallery has consistently collected high quality emerging work, whose importance has endured. It has also showcased new talent emerging around the globe, providing a widely visited museum environment for new art. The Thinking Big auction will support the Saatchi Gallery’s ongoing policy of free admission to all exhibitions and its free education programme – with over 2000 school visits each year.

The Saatchi Gallery will be thirty years old in 2015. It was the first art space in the UK to show a whole host of artists before they became household names, from Jeff Koons and Bruce Nauman to Andreas Gursky, Sigmar Polke and Damien Hirst. During the last five years it has showcased new art from the Middle East, China, India, Russia, Germany, America and Britain. Art from all of these regions, as well as the UK will be on display in Thinking Big.

According to The Art Newspaper, it hosted 10 of the top 15 most visited exhibitions in London over the last four years. The Saatchi Gallery believes that its policy of free admission to all exhibitions – supported by this auction – is fundamental to this success.




Frieze Art Fair: Buyer choice expands from porn and puddles to a Brueghel

With work of 2,000 artists from galleries worldwide the fair at Regent’s Park, London, attracts collectors with deep pockets

Jeff Koons' Cat on a clothes line (yellow), 1994-2001

Jeff Koons’ Cat on a clothes line (yellow), on show at the Frieze Art Fair this week. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

It is chucking it down in Regent’s Park, cars are splashing pedestrians, expensive frocks and suits are getting drenched. And, once you are inside the UK’s biggest commercial art fair, you can add to the experience by buying your own dirty black puddle.

Each one of Marlie Mul’s resin and sand hyperreal puddles would cost you €4,000 (£3,400)from the Frieze stand belonging to Fluxia, a young gallery based in Milan.

If you are not interested in splashing out on a puddle, then there are a further 151 contemporary art galleries displaying works in the vast tent that has appeared in the London park for the past 10 years.

As thousands descend on the fair – some buying, an awful lot more wishing they had the money to buy – hundreds of other galleries and museums open shows and have parties all over the capital. It is an art equivalent of the Japanese cherry blossom.

This year’s Frieze is as dizzying and as diverse as ever. You can see astonishingly expensive works by Jeff Koons (“We don’t release prices to the press,” a Gagosian gallerist sniffed); and you can see far, far more affordable works by the possible next generation – for example post-graduate Goldsmiths students Sam Keogh and Joseph Noonan-Ganley, on display at Kerlin Gallery‘s stand.

And you can see porn. There are content warning notices but it is very easy to stumble into a screening of Omer Fast’s Everything That Rises Must Converge, a four-channel film exploring the everyday and often ordinary lives of four hardcore porn film performers. It is being seen for the first time and does not spare viewers the graphic detail “although one of the things we found very compelling is the banality of the day at work”, said Euridice Arratia of Berlin gallery Arratia Beer. “They are very regular people, there is an unexpected normality.”

Arratia conceded it is a difficult work to sell – you would need €65,000 – but she hopes people will come and sit down and watch it.

A rather less in your face film is on display at Kate MacGarry’s gallery stall. Marcus Coates – one of the artists shortlisted to be next up on London’s Fourth Plinth – has made a film about hospice patient Alex.

Although the view is only from his window, the story is an epic one in that Alex told Coates he had always wanted to go the Amazon but obviously could not now – so could the artist go, which he did.

“It is a very moving film,” said MacGarry. “It is a very strong work which says a lot about Marcus’s wider practice.”

Also on display are National Geographic-style photographs Coates has made of birds and animals and then screwed up and let unravel. Each are in an edition of three and would cost you £4,500.

Should visitors need a break from the crowds and intensity of Frieze, a good place could be a curvy glass pavilion installed as the only exhibit for the Lisson Gallery. Called Groovy Spiral, visitors are encouraged to walk into it.

Lisson’s Ossian Ward said the work was a “people-watching experience. You feel like you’re in the calm in the middle of the storm and you’re on show as well. It is a nice place to be.”

It is a meditative work, on Wednesday still for sale for $600,000 (£375,000). Ward said: “You don’t get many moments for reflection at an art fair generally, a lot of what you see gets immediately forgotten, so it’s nice to have that one moment. Frieze has matured so galleries should mature with the fair and feel confident to do big and bold statements and not feel they just have to chase after the money.”

Frieze gets criticised because it is a place for conspicuous wealth and there may well will be oligarchs and hedge funders walking the aisles idly wondering what best to spend their millions on.

Matthew Slotover, fair co-founder, believes some of the criticisms are unfair.”Some of the prices can get very high and if you don’t like that then this is probably not the place for you,” he said. “For me it is a wonderful thing that private collectors and museums buy art and support living artists so they can carry on making their work.

“Also commercial galleries all over the world offer hundreds of free shows every month.”

With 2,000 artists at the fair it is also “an amazing opportunity to see a lot of what is going on”.

He said a lot more big collectors were present this year, helped by the successful debut last year of a parallel fair for historical art called Frieze Masters, 15 minutes walk away in the park’s north-west corner.

Here 130 galleries are selling their wares. For €22,000 you might be tempted by a Polynesian toggle, or for $1.5m an insanely kitsch example of Victorian narrative art, John Anster Fitzgerald’s painting of Shakespeare’s Bottom surrounded by fairies.

Or even a beautiful Brueghel winter scene, called The Census at Bethlehem, which, remarkably, was unknown and unrecorded until it was unveiled this week. The painting has been in the same family since it was bought direct from the artist’s studio in 1611 and for the past 60 years has been in east Africa. “When we took it off the wall a mummified gecko fell off the stretcher,” said Johnny Van Haeften, the Old Master dealer selling it.

It is Van Haeften’s first Frieze – “I saw all my clients here last year and thought I’d better come” – and he is encouraged. “People who collect modern art are now beginning to look back at Old Masters which are so much cheaper by comparison. This is a great masterpiece by Brueghel and it is £6m – what does that buy you in contemporary art?”

Fairs open to the public 17-20 October.



Africa through prisms

Filed under: Columnists |

It is sometimes frustrating to write this column all the time from this distant vantage point, so far from Amuwo Odofin. When I started it with uncertain frequency, some ten years ago, I was travelling often, and was able to offer all kinds of datelines, especially from Lagos, but also including Paris, Brussels, Dakar, Lomé, Cape Town, not to mention Kampala and Port of Spain, reporting on Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGMs) in 2007 and 2009. Varied datelines continued when I switched to the weekly back-page format in June 2007. kaye-whiteman

 Now, reasons of ageing and problematic health have grounded me substantially, although in the past year I have still occasionally ventured abroad, especially since the surgeon’s scalpel no longer immediately threatens. Indeed, I have been in the last twelve months in Cape Town, Lagos and Brussels. The wandering journalist of my younger days always hankered for rare datelines. I will, however, not be doing CHOGM in Colombo this year, even though it promises to be one of the most turbulent of recent times (this is something to which I’ll be returning).

 Looking at Africa through a political prism, one notes that the politicos and would-be investors have all been pondering the somewhat farcical decision of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation not to award its famous $5m prize for good governance in Africa for the second year running.  There have been justifications for this – it is not awarded every year, indeed in seven years there have only been three winners. One of them, Festus Mogae ex-President of Botswana said it was not a censuring of leadership in Africa – there were still a lot of incumbent presidents doing a good job, and there are those who still argue that it should include incumbent rulers, and those who have shown “excellence in leadership” in fields outside government. Indeed, both Mandela and Tutu have had special awards. There is still an uncomfortable feeling about an award that is not conferred more times than it is – it is seen to be passing an adverse comment on African leadership. Maybe that is intended, but what a clumsy way of doing it. The Mo Ibrahim Index is a more apposite initiative, as it gives countries a yardstick against which to perform that compares fairly well with the UNDP’s Human Development Index.

 In his press conference, Mo was asked about the AU special summit early this month on the International Criminal Court, called because of a certain feeling of victimisation because only African leaders have so far been convoked to appear before it (a summit condemned strongly by Archbishop Desmond Tutu).  Mo said that there was no alternative to the ICC to cope with crimes against humanity, but the best way forward was to try and reform it, not to leave it, as some African headers reportedly wished to do, although this move was blocked by the summit. I also liked his comment that Africa needed neither Afro-optimism or afro-pessimism but “Afro-realism”

In London, however, we have also been looking at Africa through a different prism, that of art. The occasion has been the first ever  Contemporary Art Fair. This goes by the name of ‘1:54” – illustrating the unity of the African continent’s fifty-four countries. I cannot quite recall anything like it, although some contemporary African art was on show in both the Africa ’95 and Africa ‘05 Festivals. The fair, held in several rooms of the Palladian surroundings of Somerset House in the Strand grouped fifteen different selected galleries and over seventy artists. The organisers comment is that it is “a rare opportunity to expose the rapidly emerging African art market” in all its vast variety (painting, drawing, photography, sculpture – with artists working in many materials). The emphasis may seem to be very much on the new commercial possibilities the work of Africa’s growing body of creative artists present for dealers and brokers (one hopes the artists are also able to retrieve their share), but for those of us in London, it is still a promising area for promoting Africa’s image. It would be invidious to start listing names here, but I do want to commend the October Gallery, which has a well-situated room in the fair, and has consistently supported African artists over the past thirty years. I feel that with this show their faith has been justified, as a step-change is taking place in awareness.

 It is significant that the 1: 54 fair coincides with the annual Frieze Art Fair, described in The Times as “an elite bun-fight between oligarchs, bankers and film stars”, which is also a dream world for art pseuds, socialites and Prosecco-loving celebrity-spotters tottering between private views. The 1:54 show is fortunately not quite there, although not short of the show-business aspects of the art world The media publicity has been good, and as a sympathetic piece in The Financial Times observed it is a “snapshot of a continent” with “an array stamped by its diversity.” In short, very prismatic.

 By: Kaye Whiteman



Jubilee in Regent’s Park: 10th Year of Deutsche Bank’s Partnership with Frieze London

Mathilde ter Heijne, Woman to Go, 2003–. Deutsche Bank Collection. © Mathilde ter Heijne. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer

Mathilde ter Heijne, Woman to Go, 2003–. Deutsche Bank Collection. © Mathilde ter Heijne. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer
Mathilde ter Heijne, Woman to Go, 2003–. Deutsche Bank Collection. © Mathilde ter Heijne. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer

Mathilde ter Heijne, Woman to Go, 2003–. Deutsche Bank Collection. © Mathilde ter Heijne. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer
Rivane Neuenschwander, I Wish your Wish, 2003. New Museum, New York. Courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

Rivane Neuenschwander, I Wish your Wish, 2003. New Museum, New York. Courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York
Gerry Bibby, Pacing Wall Progressing Columns (2013) Video Still. Performance Video.  Performed at Kunsthalle Bremen 14th & 15th Sep. 21012 by Adam Linder & Gerry Bibby.. Courtesy the Artist and Silberkuppe

Gerry Bibby, Pacing Wall Progressing Columns (2013) Video Still. Performance Video. Performed at Kunsthalle Bremen 14th & 15th Sep. 21012 by Adam Linder & Gerry Bibby.. Courtesy the Artist and Silberkuppe
Andreas Angelidakis, Design for Frieze Projects 2013. Courtesy of the artist and The Breeder Gallery (Athens, Greece)

Andreas Angelidakis, Design for Frieze Projects 2013. Courtesy of the artist and The Breeder Gallery (Athens, Greece)
Angelo Plessas, Temple of Truth Tlatelolco. Courtesy of the artist

Angelo Plessas, Temple of Truth Tlatelolco. Courtesy of the artist
Josef Strau, Paperweight for the Arcadia Diary, 2007. Courtesy of the artist and Vilma Gold, London

Josef Strau, Paperweight for the Arcadia Diary, 2007. Courtesy of the artist and Vilma Gold, London
Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Why Should Our Bodies End At the Skin 2012. Video still. Image courtesy The Artist; Mary Mary, Glasgow

Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Why Should Our Bodies End At the Skin 2012. Video still. Image courtesy The Artist; Mary Mary, Glasgow
Frieze London is one of the most important art fairs worldwide; it always pursues new paths as a way of staying dynamic. Frieze has had Deutsche Bank as its partner since its second edition. As every year, Deutsche Bank will be present at the fair, with a lounge in which it will show works from its collection. This year, the focus is on the feminist postcard installation Woman to Go by Mathilde ter Heijne. For this project the Dutch artist, to whom an entire floor of the Deutsche Bank Towers is devoted, researched the biographies of around 300 forgotten women. They are artists, pirates or suffragettes who fell victim to male-dominated historiography. On the postcards, per Heijne combines their extraordinary biographies with historical portraits of unknown women. Visitors to the lounge are invited to take postcards with them, as a piece of history and as inspiration for the present. Special versions of the installation were also created for the ArtMag stands at the Frieze Art Fair and the Frieze Masters. Here too visitors can take postcards. At these stands, new subscribers to the magazine also receive a bag printed with a Woman to Go motif.The fair’s recipe for success includes setting standards not merely as a marketplace, but also as a cultural platform. Frieze has always been a fair for important collectors, but it’s also a public event that over 60,000 visitors now flock to each year. This year, the fair presents itself in Regent’s Park with even more space than before, in a new architectural setting designed by the London agency Carmody Groarke, which has been responsible for the design of the tents since 2011. Once again, over 150 international galleries are taking part. Among the new participants are big names like Blum & Poe (Los Angeles) and Max Hetzler (Berlin), as well as newcomers such as Rodeo of Istanbul, which has previously taken part in the young section Frame and is now conquering the main fair.Frieze Projects has always been one of the fair’s highlights. This year, curated by Nicola Lees, these commissioned works will be even more interdisciplinary in nature than before. Already as curator at the Serpentine Gallery alongside Hans-Ulrich Obrist, she encouraged artists to experiment with a wide variety of media. Now, Lees has invented a new format for Frieze: for the first time, invited artists present their works on a modular stage designed by Andreas Angelidakis that will change on a daily basis. Rivane Neuenschwander, whose works occupy an entire floor in the Deutsche Bank Towers in Frankfurt, includes the audience in her performance, playing off one of her most recent installations, The Conversation (2010), which was inspired by Coppola’s surveillance thriller of the same name. Gerry Bibby’s performance series is also based on the idea of participation. Here, however, the main roles are played by fair staff and a pile of oysters that are consumed. And in the work of Ken Okiishi, it’s robots that intermingle with the public.Only a few minutes away on foot from Frieze London, Frieze Masters shows art from antiquity to the 20th century—from a contemporary perspective. Deutsche Bank is also partner to this fair. Its extraordinary quality and unique mix of various epochs already met with overwhelmingly positive resonance last year. Once again, around 120 of the leading galleries and art traders worldwide will come to London. Here, too, the fascination derives from the relationship to contemporary art. This can be seen in the Frieze Masters Talks, in which artists like John Currin, Beatriz Milhazes, and Catherine Opie talk to directors and curators over the influence historical works have exerted on their art.Frieze London & Frieze Masters
October 17–20, 2013
Regent’s Park, London



Frieze London: the must-sees

The best of the best contemporary art from in and around Frieze London this weekend

Trevor Paglen 2
Juneau Project
Harm van del Dorpel
Trevor Paglen 2
Sarah Lucas

SITUATION Absolute Beach Man Rubble

In the most eagerly anticipated institutional show for quite some time, Sarah Lucas‘ YBA upbringing matures to form an important and ever-relevant legacy. All the usual features apply – the stuffed nylon tights, the breezeblock plinths – alongside the old guard that made her name – the two fried eggs, the bucket and cucumber. Lucas, as the self-styled bad girl of British art proves she’s still got it and in this case shows the next generation of DM wearing wanna-be-bad-girl-artists how to play with the big boys. Whitechapel disclaimer: ‘the exhibition contains sexually explicit materials and is not recommended for children’.

Click here to read Susanna Davies-Crook’s interview for Dazed Digital with Sarah Lucas and Has Ulrich Obrist.

Whitechapel Gallery, 2 October – 15 December 2013

Sarah Lucas
SITUATION Absolute Beach Man Rubble Sarah Lucas


The indominable art fair of our time once again sprawls it’s stud-walled tendrils across Regent’s Park. The highlights this year are happening in parallel to the galleries’ booth presentations in the various curated Frieze programmes that seem to exponentially grow year on year. Within ‘Frieze Focus’ Omer Fast presents ‘Spam Atlas’, a new work which starts with an email describing a financial opportunity resulting from the death of a lonely but very wealthy person, next to Trevor Paglen’s ‘Non-functional Satellite’ that could be viewed from Earth as a flickering star or up close as a sail-like minimalist sculpture, created for the purpose of entering orbit then burning up without trace. In ‘Frieze Film’ Petra Cortright presents her internet-inspired, experimental software videos whilst over in ‘Frieze Masters’ Victoria Miro gallery lodges Alice Neel in the macho narrative of ‘master’ artists. In the section reserved for developing galleries, Pilvi Takala at Carlos Ishikawa London presents a project inspired by infiltrating ‘college moms'; the wives of faculty staff on US college campuses.

Trevor Paglen 2
Non-functional Satellite Trevor Paglen

GCC Achievements in Swiss Summit, 2013

Project Native Informant

GCC are a collective founded in 2013 of artists that including the multi-talented musician and artist and Fatima Al Qadiri alongside Abdullah Al-Mutairi, Amal Khalaf, Aziz Al Qatami, Barrak Alzaid, Khalid al Gharaballi, Monira Al Qadiri, Nanu Al-Hamad and Sophia Al Maria. This exhibition acts as a fortification of their collaborative practice which first and foremost aims to ‘effect collaboration, transformation and inter-connection between Artists in all fields in order to achieve unity between them’. Drawing on diplomatic protocols, ceremonial pomp and accomplishments made during the GCC collective’s first meeting in Morschach, Switzerland. ‘this show represents the official Communiqué of the cooperative: a High Level Strategic Dialogue’.

During Frieze week, the exhibition will additionally be open Sunday and Monday, 20 – 21 October 2013 12:00 – 18:00 and by appointment.

Florence Peake, Michael Dean, Juliette Blightman and Rodney Graham

David Roberts Art Foundation

The gallery transforms from it’s daytime persona as the host of current Orpheus Twice exhibition into the setting for a performance of new work by 4 artists. Florence Peake presents a double duet new movement work followed by ‘an act’ by Michael Dean that poetically introduces itself, ‘How inanimate that alphabet. With the policy of its use in its face. A demonstration of the letter n for you. You user with your policies.’ Juliette Blightman presents a characteristically subtle new work ‘Between Acts’ and finally Rodney Graham plays his psychedelic ‘Softcore – More Solo Guitar Music for the Sex Scene, Zabriskie Point’.

Free admission. 7pm

Rodney Graham

Post-Net Aesthetics


In a week when the art world comes to town, it’s important to get some perspective. This talk investigates the roots, developments and outcomes of the term ‘post-internet’, drawing together Arcadia Missa’s Rozsa Farkas, artis tHarm van den Dorpel (who recreated the Game of Thrones throne in his berlin space amongst other things), Ben Vickers and editor of Mute Magazine Josephine Berry-Slater. A good line-up if you’re interested in unravelling the intricacies of the much-bandied, slippery and potentially soon to be canonised term ‘post-internet’ and further conceptualising the ‘post-net aesthetic’.

Showing 17 October 2013, 4pm

Harm van del Dorpel
Harm van del Dorpel

Cory Arcangel

Dances for Electric Piano

Bringing his blend of tech-pop, computer-game-fetishist music-heavy art to the ICA, Cory Arcangel presents a new ‘suite’ of piano compositions . Arcangel aficionados be not afeared, the music in question will be performed solo by John Reid on a Korg M1 electric piano, an instrument made famous by it’s late 80s influence on classic rave and trance. This event comprises part of the 25 frames season by Film & Video Umbrella.

Showing at London’s ICA on 18 October 2013, 8pm

Cory Arcangel

Sunday Art Fair

In the tradition of the namesake day of the week, Sunday is a more chilled out affair, and an increasingly welcome and inspiring accompaniment to Frieze booth mania. Adding new blood and backbone to the Frieze train in it’s fourth incarnation, Sunday invites younger galleries which in turn means that for the most part the artists shown are ones to watch / next big things / bright young things. New this year are LA’s FreedmanFitzpatrick at only their second ever fair exhibiting Mathis Altmann & Lucie Stahl, and Berlin’s charge-leading Kraupa-Tuskany-Zeidler showing Dazed faves Katja Novitskova and Avery Singer.

Showing at London’s Ambika P3 17 – 20 October 2013


Andy Holden @ Zabludowicz Collection

Maximum Irony! Maximum Sincerity, 1999-2003: Towards a Unified Theory of MI!MS

The Music of MI!MS – a short lived art movement established by Holden during his teenage years in Bedford – will be performed, this time inviting The Grubby Mitts and Johnny Parry Orchestra to add their own spin on things.   An experimental live set combine with video and spoken word in a half-remembered nostalgic investigation of irony, sincerity and teenage intellectual dilemmas oddly in tune with the zeitgeist of the time and America’s David Foster Wallace inspired ‘New Sincerity’. The event takes place alongside Andy Holden‘s room-filling three storey installation containing environments and assemblages of ephemera that influenced the artist as a teenager.

Friday 18 October 2013 8-11pm

Juneau Projects

Happy Redoubt Robot Racing

A bit of light entertainment infused with art intellectualism, this robot contest comprises one of the events leading up to Juneau Projects forthcoming exhibition ‘Welcome to Happy Redoubt’. Betting on a robot will result in (hopefully) winning tokens, which can then be later spent throughout November in the artist duos’ ‘interactive post-apocalyptic encampment’, inspired by sci-fi writer Neal Stephenson’s concept of the ‘infocalypse’.  The installation will boast its own marketplace which will expose systems, create new mechanisms and challenge obsolescence.

Wednesday 16th October 8-9pm

This event is free and open to all but booking is required

Welcome to Happy Redoubt (6 November – 15 December 2013)

Juneau Project
Happy Redoubt Robot Racing Juneau Projects

Morris Louis, Cyprien Gaillard

Sprüth Magers

For his Frieze week solo exhibition, the French-born but Berlin-based enfant terrible of legendary beer-tower-sculpture fame pairs himself with another risk-taker of the avante-garde, colour field pioneer Morris Louis. Gaillard’s interventions in images from an archive of National Geographic catalogs refashioned into glueless wave collages, weave through a history of colour, representation and evolution. His bronze ‘Fence (after Owen Luder)’ security barrier exchanges knowing glances with Morris’ 1958 work ‘Beth Samach’. In dialogue with Morris, Gaillard investigates ruins and trace, disintegration and desolation.

Oct 15th – November 16th 2013

Sprüth Magers Cyprien Gaillard



A woman poses for a photograph in front of artwork by Jeff Koons at the Frieze London art fair on October 16, 2013 in London, England.

A woman poses for a photograph in front of artwork by Jeff Koons at the Frieze London art fair on October 16, 2013 in London, England. Photo: Getty Images

A man admires a painting by Richard Phillips entitled 'Sasha II' in the Frieze London art fair on October 16, 2013 in London, England.

A man admires a painting by Richard Phillips entitled ‘Sasha II’ in the Frieze London art fair on October 16, 2013 in London, England. Photo: Getty Images

A visitor photographs part of Robert Pruitt's "Safety Cones" at the Gavin Brown's Enterprise from New York's stand at the Frieze Art Fair in central London

A visitor photographs part of Robert Pruitt’s “Safety Cones” at the Gavin Brown’s Enterprise from New York’s stand at the Frieze Art Fair in central London Photo: Reuters

Art dealers with the Galerie Sanct Lucas wait in their exhibition space in the Frieze Masters Art Fair on October 16, 2013 in London, England. The annual Frieze Art Fair takes place in London's Regent's Park and runs from October 17 to 20. The exhibition comprises of the Frieze Masters exhibition and Frieze London which aim to showcase historic and established art as well as contemporary works.

Art dealers with the Galerie Sanct Lucas wait in their exhibition space in the Frieze Masters Art Fair on October 16, 2013 in London, England. The annual Frieze Art Fair takes place in London’s Regent’s Park and runs from October 17 to 20. The exhibition comprises of the Frieze Masters exhibition and Frieze London which aim to showcase historic and established art as well as contemporary works. Photo: Getty Images

A woman views Ron Mueck's artwork 'Woman with Shopping' at the Frieze London art fair.

A woman views Ron Mueck’s artwork ‘Woman with Shopping’ at the Frieze London art fair. Photo: Getty Images

Members of the public admire Eduardo Basualdo's artwork 'TEORIA' at the Frieze London art fair on October 16, 2013 in London, England. The annual Frieze Art Fair takes place in London's Regent's Park and runs from October 17 to 20. The exhibition comprises of the Frieze Masters exhibition and Frieze London which aim to showcase historic and established art as well as contemporary works.

Members of the public admire Eduardo Basualdo’s artwork ‘TEORIA’ at the Frieze London art fair on October 16, 2013 in London, England. The annual Frieze Art Fair takes place in London’s Regent’s Park and runs from October 17 to 20. The exhibition comprises of the Frieze Masters exhibition and Frieze London which aim to showcase historic and established art as well as contemporary works. Photo: Getty Images

A man admires artworks by David Shrigley in the Frieze London art fair on October 16, 2013 in London, England.

A man admires artworks by David Shrigley in the Frieze London art fair on October 16, 2013 in London, England. Photo: Getty Images

A man admires Jaume Plensa's sculpture entitled 'Chloe' in Regent's Park, which is part of the Frieze London art fair on October 16, 2013 in London, England. The annual Frieze Art Fair takes place in London's Regent's Park and runs from October 17 to 20.

A man admires Jaume Plensa’s sculpture entitled ‘Chloe’ in Regent’s Park, which is part of the Frieze London art fair on October 16, 2013 in London, England. The annual Frieze Art Fair takes place in London’s Regent’s Park and runs from October 17 to 20. Photo: Getty Images

A work entitled "He" by Danish artist Michael Elmgreen and Norwegian artist Ingar Dragset (Elmgreen and Dragset)  is displayed at the Frieze London art fair in Regent's Park, north London, England, on October 16, 2013.  Running from October 17-20, 2013,

A work entitled “He” by Danish artist Michael Elmgreen and Norwegian artist Ingar Dragset (Elmgreen and Dragset) is displayed at the Frieze London art fair in Regent’s Park, north London, England, on October 16, 2013. Running from October 17-20, 2013, Photo: AFP

A woman talks on her phone as she stands near works entitled "Lounge Lover" by British artist Dee Ferris (L), "Nia" by Japanese artist Tomoaki Suzuki (C) and "Blue Milk" by Dee Ferris (R)  at the Frieze London art fair in Regent's Park, north London, England

A woman talks on her phone as she stands near works entitled “Lounge Lover” by British artist Dee Ferris (L), “Nia” by Japanese artist Tomoaki Suzuki (C) and “Blue Milk” by Dee Ferris (R) at the Frieze London art fair in Regent’s Park, north London, England Photo: AFP

A man looks at a piece by US artist Jeff Koons at the Frieze London art fair in Regent's Park, north London, England, on October 16, 2013.

A man looks at a piece by US artist Jeff Koons at the Frieze London art fair in Regent’s Park, north London, England, on October 16, 2013. Photo: AFP

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A woman looks confused as she looks at work by British artist David Shrigley entitled "A Burden" at the Frieze London art fair in Regent's Park, north London, England

A woman looks confused as she looks at work by British artist David Shrigley entitled “A Burden” at the Frieze London art fair in Regent’s Park, north London, England Photo: AFP

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Visitors look at "Blue Skies" by late US artist Jean-Michel Basquiat at the Frieze Masters art fair in Regent's Park, north London, England,

Visitors look at “Blue Skies” by late US artist Jean-Michel Basquiat at the Frieze Masters art fair in Regent’s Park, north London, England, Photo: AFP

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A 19th century Italian marble Vanitas is displayed at the Frieze Masters art fair in Regent's Park, north London, England.

A 19th century Italian marble Vanitas is displayed at the Frieze Masters art fair in Regent’s Park, north London, England. Photo: AFP

A visitor is pictured with work by artists Gerhard Richter "Funfzehn Farben (Fifteen colours)" (L) and John Chamberlain "Dearie Oso Enseau" during a private viewing of the Frieze Masters 2013 art fair in London.

A visitor is pictured with work by artists Gerhard Richter “Funfzehn Farben (Fifteen colours)” (L) and John Chamberlain “Dearie Oso Enseau” during a private viewing of the Frieze Masters 2013 art fair in London. Photo: Reuters

A couple stand near a work entitle "Flat Tyre" by British artist Gavin Turk as they look at a work entitled "Flag I" by South African artist Willem Boshof is displayed at the Frieze London art fair in Regent's Park, north London, England, on October 16, 2013.  Running from October 17-20, 2013,  Frieze London features over 150 of the most exciting contemporary art galleries in the world.

A couple stand near a work entitle “Flat Tyre” by British artist Gavin Turk as they look at a work entitled “Flag I” by South African artist Willem Boshof is displayed at the Frieze London art fair in Regent’s Park, north London, England, on October 16, 2013. Running from October 17-20, 2013, Frieze London features over 150 of the most exciting contemporary art galleries in the world. Photo: AFP

LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 16: An artwork by David Shrigley entitled ‘Untitled (look at this)’ is exhibited in the Frieze London art fair on October 16, 2013 in London, England. The annual Frieze Art Fair takes place in London’s Regent’s Park and runs from October 17 to 20. The exhibition comprises of the Frieze Masters exhibition and Frieze London which aim to showcase historic and established art as well as contemporary works. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)



Bigger, brighter, better: Frieze London 2013

With its giant womb, its spiral glass corridor and its big inky puddles, this year’s Frieze art fair is like a big playground

Adrian Searle inside Judith Rubell’s Portrait of the Artist, 2013

Don’t ask … Adrian Searle inside Judith Rubell’s Portrait of the Artist, 2013. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

I have had a tango alone in a darkened room with nothing but a portrait of Marilyn Monroe for company (this sort of thing I can do almost as well at home). I have tracked a pool of ink across nice grey floors, and almost been splatted by paintballs. I have eyed up a dangling noose, but it looks like someone else has already tried Elmgreen & Dragset‘s gibbet (the frayed rope lies useless on the floor). That was when I climbed back into the womb to try to escape, only to be pounced on by a gang of paparazzi. All this, and I’ve only been at Frieze for two hours. I do so love an art fair.

  1. Frieze
  2. Regent’s Park,
  3. London
  1. Until 20 October
  2. More details

Once more into the killing fields! The artists represented by London’s Limoncello gallery hang around its stand, waiting for someone to chat them up, or possibly buy them. People are so much more fun than art – and by and large self-cleaning. Nearby, at Fluxia (over from Milan), puddles of black goo sit on the floor, with decorative bits of binbag and weeds mired in the stickiness. What would one do with these cowpat-sized objects? Or with the giant black foil rock that hangs from the ceiling of a Berlin stand? I guess you could position yourself under it, so it looks like a “thinks” bubble, to signal your bad mood.

Dunno, by Urs Fischer Dunno, by Urs Fischer, 2012. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the GuardianAt Sadie Coles, Urs Fischer‘s giant fried egg lies on the carpet, perfectly cooked, but out of scale to any but the most gargantuan appetite (and everybody knows collectors only peck at things, their appetites reserved only for beefed-up art).

Art fairs may be all the same, filled with schlock, shiny things, grim things, and things that make you wonder why galleries across the globe bothered to drag them all the way here, but there’s always something to brighten your day as you wander the aisles. The 11th incarnation of Frieze is more manageable than most, with better lighting, wider aisles and a bigger spread of behemoth mega-galleries and startup spaces, young galleries and old lags. Not that the art is necessarily better, though the galleries seem to be trying harder this year.

Now for a nice lie down. In the Project Space, a fountain in the middle of a bed spouts black ink on to the white sheets, and on to the book being read aloud by Lili Reynaud-Dewar, nestling on the plumped-up pillows. It’s a dirty book anyway, In My Room by Guillaume Dustan, and as she reads the line, “I was lying on the bed jerking off, smoking a joint” in a delicate voice, the artist starts getting spattered, too. More ink leaks from the pump beneath the bed and oozes over my shoes. I like to get up close and personal at fairs. It’s the only way to focus.

Rather than the usual collection of cash-cow artists, Lisson shows a single work, a huge spiral Plexiglas corridor by veteran American artist Dan Graham. You wander in to the middle, view the passing crowds through the curving walls, then walk out again, refreshed. It is an oasis. Nearby, at Gavin Brown, two lovely nocturnal cityscapes by Alex Katz, with lit windows on a dark New York night, look over Rob Pruitt’s mad, humanoid fluorescent orange traffic cones. This is fun. Round the corner is another big Katz, of buildings in a blizzard. It is magical.

Cat on a Clothes Line (Yellow), by Jeff Koons Cat on a Clothes Line (Yellow), by Jeff Koons, 1994-2001. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the GuardianFinding things that stop you in your tracks here is easy, but mostly for the wrong reasons. You tend to gawp, incredulous. There are a great many overblown stupidities here, the sort that only seem to come out at art fairs. You could count Jeff Koons‘s huge wrapped bouquet and his cute pussy-in-a-sock sculpture among these, though there are many who see his work as a Duchampian critique of excess.

Jennifer Rubell’s giant, reclining, all-white Portrait of the Artist has a large sculpted hollow for a womb. You can climb in and curl up, in full view of the passing trade. As a serious art critic, I felt it my duty to get on board. What would you do with a thing like this? Where would anyone keep it? Why? Do not ask.

At Michael Werner, four people huddle together, all enveloped in one big black dress, a 1967 work by the late James Lee Byars. How these people keep themselves amused all day every day at Frieze is a mystery. Are they naked under there?

On Juana de Aizpuru’s stand, Tania Bruguera has reproduced the infamous Nazi “Arbeit macht frei” sign from Auschwitz concentration camp. The original was stolen in 2009 (it has since been recovered). Bruguera’s copy leans in a corner, surrounded by metal-cutting tools. The artist wishes, apparently, to reference historical memory.

Never a great context for looking at anything, fairs are more and more the places where collectors congregate and buy. In an unfortunate juxtaposition, a drawing of a lemon by Mike Kelley hangs over the sign referencing the song by Led Zeppelin about squeezing my lemon till the juice runs down my leg. For some reason, all this upset me, but only for a moment. After a bit, you just stop caring.

Le Monde en Miniature et la Mode en Miniature, by Meschac Gaba Le Monde en Miniature et la Mode en Miniature, by Meschac Gaba, 2008. Photograph: S/arah Lee for the Guardian

What is the right context for Bruguera’s sign? Everything becomes a hostage to fortune here. You have to be open to the absurd. At Stevenson, from South Africa, Meschac Gaba shows an array of children’s clothes, all embroidered with volatile French words: Kalachnikov. Inceste. Pédophilie. Prison. Slavery. Sida (Aids). Terroriste. In part, this is a play on shop displays, and the kinds of signage kids all over the world wear on their clothing. But this is more about the signs people don’t wear. These words are labels that float about and sometimes stick.

You have to keep moving, stay a moving target. Swivel-eyed dealers wait to pounce. Here’s a Gerhard Richter, there’s a room of shouty Julian Schnabel paintings, now a sculpture of a squatting woman delivering a very small poo, by David Shrigley. And over there, a thing that looks like art but probably isn’t. This time next year, it will be forgotten, probably in a collector’s warehouse somewhere. At Laura Bartlett Gallery, gigantic currency notes lie framed on the floor. Mmmm, smell that money – but watch out for the cowpats.



Koons Leads $2 Billion Art-Market Test for Frieze Week

By Scott Reyburn – Oct 14, 2013 4:00 PM PT
  • London’s Frieze Week starts today with a record 10 fairs, about as many auctions and numerous dealer shows boosting the value of the art on sale to as much as $2 billion.

Frieze Art Fair in Regent’s Park opens to VIP visitors tomorrow and attracts billionaires looking for new art stars and established names. Among the 152 galleries taking part, Gagosian will be showing five large-scale works by Jeff Koons. The sister event, Frieze Masters, opens today with 130 dealers showing a contrasting range of modern and historic works.

Jeff Koons

“Sacred Heart (Blue/Magenta)” (1994 to 2007) by Jeff Koons. The stainless steel sculpture was made for the U.S.-based artist’s “Celebration” series. Source: Gagosian via Bloomberg


Lothar Schnepf/PAD London via Bloomberg

 A sculpture of the ancient Egyptian goddess Bastet in the shape of a cat. Dating from about 600 BC, the bronze will be shown by Gordian Weber Kunsthandel, Germany, at the Pavilion of Art + Design in London, which previews on Oct. 15. Photographer: Lothar Schnepf/PAD London via Bloomberg

Sterling Ruby

Robert Wedemeyer/Hauser & Wirth via Bloomberg 

“SP246″ (2013) by Sterling Ruby. The painting, spray paint on canvas, will be priced at $550,000 at the Hauser & Wirth booth during the Freize Art Fair at Regent’s Park. Photographer: Robert Wedemeyer/Hauser & Wirth via Bloomberg

Oscar Murillo

FXP London 2013/David Zwirner via Bloomberg 

“574#” (2013) by Oscar Murillo. The work, oil paint, oil stick, graphite and studio-dirt, will be shown, priced up to $150,000, at the David Zwirner booth during the Frieze Art Fair, which opens to VIP visitors on Oct. 16. Source: FXP London 2013/David Zwirner via Bloomberg

“The pace is non-stop,” New York-based art adviser Heather Flow said in an interview. “There are a lot of art fairs this week, though I’m not sure if too many good things to see is such a bad problem. The search for the next superstar is gathering momentum. Secondary market prices are astronomical.”

Frieze and its offshoots have grown into the biggest seven-day concentration of art-market events in any European capital. Also opening today are the Pavilion of Art + Design in Berkeley Square and the inaugural 1:54 fair of contemporary African art at Somerset House.

Starting tomorrow, Phillips, Sotheby’s (BID) and Christie’s International will be offering more than 900 works of postwar and contemporary art valued at as much as 152.9 million pounds ($245 million).

Balloon Dog

The Koons works at Gagosian’s Frieze booth include the stainless steel “Sacred Heart (Blue/Magenta), (1994-2007), part of the U.S.-based artist’s “Celebration” series. Gagosian never discloses prices to the media. A version of “Balloon Dog” from the series is estimated to sell for between $35 million and $55 million at Christie’s New York next month.

A recent painting by Colombian-born Oscar Murillo, priced at as much as $150,000, will be shown at Frieze by the New York-and London-based dealer David Zwirner.

Two years ago, paintings by Murillo, who has a London studio, could be bought for less than $3,000. He is now hailed by some as the new Jean-Michel Basquiat. One of his abstracts sold for a record $401,000 at Phillips New York on Sept. 19.

Hauser & Wirth will show U.S.-based Sterling Ruby’s 2013 spray paint-on-canvas “SP246,” priced at $550,000, typifying the upper price levels at a fair that specializes in works by younger, living artists. More valuable works by dead artists, stretching back to Old Masters and beyond, will be shown today at the second edition of Frieze Masters.

Old Master

The event has been bolstered by the arrival of heavyweight exhibitors such as the London-based Old Master specialist Johnny van Haeften, and New York’s Mnuchin and Dominique Levy galleries, who will bring big-ticket 20th-century classics.

“The fair has reinvigorated interest in people coming to London for this week,” says the dealer Thomas Dane, who is exhibiting at both Frieze events. “Masters is more of an adventure, and hopefully the connoisseurship we see at that event will spill over into Frieze.” He has a 1950s Lucian Freud drawing ofFrancis Bacon, priced at 1.3 million pounds.

The Pavilion of Art + Design London, a fair of 60 dealers held in a temporary structure near Claridge’s and the Connaught hotels, includes a white single-cut Lucio Fontana “Concetto Spaziale, Attesa,” priced at 6 million euros ($8.15 million) on the booth of the London dealer Ben Brown Fine Arts. Paris-based Galerie Applicat-Prazan will be showing a 1953 Pierre Soulages abstract at 3.5 million euros.

The main innovation of this year’s Frieze Week is the first 1:54 fair devoted to contemporary African art with 15 dealers.

The fair will include photographs by Angola’s Edson Chagas, who won the Golden Lion for his nation’s pavilion at the Venice Biennale in June. The London-based Jack Bell Gallery will be showing art made of weapons from the Mozambique civil war by Goncalo Mabunda. Prices for the artist range from 5,000 pounds to 14,000 pounds.


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Frieze art fair 2013: 10 things to see

From a retrospective by art’s king of pop, Jeff Koons, to a video laying bare the porn industry, via a collection of Matisse masterpieces, here’s what to seek out at Frieze

Frieze - Jeff Koons View larger picture

Pop star … Jeff Koons’s Sacred Heart (Blue/Magenta). Click to enlarge

1) Shiny happy people

No one sums up big-money art-fair glamour like Jeff Koons. The pop-art superstar and master of shiny surfaces shows key works from the last two decades here. Expect hisSacred Heart, wrapped in blue foil like a chocolate, and his Lobster, which masquerades as a party balloon.
Frieze: Jeff Koons, Gagosian Gallery

2) 24 hours as a porn star

Omer Fast’s X-rated video Everything That Rises Must Converge is a must-see. It’s a bare-all look at the LA porn industry, showing 24 hours in the life of real porn stars. But Fast, who’s never one to keep things simple, has interwoven the sex with stories of illegal immigration and dinosaur egg theft.
Frieze Focus: Omer Fast, Arratia Beer Gallery

3) The art of paintballing

Ken Okiishi’s paintballing should be the ultimate splatterfest: a carnival-style shooting gallery, with paint guns aimed at canvases. But instead of visitors having to put down their champagne and get their hands dirty, little remote controlled robots – pet-sized takes on drones, perhaps – will bomb their targets while filming, then mop up their own mess.
Frieze Special Project: Ken Okiishi

4) Block party

The theme of this year’s Frieze special projects is “play” – and nothing says play likeJudy Chicago’s Rearrangeable Rainbow Blocks. An early work by the feminist art titan, these supersized building blocks are a prod at macho sculpture. It’s as if some toddler giant has left them in the sculpture park for other overgrown kids to experiment with.
Frieze Sculpture Park: Judy Chicago

Frieze - Pivi Takala Detail from Pivi Takala’s Drive With Care

5) School of thought

Pilvi Takala’s video Drive With Care sees the Finnish artist go undercover in an elite US boarding school. What comes across is a Truman Show kind of existence: a self-contained world that the staff rarely leave, and where the “college moms” (faculty wives) spend their days power-walking the grounds.
Frieze Frame and Emdash Award Winner: Pilvi Takala, Carlos Ishikawa Gallery

6) Cover to cover

Whether dancing through galleries naked and doused in paint or working in a glass room in a public park, Lili Reynaud-Dewar is ever the exhibitionist. Her Frieze installation turns an intimate bedroom setting into a public stage. Sitting in a bed gradually soaking herself in ink, she’ll be reading from her favourite autobiographies, including that of French author Marguerite Duras.
Frieze Special Project: Lili Reynaud-Dewar

7) Game theory

The Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander once got a security firm to bug a gallery then tore up the walls and floors until she’d discovered the secret surveillance devices. For Frieze Projects, her version of Battleships continues the mind games, turning the traditional pastime into an interactive wall installation that visitors can rip through to uncover lurking vessels.
Frieze Project: Rivane Neuenschwander

Frieze - Matisse Henri Matisse’s Tête de jeune fille (1951)

8) Matisse’s many faces

If you wanted to make a noise at Frieze’s new Masters offshoot, you could scarcely do better than with Matisse. Portraits are the focus of this solo presentation of drawings, paintings and sculptures, which show off his virtuoso technical skills. There’s also the rare chance to see his early bronze nude Olga, with her ingeniously twisting form designed to be appreciated from any angle.
Frieze Masters: Matisse, Thomas Gibson Fine Art Ltd

9) Requiem for a dream

In the glittery confines of an art fair it’s good to be reminded that culture is about more than cold hard cash. “How can art help people?” is a question that runs deep for Marcus Coates, the eccentric Brit known for his performances dressed as a shaman. A solo show features his standout film and audio work The Trip, created at St John’s Hospice, where he offered to realise a dying patient’s lifelong dream – and ended up travelling to the Amazon.
Frieze: Marcus Coates, Kate MacGarry Gallery

10) Name’s not down, not coming in

Right outside the Frieze tent is a fitting location for Elmgreen & Dragset‘s sendup of hierarchy But I’m on the Guestlist Too!. It’s an oversized VIP glass door that stands alone like a magic portal to an enchanted land – and has its own real-life bouncer.
Frieze Sculpture Park: Elmgreen & Dragset



David Zwirner at Frieze & Frieze Masters 2013

1x1.trans David Zwirner at Frieze & Frieze Masters 2013

Chris Ofili. Poolside (Crystal), 2012-2013. Oil on linen. 122 1/8 x 78 3/4 inches (310 x 200 cm).

David Zwirner will present a range of gallery artists at this year’s Frieze Art Fair (Booth C12). Highlights include the debut of two new paintings by Chris Ofili; works by Adel Abdessemed, whose solo exhibition at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar is on view through January; a painting and works on paper by Tomma Abts; a recent large-scale photograph by Stan Douglas; a concrete and steel sculpture by Isa Genzken, who is the subject of a major retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in New York opening in November; a painting by Neo Rauch; a selection of works on paper by Raymond Pettibon, whose show To Wit is currently on view at David Zwirner, New York; large-scale photograms by Thomas Ruff; a new painting by Lisa Yuskavage; photographs by Christopher Williams, whose first American museum solo exhibition will open in 2014 at The Art Institute of Chicago and will travel to The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and a new work by Michael Riedel, made especially for the fair and installed on-site by the artist.

Also featured are new works by the Colombian-born, London-based artist, Oscar Murillo, who recently joined the gallery. He is also part of the fair’s Sculpture Park presentation which takes place in Regent’s Park. There he will debut social anomalies from a factory (2013), a sculpture comprised of a series of stainless steel fruit crates. The artist currently has a solo show at the South London Gallery, where he has also created a unique “lottery ticket” project, and winners will be chosen on Friday, October 18.

At Frieze Masters (Booth F11), David Zwirner will present key works by a selection of gallery artists and estates, including Dan FlavinDonald JuddGordon Matta-ClarkJohn McCrackenFred Sandback, and Al Taylor, as well as Ad Reinhardt, whose work will be on view at the gallery’s new building on West 20th Street in New York in a show curated by Robert Storr featuring black paintings and cartoons; and early works by Yayoi Kusama, who will have her first show with David Zwirner (on West 19th Street in New York) in November, which will feature over 30 large-scale paintings and two infinity rooms. Also on view will be a seminal work by Gerhard Richter; an important painting by Martin Kippenberger along with a suite of “Hotel Drawings” by the artist from the 1980s through 1990s; a large-scale sculpture by John Chamberlain; an early Paßstück by Franz West; and a selection of early works by Bernd and Hilla Becher, Daniel Buren, Joseph Cornell, Konrad Klapheck, and Brice Marden.



  • Work in progress: American artist Jennifer Rubell poses naked for a digital scanner when eight months pregnant to create a 25ft sculpture to be revealed at Frieze

Work in progress: American artist Jennifer Rubell poses naked for a digital scanner when eight months pregnant to create a 25ft sculpture to be revealed at Frieze

Picture: Jennifer Rubell c/o Stephen Friedman Gallery
  • Jennifer Rubell ‘Portrait of the Artist’ 2013
  • Jennifer Rubell ‘Portrait of the Artist’ 2013, steel-reinforced fibreglass, 257 x 719 x 285cm
    Picture: Stephen White c/o Stephen Friedman Gallery
  • Left; ‘Portrait d’homme’ self portrait by Corneille de Lyon circa 1550. Right:’Le Peintre’ self portrait by Pablo Picasso, 1967.
    Picture: c/o Richard Green Gallery, London
  • Patrick Heron, Christmas Eve, 1951
    Picture: Offer Waterman & Co



Art Sales: Eyes of the world turn to London’s art fairs

As over £1 billion of art goes on sale at a variety of London art fairs including Frieze, Frieze Masters and PAD, Colin Gleadell picks out the highlights set to make headlines.


OCTOBER 14, 2013 23:11

The original Frieze fair remains the big attraction, striving to enhance the visitor experience this year with less galleries, more public space, and smaller crowds through ticket restrictions

Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, Attesa, 1966. Ben Brown Fine Arts
Pierre Soulages, painting 195 x 130 cm, 1953. Applicat-Prazan

The tents are up, the stands are hung, and 350 international art dealers have been attending to last-minute niggles at London’s mega fairs – Frieze and Frieze Masters in Regent’s Park, and the Pavilion of Art & Design (PAD) in Berkeley Square – before they open this week. In addition to the £150 million of contemporary art on the auction block, they boast nearer £1 billion of art from all periods for sale.

In their wake, numerous other events for less expensive art are hoping to catch the attention. Last week, I highlighted the new 1:54 fair for African art. For serious talent-spotters, the small, select and free-entry Sunday Art Fairopposite Madame Tussaud, much favoured by cutting-edge collectors such as Anita Zabludowicz or David Roberts, is recommended.

For the streetwise, urban look, go to theMoniker Art Fair in Brick Lane, east London, which shares the cavernous Old Truman Brewery space this year with The Other Fair. For lower-priced prints and multiples by emerging and established artists, Multiplied, at Christie’s in South Kensington, is worth a trawl.

An avalanche of gallery openings includes three of the most sought-after young talent: British artist Hurvin Anderson, who fills both of Thomas Dane’s St James’s galleries with new work, and Americans Jeff Elrod at the Simon Lee gallery in Mayfair and Mark Bradford at the White Cube gallery in Bermondsey. The openings are not for buyers, though, as everything had been sold already.

The first fair to open its doors, for a select private view on Monday, PAD is perhaps more weighted towards design than art this year. But this allows the viewer space to focus on the art that is there. The modern, post-war era is best represented with an all-white Lucio Fontana painting with Ben Brown (€6 million), an architectural-looking abstract by Pierre Soulages with Galerie Applicat-Prazan (€3.5 million), and Christmas Eve, 1951, the largest early painting, 10 feet in length, by Patrick Heron ever on the market, for which London dealer Offer Waterman will ask a seven-figure sum.

Frieze Masters, which embraces the ancient and the modern, holds it private view this afternoon. Having been adjudged a success in its first year, it has attracted more exhibitors, notably Richard Green, whose range of stock has allowed him to meaningfully juxtapose pairs of still lifes, portraits and landscapes painted 400 years apart but resonating in a way that captures the spirit of the fair completely. The pairing of a 16th-century courtier by Corneille de Lyon with a late self-portrait as a courtly musketeer by Picasso, for instance, is inspired. The differential in prices (£950,000 for the de Lyon to £5.6 million for the Picasso) is not so much to do with size but the general disparity in value today between old and modern masters, says Jonathan Green.

One of Frieze Masters’ strengths is its single-artist displays. The Mnuchin Gallery from New York, for instance, is bringing an array of de Kooning paintings and sculptures priced from $1 million (£624,000) to $10 million.

Marlborough Contemporary artist Laurence Kavanagh is a fan of the late Victor Pasmore, so he has curated a display of Pasmore’s work (£10,000 to £100,000).

The original Frieze fair for new art, though, remains the big attraction, striving to enhance the visitor experience this year with less galleries, more public space, and smaller crowds through ticket restrictions. A new, child-friendly element seems to have crept in, with paintball machines making splattered paintings, a show curated by children who were given thousands of pounds to spend, and a multimedia playground for children and adults among the sponsored projects.

Bound to attract attention will be a self-portrait sculpture by US artist Jennifer Rubell, who posed naked for a digital scanner when eight months pregnant, reclining like the Velázquez Rockeby Venus. The scans have now been translated into a massive 25ft figure from which the womb has been removed leaving a cavity large enough for an adult to nestle in. The $200,000 interactive fibreglass sculpture, made in an edition of three, will occupy all of the Stephen Friedman gallery stand.

There might be a rush to the Spruth Magers stand for a new striped-wool work by Rosemarie Trockel, priced at €200,000. Trockel’s recent London show, with prices from €80,000 to €180,000, was a sell-out. But then again, with American debt suddenly threatening to destabilise the global economy, there might be no rush at all.



Frieze London 2013 | What’s New This Year



14th October 2013


Tara Pahari
cut11 Frieze London 2013 | Whats New This YearFrieze Art Fair 2012 ©Frieze London

Albert Oehlen I 24 2011photo  def image Frieze London 2013 | Whats New This Year

Albert Oehlen, ‘I 24′ (2011),Courtesy: Albert Oehlen & Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin

Frieze Art Fair is kicking off on Wednesday (VIP Day) including a new curator, sponsor, fair design, and of course some new participating galleries.

geers skull Frieze London 2013 | Whats New This Year
Kendell Geers, ‘Country of my skull’ (2010), Goodman Gallery

Probably the most noticeable change this year is the layout of the art fair. Working with architects Carmody Groarke, Frieze London has been made over to give more space for visitors. This will make it much easier to view the featured artworks in comfort and enjoy the fair as much as possible.

Curating the fair this year will be Nicola Lees, who was also on the judging panel at this year’s Emdash Award. Lees has worked for the past five years as Senior Curator of Public Programmes at the Serpentine Gallery in London. She is taking over the role from Sarah McCrory who curated the fair from 2009-2012.

A new and exciting associate sponsor is joining Frieze – Alexander McQueen, who have always been committed to promoting contemporary art. Jonathan Akeroyd, CEO of Alexander McQueen remarked on the sponsorship: ‘Frieze brings together the most exciting galleries from around the globe and Alexander McQueen supports and shares their vision in making contemporary art more accessible and engaging for the public.’

Frieze is notoriously hard for new galleries to get involved with, so it’s a great honour for those who’ve managed it this year: Marian Goodman (New York); Galerie Max Hetzler (Berlin); Goodman Gallery (Johannesburg); Maccarone (New York); Overduin and Kite (Los Angeles); and Rodeo (Istanbul).

Richard Phillips Sasha II 2012 Frieze London 2013 | Whats New This Year

Richard Phillips, ‘Sasha II’ (2012), Courtesy: Richard Phillips & Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin © Richard Phillips




Portrait Of An Artist

  • 15 OCTOBER 2013
Day 2: Pilvi Takala

It’s the stuff of satire. An artist awarded a prestigious art prize by vowing to give her winnings to a group of strangers so that they can produce the work. Even better, the strangers should be aged between eight and 12. Better still, no one has any control as to what they might do with the £7,000 given them.

Yet that’s exactly what the creators of the Frieze Foundation’s Emdash Award decided to do when they gave the annual prize to artist Pilvi Takala earlier this summer, thus placing one of the art fair’s biggest site-specific commissions into the hands of a youth centre from Bow. The announcement may have raised a few eyebrows, but the fruit of Takala’s project, The Committee, is officially unveiled this week.

Takala, a slight 32-year-old with an asymmetric blonde fringe and the softest of voices, has a certain childishness about her that perhaps lessens the surprise of her commitment to the project. Originally from Finland, Takala splits her time between Amsterdam and Istanbul, and is known for an almost guerrilla approach to art that has found her gently shaking up “normal” codes of behaviour, using secretly filmed footage, hired actors and a lot of role play. In one of her earliest works, The Trainee, she got a job at Deloitte in Helsinki, only to film herself sitting motionless at her desk for a month. In Bag Lady, she wandered around a shopping precinct in Berlin with a transparent bag laden with cash to gauge how people would treat her: with caution, it transpired.

For her, the Emdash award has been a chance to steer a group of children towards a joint enterprise that could be both empowering and outside their normal artistic experience. “Of course, if they just wanted to buy several thousand pounds’ worth of balloons and fill a room with them, that would be fine,” she insisted when it was suggested that eight year olds might not be the most responsible curators on earth. “Or they might decide to put all the money towards buying a piece of work and hanging it up. And that would be fine, if that’s what they wanted to do. But you would hope, with a bit of encouragement in a workshop environment, and within a group, that they would realise they had more freedom.”

So far, so terribly liberal arts. But there’s something rather brilliant in hearing Takala’s earliest interviews with the young team tasked with the project. “We couldn’t buy a house or a building,” explains young Kacey, “because we’d have to share it… and besides, we wouldn’t have enough money.” Another little boy tells her that he’ll “spend the money on a holiday to Jamaica”. A third suggests buying a giant skip and making a swimming pool.

So, what they did spend it on? The children will reveal all this Saturday. In the meantime,  you can follow the countdown at

Written by Jo Ellison

Day One: Cyprien Gaillard

The nomadic French artist Cyprien Gaillard makes a well-timed debut tomorrow as his first London solo show, From Wings to Fins, opens its doors a day before the VIP launch of Frieze Art Fair. With Miuccia Prada, Phoebe Philo and François Pinault on the guestlist of friends and supporters attending this evening’s private view, the unveiling is set to be much more than a warm-up act where critics and collectors are concerned. At just 33, Gaillard arrives fresh from his large-scale exhibition at MoMA’s PS1 gallery in his current hometown, New York – a show that saw him fast-tracked from talented émigré to bankable favourite of the NY art establishment.

Getting up to meet me, he is anything but straight-faced – the famous birthmark that drifts over his right cheek is set within a suntanned complexion. But if the tagline “retrospective” or the attention that hangs over his conspicuously good looks had begun to get on his nerves, this latest smaller show shifts the focus back on to all-new works.

“Come and have a look at this” – he leads me, still smiling, into the semi-private attic room and taps the eyepiece of an antique telescope. I find myself on tiptoe, spying on an empty bottle of rum planted atop the neighbouring office building, almost the unwitting participant in a magician’s trick.

Downstairs, Gaillard’s not-so-everyday observations (spreads of retroNational Geographic magazines assembled into 3D tension collages) are displayed alongside paintings by the deceased painter Morris Louis, whose stained canvasses dominate the elegant shop front of the Dover Street space. His admiration for Louis’ home city of Baltimore and paint-pouring technique lay the common ground for this posthumous co-habitation: the American worked on bended knee to penetrate untreated canvases with streams of colour, while the Frenchman’s fieldwork saw him crouched at road level on Baltimore’s deserted streets, taking rubbings of drain covers.

This is nevertheless a Cyprien Gaillard show. “From the street you will be able to see this” – he peels the dustsheets off a life-size replica of spiked fencing used to ward off trespassers he “acquired – no, saved” from the wreckage of the Trinity Square car park in Gateshead. I’m elbowed with a reminder that the original piece played a starring role in the 1971 film Get Carter, which is typical of Gaillard’s talent for monkeying around the overlooked corners of the civilized world in the process of producing serious work. On another wall is a further clue to his current favourite place – a photograph of a dilapidated bench, dedicated to “BALTIMORE. The Greatest City in America”. Pulling the doors closed on the old-fashioned lift, he tells me through the metal gate that he is, however, “happiest on the road”, which will only add to the excitement surroundingFrom Wings to Fins. Catch Cyprien Gaillard while he is in town.

Cyprien Gaillard, “From Wings to Fins”, October 15 to November 16, 2013 at Sprüeth Magers London,

Written by Julia Hobbs




With Stephen Shore talking, Meredith Monk performing, and Ken Okiishi paintballing, this year’s Frieze London is not to be missed. In its 11th edition, Frieze London gathers 150 galleries and works by over 1,000 contemporary artists in Regent’s Park. This year promises a new, more spacious layout and an exciting programme of site-specific installations, talks, films and the nearby Sculpture Park.

1. What? When? Where? How?

Frieze London is an art fair dedicated to contemporary art with a special emphasis on living artists. With a prime location in London’s Regent’s Park, the fair takes place October 17 through Sunday, October 20, 2013. Tickets are limited and must be purchased in advance online or by phone. Buy your tickets here. If you plan to visit both Frieze London and Frieze Masters, save by purchasing a combined ticket.

2. Main, Focus, and Frame

While the fair is limited to contemporary art, it’s split further into three sections: a main section with traditional gallery booths and two additional sections that are more limited in scope. Focus includes galleries that have opened since 2001 and have proposed a project specifically for this year’s fair.Frame includes galleries that have been open for under eight years, who will dedicate their booths to solo artist presentations.

3. Alexander McQueen joins Frieze team!

While 2013 marks the tenth year of sponsorship by Deutsche Bank, Frieze’s official sponsor, this year Frieze London engaged a new associate sponsor, Alexander McQueen. As part of the sponsorship London’s Alexander McQueen stores will house exhibitions of contemporary art curated by gallery owner and director, Sadie Coles. (Hear from Coles herself about the project here.)

4. Frieze food

Frieze London offers a variety of fine and informal dining options at the fair site. Formal sit-down options include:Arnold & Henderson’s Rochelle Canteen, where guests can enjoy breakfast lunch and dinner as well as a full bar and wine list; Mark Hix, which offers classic British fare and signature dishes as well as oysters and Mark’s own smoked salmon;Caravan, new to the fair, offers fresh, seasonal options and a brunch menu.

Informal and to-go options include: Gail Bakery for coffee, pastries, sandwiches, and salads; La Grotta Ices for ice cream made from fresh, local ingredients in artist-inspired flavors;Moshi Moshi for sushi; Coming Soon Coffee for you art fair caffeine fix. Additionally, Pizza PilgrimsPitt Cue, and Yum Bun will be on hand for all comfort food cravings.

5. Frieze Projects

Seven Frieze Projects, specially commissioned works to be included in the fair, have been assigned to seven artists, and will be presented together within Frieze London. The projects are curated by 2013 Frieze London curator Nicola Lees. The projects include:

Andreas AngelidakisAngelidakis was commissioned to create a custom pavilion to house the 2013 Frieze Project activities. Angelidakis’s construction, an island-like platform within the fair space, provides partitions and display surfaces for fellow projects. The work is an assemblage of white block-like modules, at once paying homage to and deconstructing the white cube.

Gerry BibbyAfter discovering fragments of oyster shells in the earth at Regent’s Park the Australian artist chose to investigate London’s historical relationship with oysters through a series of performances. A pre-fair performance includes art fair workers eating oysters and leaving piles of oyster shells scattered around the exhibition space. A second performance will last the duration of the fair’s second day and involves collaboration with If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want to Be Part of Your Revolution, an Amsterdam-based performance platform.

Rivane NeuenschwanderNeuenschwander contributes motivated by her previous work The Conversation(2010). Inspired by Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 psychological thriller of the same name, the 2010 iteration included a gallery space filled with spying devices. Learn morehere.

Ken OkiishiOkiishi’s project is contained within a space with acrylic glass, transparent walls within which he will employ paintballing to create a series of abstract paintings. Additionally, his project will include a participatory performance during the fair, involving humans and robots.

Lili Reynaud-DewarReynaud-Dewar’s project coincides with her commitment to only create bedroom pieces in 2013; thus she presents a bedroom installation. She will examine the works of writers who use their own lives as the subject of their work, including Guillaume Dustan’s Dans Ma Chambre (In My Room, 1996).

Josef StrauJosef Strau presents a new series of “Letter Tunnels,” the artist’s interactive letter-shaped structures. Fair-goers are invited to sit on and crawl into the tunnels, where they will encounter audio-, text-, and object-based installations.

Family Space: Angelo PlessasFor his Frieze Project, Greek artist Angelo Plessas has designed the fair’s Family Space, a first for the fair. The space, titled “The Temple of Play”, is a free, creative playground which will include a schedule of programming including games, performances, and screenings.

6. The Emdash Award: Pilvi TakalaThe Emdash Award funds an emerging artist from outside the UK to create a custom project for Frieze London each year. Finnish artist Pilvi Takala, the winner of this year’s Emdash Award, chose to involve a group of children in the planning and execution of her project. After selecting several children around the age of 12, Takala will put together workshops during the three months before the fair where they will devise a plan for the project. The artists hopes to demonstrate the potential for children to work collaboratively and as equals. (Learn more inthis interview with Takala.)

7. Frieze Talks

A daily schedule of lectures, panels, and discussions are presented, covering a variety of relevant issues. This year’s talks include:

Sexuality, Politics and ProtestFriday 18 October: 1.30pm

Neil Bartlett (Theatre Director, Author and Performer, Brighton), Marlene McCarty (Artist, New York), Zanele Muholi (Photographer, Johannesburg), Chair: Jennifer Kabat (Writer, New York)

Participants discuss the impact and legacy of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), Gran Fury (artist/activist group) and queer activism, on contemporary art today, 20 years since their beginnings.

Stephen Shore in conversation with David CampanySaturday 19 October: 5pm

Stephen Shore, known for his photographs of Warhol’s Factory, spent his career experimenting with color photography, beginning at a time when it was frowned upon by the art world. Shore discusses the trajectory of his work over the past 40 years with David Campany (Writer, Curator and Artist, London).

Jérôme Bel in conversation with Catherine WoodSunday 20 October: 1pm

Choreographer Jérôme Bel joins Catherine Wood (Curator of Contemporary Art and Performance, Tate Modern, London) to discuss the potential for curating within his work, particularly his dOCUMENTA(13) piece Disabled Theater, which was performed by professional actors with learning disabilities.

See the full list of talks here.

8. Meredith Monk

MacArthur “Genius” Award winner Meredith Monk has been performing interdisciplinary works of music, theater, and dance since the mid-1960s. On October 15th at 8pm Frieze presents Meredith Monk with Katie Geissinger in Concert, at Cecil Sharp House. Monk’s first performance in London in nine years, she will perform with Geissinger, whom she’s been touring with since 1990. In addition, Monk will give a talk at the fair on Thursday, October 17, at 5pm to discuss her inventive performance work and her investigations into the human voice.

9. Frieze Film

Frieze offers an exclusive programme of five new artist films, which are co-curated by Nicola Lees (Frieze Foundation) and Victoria Brooks (EMPAC). Artists presenting films this year are Petra CortrightPeter GidalPatricia Lennox-Boyd,Oraib Toukan and Erika Vogt. Accompanying the films are a think-tank and a panel discussion to consider the commissioning of artist films.

10. Sculpture Park

A short walk from the fair is the outdoor Sculpture Park, which is free and open to the public. Also including works from Frieze Masters, this year’s Park, curated by Clare Lilley, Director of Yorkshire Sculpture Park, features contemporary and historical sculpture, including new works by both established and emerging artists. Included are sculptures byMatt Calderwood, Helen Chadwick, Alice ChannerJudy ChicagoMarilá Dardot, Elmgreen & DragsetGimhongsok,Jeppe Hein, Amar Kanwar, Joan MiróOscar MurilloPeter PeriJaume PlensaNorbert PrangenbergYinka Shonibare,David ShrigleyTakisBernar VenetRachel Whiteread, andRichard Woods.

Photograph by Lyndon Douglas, courtesy of Lyndon Douglas/ Frieze; Commissioned and produced by Frieze Foundation for Frieze Projects 2012, Frieze London 2012, photograph by Polly Braden Courtesy of Polly Braden/ Frieze, photograph by Polly Braden, courtesy of Polly Braden/ Frieze; Frieze Talks 2012, Frieze London, photograph by Polly Braden, courtesy of Polly Braden/ Frieze.

Explore Artsy’s Frieze London and Frieze Masters features and follow our editorial coverage of the fairs.


Chris OfiliUntitled (Afronude), 2006

Rana BegumNo.461, 2013

Alex KatzBlizzard 2, 2005

Shinro OhtakeRetina #13 (Purple Haze 4), 1989 -90



With Stephen Shore talking, Meredith Monk performing, and Ken Okiishi paintballing, this year’s Frieze London is not to be missed. In its 11th edition, Frieze London gathers 150 galleries and works by over 1,000 contemporary artists in Regent’s Park. This year promises a new, more spacious layout and an exciting programme of site-specific installations, talks, films and the nearby Sculpture Park.

1. What? When? Where? How?

Frieze London is an art fair dedicated to contemporary art with a special emphasis on living artists. With a prime location in London’s Regent’s Park, the fair takes place October 17 through Sunday, October 20, 2013. Tickets are limited and must be purchased in advance online or by phone. Buy your tickets here. If you plan to visit both Frieze London and Frieze Masters, save by purchasing a combined ticket.

2. Main, Focus, and Frame

While the fair is limited to contemporary art, it’s split further into three sections: a main section with traditional gallery booths and two additional sections that are more limited in scope. Focus includes galleries that have opened since 2001 and have proposed a project specifically for this year’s fair.Frame includes galleries that have been open for under eight years, who will dedicate their booths to solo artist presentations.

3. Alexander McQueen joins Frieze team!

While 2013 marks the tenth year of sponsorship by Deutsche Bank, Frieze’s official sponsor, this year Frieze London engaged a new associate sponsor, Alexander McQueen. As part of the sponsorship London’s Alexander McQueen stores will house exhibitions of contemporary art curated by gallery owner and director, Sadie Coles. (Hear from Coles herself about the project here.)

4. Frieze food

Frieze London offers a variety of fine and informal dining options at the fair site. Formal sit-down options include:Arnold & Henderson’s Rochelle Canteen, where guests can enjoy breakfast lunch and dinner as well as a full bar and wine list; Mark Hix, which offers classic British fare and signature dishes as well as oysters and Mark’s own smoked salmon;Caravan, new to the fair, offers fresh, seasonal options and a brunch menu.

Informal and to-go options include: Gail Bakery for coffee, pastries, sandwiches, and salads; La Grotta Ices for ice cream made from fresh, local ingredients in artist-inspired flavors;Moshi Moshi for sushi; Coming Soon Coffee for you art fair caffeine fix. Additionally, Pizza PilgrimsPitt Cue, and Yum Bun will be on hand for all comfort food cravings.

5. Frieze Projects

Seven Frieze Projects, specially commissioned works to be included in the fair, have been assigned to seven artists, and will be presented together within Frieze London. The projects are curated by 2013 Frieze London curator Nicola Lees. The projects include:

Andreas AngelidakisAngelidakis was commissioned to create a custom pavilion to house the 2013 Frieze Project activities. Angelidakis’s construction, an island-like platform within the fair space, provides partitions and display surfaces for fellow projects. The work is an assemblage of white block-like modules, at once paying homage to and deconstructing the white cube.

Gerry BibbyAfter discovering fragments of oyster shells in the earth at Regent’s Park the Australian artist chose to investigate London’s historical relationship with oysters through a series of performances. A pre-fair performance includes art fair workers eating oysters and leaving piles of oyster shells scattered around the exhibition space. A second performance will last the duration of the fair’s second day and involves collaboration with If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want to Be Part of Your Revolution, an Amsterdam-based performance platform.

Rivane NeuenschwanderNeuenschwander contributes motivated by her previous work The Conversation(2010). Inspired by Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 psychological thriller of the same name, the 2010 iteration included a gallery space filled with spying devices. Learn morehere.

Ken OkiishiOkiishi’s project is contained within a space with acrylic glass, transparent walls within which he will employ paintballing to create a series of abstract paintings. Additionally, his project will include a participatory performance during the fair, involving humans and robots.

Lili Reynaud-DewarReynaud-Dewar’s project coincides with her commitment to only create bedroom pieces in 2013; thus she presents a bedroom installation. She will examine the works of writers who use their own lives as the subject of their work, including Guillaume Dustan’s Dans Ma Chambre (In My Room, 1996).

Josef StrauJosef Strau presents a new series of “Letter Tunnels,” the artist’s interactive letter-shaped structures. Fair-goers are invited to sit on and crawl into the tunnels, where they will encounter audio-, text-, and object-based installations.

Family Space: Angelo PlessasFor his Frieze Project, Greek artist Angelo Plessas has designed the fair’s Family Space, a first for the fair. The space, titled “The Temple of Play”, is a free, creative playground which will include a schedule of programming including games, performances, and screenings.

6. The Emdash Award: Pilvi TakalaThe Emdash Award funds an emerging artist from outside the UK to create a custom project for Frieze London each year. Finnish artist Pilvi Takala, the winner of this year’s Emdash Award, chose to involve a group of children in the planning and execution of her project. After selecting several children around the age of 12, Takala will put together workshops during the three months before the fair where they will devise a plan for the project. The artists hopes to demonstrate the potential for children to work collaboratively and as equals. (Learn more inthis interview with Takala.)

7. Frieze Talks

A daily schedule of lectures, panels, and discussions are presented, covering a variety of relevant issues. This year’s talks include:

Sexuality, Politics and ProtestFriday 18 October: 1.30pm

Neil Bartlett (Theatre Director, Author and Performer, Brighton), Marlene McCarty (Artist, New York), Zanele Muholi (Photographer, Johannesburg), Chair: Jennifer Kabat (Writer, New York)

Participants discuss the impact and legacy of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), Gran Fury (artist/activist group) and queer activism, on contemporary art today, 20 years since their beginnings.

Stephen Shore in conversation with David CampanySaturday 19 October: 5pm

Stephen Shore, known for his photographs of Warhol’s Factory, spent his career experimenting with color photography, beginning at a time when it was frowned upon by the art world. Shore discusses the trajectory of his work over the past 40 years with David Campany (Writer, Curator and Artist, London).

Jérôme Bel in conversation with Catherine WoodSunday 20 October: 1pm

Choreographer Jérôme Bel joins Catherine Wood (Curator of Contemporary Art and Performance, Tate Modern, London) to discuss the potential for curating within his work, particularly his dOCUMENTA(13) piece Disabled Theater, which was performed by professional actors with learning disabilities.

See the full list of talks here.

8. Meredith Monk

MacArthur “Genius” Award winner Meredith Monk has been performing interdisciplinary works of music, theater, and dance since the mid-1960s. On October 15th at 8pm Frieze presents Meredith Monk with Katie Geissinger in Concert, at Cecil Sharp House. Monk’s first performance in London in nine years, she will perform with Geissinger, whom she’s been touring with since 1990. In addition, Monk will give a talk at the fair on Thursday, October 17, at 5pm to discuss her inventive performance work and her investigations into the human voice.

9. Frieze Film

Frieze offers an exclusive programme of five new artist films, which are co-curated by Nicola Lees (Frieze Foundation) and Victoria Brooks (EMPAC). Artists presenting films this year are Petra CortrightPeter GidalPatricia Lennox-Boyd,Oraib Toukan and Erika Vogt. Accompanying the films are a think-tank and a panel discussion to consider the commissioning of artist films.

10. Sculpture Park

A short walk from the fair is the outdoor Sculpture Park, which is free and open to the public. Also including works from Frieze Masters, this year’s Park, curated by Clare Lilley, Director of Yorkshire Sculpture Park, features contemporary and historical sculpture, including new works by both established and emerging artists. Included are sculptures byMatt Calderwood, Helen Chadwick, Alice ChannerJudy ChicagoMarilá Dardot, Elmgreen & DragsetGimhongsok,Jeppe Hein, Amar Kanwar, Joan MiróOscar MurilloPeter PeriJaume PlensaNorbert PrangenbergYinka Shonibare,David ShrigleyTakisBernar VenetRachel Whiteread, andRichard Woods.

Photograph by Lyndon Douglas, courtesy of Lyndon Douglas/ Frieze; Commissioned and produced by Frieze Foundation for Frieze Projects 2012, Frieze London 2012, photograph by Polly Braden Courtesy of Polly Braden/ Frieze, photograph by Polly Braden, courtesy of Polly Braden/ Frieze; Frieze Talks 2012, Frieze London, photograph by Polly Braden, courtesy of Polly Braden/ Frieze.

Explore Artsy’s Frieze London and Frieze Masters features and follow our editorial coverage of the fairs.


Chris OfiliUntitled (Afronude), 2006

Rana BegumNo.461, 2013

Alex KatzBlizzard 2, 2005

Shinro OhtakeRetina #13 (Purple Haze 4), 1989 -90



Frieze Art Fair 2013: A frenetic feast of creative expression

This year’s Frieze Art Fair and Masters are bigger than ever – a sign of London’s growing importance as an international art centre, says Zoe Pilger


  • The night before the first Frieze Art Fair opened in London’s Regent’s Park in 2003, co-founder Matthew Slotover had a terrifying dream. Instead of a large white minimalist tent, housing dozens of international galleries, he arrived at the fair to find a big-top circus tent. Instead of clean, smooth flooring, there was grass.

The nightmare is telling because art fairs are so often referred to as circuses, garish horror shows of conspicuous consumption. This year, 152 galleries will rent a booth at Frieze and display their wares: artworks created since the year 2000, ranging from traditional paintings to crazy installations that challenge the bounds of what art can be. Rather than the cool Zen of the White Cube, the aisles of the fair are harshly lit and crowded. And the impetus is on selling.

Gallerists will hope to woo the mink-wearing, spike-heeled, yacht-owning international elite into buying a Richter or a Hockney. These oligarchs and technocrats and popstars might simply want a painting that matches their kitchen décor. In this way, the fair is a bit like a giant Ikea where nothing is remotely practical or affordable. Alternately, they might want a sculpture that speaks of the bitter existential nothingness of contemporary life. At Frieze, they can have both.

Why do people buy art? For the rush of acquisition? The pleasure of exercising good taste? Maybe. But they also want a piece of that ephemeral, fiery thing – the force that goes into the creation of a work of art, the power that separates artists from us mere mortals. Inspiration? Genius? The heavenly muse, bottled? It is the quasi-mystical quality of the work of art that persuades collectors to splash the cash. The idea of purchasing meaning rather more than another boring old Bentleys to block up the drive. Plus art can be a really good investment – not that I know from firsthand experience; I’ve never been able to afford it.

Last year, Frieze Masters opened for the first time alongside Frieze London. Frieze Masters sells work from the classical age to the year 2000, featuring 130 galleries. Unlike other fustily traditional fairs around Europe, it seeks to explore the old through the lens of the new. “No one had done this before,” Victoria Siddall, director of Frieze Masters, tells me. “It was incredibly well-received.” Indeed, it was – a huge success with an emphasis on elegant, contemporary curation. The number of galleries wishing to participate in Frieze Masters has doubled this year.

Siddall is particularly excited about a series of Matisse ink drawings from Thomas Gibson Fine Art and erotic Japanese prints from Sebastian Izzard. While the term “Masters” may evoke all that is elitist and exclusionary about art history, pointing to the dominance of dead, white, male artists, 50 per cent of the artists represented in the Spotlight section will be either female or non-Western.

Victoria Miro will be showing an enigmatic range of paintings by the American artist Alice Neel (1907-1984). Overlooked for much of her career, Neel was a committed Leftist and painted street scenes of depression-blighted New York as part of the WPA government-relief programme in the 1930s. She was an important figurative painter, lost amidst a generation of masculine Abstract Expressionists, and rediscovered by the women’s movement in the 1970s. Particularly intriguing is Mimi (1955), an oil on canvas of a woman with smudged, hollow eyes wearing a sunny yellow pencil skirt. The painting is characteristic of Neel’s ghoulish eloquence as a portraitist.

‘The Adorationof the Cage-Fighters’ (2011) by Grayson Perry‘The Adorationof the Cage-Fighters’ (2011) by Grayson Perry

LA gallery Blum and Poe will be showing a sculpture called Centred Infinity (1992) by Japanese artist Kishio Suga. Comprised of a metal cross on a wooden board splattered with blue paint, the work is characteristic of the Mono-ha art movement, which rejected the idea of creation in favour of blunt materialism. Blum and Poe will also be returning to Frieze London after an eight-year break, one of a wave of big US galleries attracted to the city’s ever-expanding art scene. Marian Goodman, doyenne of New York contemporary art, will be returning after four years, ahead of the opening of her new gallery in Mayfair’s Golden Square.

Goodman’s booth at Frieze New York earlier this year was acclaimed for housing not paintings on makeshift walls but a “constructed situation” by British-German Turner Prize nominated artist Tino Sehgal, in which a young girl recited Heidegger. Visitors were enthralled. Frieze New York opened on Randall Island for the first time last year, and was deemed a huge success. As Slotover told me on the phone, “London is being seen more and more as a very important art centre.”

But what of the recession? According to Slotover, who also founded Frieze magazine in 1991, along with his business partner Amanda Sharp, “the art world has not been as badly hit as people expected”. While sales are less extravagant than the 2006 “bubble period”, “we haven’t seen the kind of swathes of gallery closures that some people predicted”. It is the high-end galleries that have continued to prosper. Like the rest of the society, “the rich have got a lot richer”.

Fine art: Romano Alberti da San Sepolcro’s kneeling candlesticksFine art: Romano Alberti da San Sepolcro’s kneeling candlesticks

What kind of sales are they expecting this year? Siddall explains that most galleries are “very discreet” about figures. Many sales are completed post-fair. However, she can tell me that a Miró went for $20 million last year, and a Picasso for $9 million. “I love the fact that we can organise a really successful commercial event but also cultural events as well,” she says. Many of the artworks will be moving from one private collection into another so Frieze is an opportunity to see them – briefly – on display.

Indeed, most of the 60,000 visitors who go to Frieze each year are members of the public who simply want to see the art. Despite the cattle-market ambience, the fair is about creativity as much as commerce. Due to popular demand, Slotover tells me that they had to cut the number of tickets on sale this year by 25 per cent so that the fair will be less crowded. “Anyone who’s been to the fair will walk in this year and see a huge change,” he says. There is more public space. “It’s a much cleaner, more even environment.”

The phenomenon of the art fair has expanded alongside the biennale since the globalisation of the art market in the 1980s. Fairs are distinct from biennales because you can buy art on the spot. And it’s not all for oligarchs. East End gallery Limoncello will be exhibiting at Focus, a section of the fair dedicated to young galleries. While artists are often absent from fairs, allowing their dealers to do the work of selling, Jack Strange, Jesse Wine, and Sean Edwards will all be present, sitting at a round table ready to discuss their work with prospective clients.

Projects specially commissioned to run throughout the week serve to enhance the atmosphere of a festival that Slotover and Sharp intended. These include a film by exciting young LA artist Petra Cortright, member of The Nasty Nets Internet Surfing Club. Cortright’s webcam videos have been called “glitch art”: work that uses the internet and embraces the faults and failures of software. Slotover cites this kind of “post-internet art” as one of the predominant trends of new work at the fair. New York artist Patricia Lennox-Boyd’s film will focus on the use of hands in the on-screen marketing of consumer goods. It will “touching”: literally, about touch.

Like the great patrons of the Renaissance, Frieze sponsors talent in a way that can’t be viewed too cynically. Finnish artist Pilvi Takala has won this year’s Emdash Prize for emerging artists living outside the UK. Contrary to the fair’s spirit of acquisition, she handed £7,000 of the £10,000 award over to a group of 12-year-olds from a Hackney Youth Club and let them decide how to spend the money. Takala has guided the kids during workshops over the past few months. Is this a Lord of the Flies in the making? Or democratic decision-making that would put adults to shame? The results are top-secret for now, but will be revealed at the fair.

Takala is interested in “questions of value”. While the kids are mostly oblivious to the value of so much money, the fair is about “symbolic value” as much as wealth. Rather than buying and thereby possessing art as a precious object – an expensive painting or sculpture – Takala tells me that some collectors are now investing in more ephemeral art forms such as video by funding its production process. In this way, collectors feel as though they are supporting artists while eschewing more traditional notions of property. This seems to be art patronage at its best.

Frieze encourages both raw capitalism and raw art. For Slotover, “the art market allows small producers to make a living. All art exists somewhere along the spectrum of critical value and monetary value.” This is true, but where’s the conflict? “I don’t see it as a conflict at all,” he says.

Frieze Week 2013: How to make the most of it

By Alice Jones

Be adventurous

Rooftops, tunnels and car parks have all been popular venues in past Frieze weeks. This year’s non-traditional space sensation is set to be 180 The Strand, a Brutalist block-turned-arts- hub. During Frieze week it will host two ambitious shows. The Moving Museum’s Open Heart Surgery will let 31 young London artists – including James Balmforth, Shezad Dawood and Lucky PDF – run amok in 25,000sqft of former office space (12 October-15 December; The basement will house BRUTAL. For the past three years Steve Lazarides has staged his free street art extravaganzas in the Old Vic Tunnels, now closed. This show, featuring graffiti from Pose, photographs of LA gangs from Esteven Oriol and new work from Mark Jenkins, Antony Micallef and Doug Foster, promises to be just as dark (15-27 October;

For more urban grit, Big Deal No 5, a non-profit show of up-and-coming artists will be held on Level 3 of a multi-storey car park just off Oxford St (18-20 October;

Remember there are other fairs

Frieze has seen various satellite fairs come and go over the past decade. Strarta is the young pretender for 2013 – up and running at the Saatchi Gallery and featuring 30 international galleries with work ranging from £250 to £250,000 (To 13 October; PAD continues to cater to the luxury end of the market with a marquee crammed full of Picassos, Kandinskys and champagne on Berkeley Square (16-20 October; The Other Art Fair shows 100 of the best unsigned artists as selected by a panel including Yinka Shonibare, director of the Saatchi Gallery Rebecca Wilson and founder of Paradise Row, Nick Hackworth. This year it shares a venue, The Old Truman Brewery, with the urban art fair Moniker who will show work from Shepard Fairey and D*Face among others (17-20 October;; Sunday Art Fair returns to Ambika P3 for a fourth year with a credible line-up of 22 young galleries from Berlin, London and New York (17-20 October; Finally, The Animal Art Fair, opens a pop-up at 273 Fulham Road for all your gorilla etching and duck sculpture needs (14-19 October;

Get outside

Just a few minutes’ walk across Regent’s Park, the Frieze Sculpture Park provides a breather from the commercial and celebrity frenzy of the main fairs and, unlike them, is free to the public. This year it has work by Yinka Shonibare and David Shrigley. There will be one of Rachel Whiteread’s sheds and photo opportunities to be had with Elmgreen & Dragset’s But I’m on the Guest List, Too! an oversized VIP door that leads nowhere but is guarded by a bouncer.

Book in for a blockbuster

As usual, London’s galleries and museums are bringing out the big guns for Frieze week. Tate Modern is staging the UK’s largest Paul Klee retrospective in a decade, which will draw fans of Bauhaus and colour (16 October- 9 March 2014; Dulwich Picture Gallery is catering to the influx of foreign collectors with An American in London: Whistler and The Thames, a wide-ranging survey of the artist’s time in the city with paintings and drawings of Wapping, Chelsea and Battersea Bridge (16 October-12 January, 2014; And treasure can be found at the British Museum, whose exhibition Beyond El Dorado: Power and Gold in Ancient Colombia will dazzle with 300 exquisite objects from South America’s lost city of gold (17 October-23 March, 2014;

Watch out for artists doing odd things

Frieze week is prime time for artists to experiment. The Chapman Brothers will showcase their musical talents with a gig at Fabric. Dinos’s audiovisual project, Luftbobler, will make its UK debut, supported by brother Jake’s band, Heimlich, and Jarvis Cocker will be manning the decks (17 October; Aslı Çavusoglu will screen a three-part crime drama, Murder in Three Acts, that she shot at last year’s Frieze Art Fair (Delfina Foundation; to 25 October;, while Rodney Graham will play psychedelic guitar at David Roberts Art Foundation (17 October, And at The Serpentine, Carsten Höller is among the artists taking part in the gallery’s 89plus Marathon, a two-day festival of ideas. As the first public event to take place in the Sackler Gallery, it’s a good excuse to have a poke around Zaha Hadid’s newest building, too (18-19 October;

Go for a group show

Try a group show at a commercial gallery for a fair experience in miniature. Gagosian’s The Show is Over will examine “the end of painting” via Fontana’s slashed canvases, Richter’s Grey paintings and pieces by Lichenstein, Warhol and Yves Klein (15 October-13 November; Thirteen at Alan Cristea Gallery will show brand new work from an impressive stable including Gillian Ayres, Michael Craig-Martin and Julian Opie (To 9 November; And at The Dairy, Ai Weiwei, Takashi Murakami, Cindy Sherman and Julian Schnabel are among the artists meditating on Aldous Huxley’s utopian last novel, Island (To 8 December;

Get involved

Frieze week is as much about the art as it is about the art world making a spectacle of itself. As such, there are ample opportunities to become part of the art, should you wish. Stuart Semple has taken over a £14million townhouse by Regent’s Park for his show Suspend Disbelief. Among the works spread over four floors will be an installation of smiley clouds and a giant bouncy castle room (16-21 October; At Frieze itself, several commissioned projects will be interactive, including a game of Battleships using fair visitors and a piece by Ken Okiishi that will examine the “poetic potential of paintball”. Representing Southard Reid Gallery in the Frame section of the fair, the London artist Prem Sahib will open a Soho nightclub. Elsewhere, The Other Art Fair will hold free taxidermy demonstrations for Polly Morgan wannabes (17 -19 October;

Keep an eye on the auctions

Canny art lovers know that auction houses are the place to go for close encounters with modern masterpieces in Frieze week. Phillips is now showing £20million-worth of Kiefers, Basquiats and the like in its showroom ahead of sales on 16 and 17 October ( Both Christie’s and Sotheby’s will stage their usual contemporary art sales next week. In addition, both have exhibitions in their brand new London venues. Christie’s will stage a show of British Pop Art, When Britain Went Pop! in the old Haunch of Venison gallery on New Bond Street (To 24 October; while Sotheby’s has an exhibition of 12 Joseph Beuys works in its new S2 gallery on St George Street (To 15 November;

Eat, drink and be merry

An art army marches on its stomach and fairs are now foodie destinations. Restaurant partners at Frieze this year include Hix and Caravan, but it is the street food offerings from Yum Bun, Pitt Cue and Pizza Pilgrims that will likely see the biggest queues. Visitors to Frieze Masters will be catered for by the more classic Locanda Locatelli. At Sunday Art Fair, the always buzzy bar will be run by Art Review, Jack Beer of Arbutus and George Howard of Elsewhere there is an endless whirl of parties and private views to crash – this year’s glitziest is likely to be a VIP dinner at Café Royal, sponsored by fair associate, Alexander McQueen.



 The ArtLyst Power 100 List,Alternative Art Power List, ArtReview
The ArtLyst Power 100: 2013 Alternative Art Power List Unveiled - ArtLyst Article image

The ArtLyst Power 100: 2013 Alternative Art Power List Unveiled

DATE: 16 OCT 2013
London during Frieze Week is the only place to be on the planet if you are a dedicated follower of the visual arts. Every October an international herd of artists, gallerists and art professionals descend on our metropolis to feast on a wide range of art events. From ‘Blue Chip’ Frieze Masters to a pop up in an underground car-park, Frieze week is full of surprises.
Mid October is also the perfect time for us to release Artlyst’s Art PowerLyst, the alternative to ArtReview’s Power 100. Many think that AR’s list is erroneous and tired, their criteria is based on ‘sheer financial clout,’ as it is dominated by commercial gallery owners, big-buck artists, and misguided auctioneers.The ArtLyst editorial staff believe that achievement should not be compromised for the sake of the dollar, so we have created our own alternative list, instead of a Machiavellian Power List that has more in common with the Times ‘Rich List’. This year we have put together a Resourceful PowerLyst that celebrates exactly what it says on the tin – not those with the fiscal muscle to bend the artworld into whatever shape they please, but those with the creative power and ability to influence and augment the British and international art scenes through merit alone.Out go the Gagosians, the Damien Hirsts and the François Pinaults. In come the organisers of Peckham and Hackney’s finest events, the Director of Artangel, and the heads of art colleges across the country. Yes: let’s gratuitously pat ourselves on the back for the third consecutive year: here is the ArtLyst Power 100 Alternative Power List, in alphabetical order plus our curated Top 10 for 2013.Top Photo: (Left) Chris Dercon, Nicholas Serota (Right) Tino Seghal1. Tino Seghal: British-German artist of part Indian origin, based in Berlin. Exhibited at Tate Modern for the 2012 Unilever series commission. Won the Golden Lion for best artist at 2013 Venice Biennale and nominated for Turner Prize 2013.2. Chris Dercon: Director of Tate Modern since 2011 with an enthusiasm for ‘mixing it up’, formerly the director of the Haus der Kunst, Munich.3. Jeremy Deller : English conceptual, video and installation artist. Winner of the Turner Prize in 2004, represented Britain at 2013 Venice Biennale4. Hans Ulrich Obrist/ Julia Peyton-Jones: the Serpentine Gallery’s Co-directors of Exhibitions and Programmes.5. Grayson Perry: artist known for his work in ceramics, and awarded the Turner Prize in 2003,  self-curated show The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman at the British Museum 2011, received BAFTA in 2013 for his series All in the best possible Taste and will deliver this year’s Reith Lectures for Radio 46. Jenni Lomax: Director of Camden Arts Centre, led the major refurbishment of the centre that was completed in 2004.7. James Lingwood/ Michael Morris: Co-Directors of Artangel since 1991, responsible for building Artangel into a significant international commissioning and producing organisation.8. Elizabeth Neilson: Director 176 Zabludowicz Collection9. Elmgreen & Dragset:  leading contemporary artists currently exhibiting a site specific installation at the V&A10. Hannah Barry: Founder of the Hannah Barry Gallery and one of the leading people responsible for transforming Peckham into an international art centre

Artlyst Power 100 In Alphabetical Order

1. Marina Abramovic: Serbian New York-based artist, and the self-professed ‘grandmother of performance art’, who began her ground-breaking career in the early 1970s.

2. Michael Archer: Programme Director of BA Fine Art at Goldsmiths, University of London, art critic and freelance writer, contributing regularly to the Guardian Culture section on contemporary art from 1960 onwards.

3. Ziba Ardalan: founder and Director/Curator of Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art, a privately-funded educational charity and a not-for-profit art gallery.

4. Bill Arning: Director of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, former curator of the List Visual Arts Centre, MIT, and a freelance writer.

5.Karen Ashton: founder and organizer Art Car Boot Fair  (new)

6. *Hannah Barry: Founder of the Hannah Barry Gallery and one of the leading people responsible for transforming Peckham into an international art centre (new)

7. Pryle Behrman: Art Critic, curator and Director of Art Projects at London Art Fair  (new)

8. Gareth Bell-Jones: Curator at Wysing Arts centre, Cambridge, has written articles for Artvehicle and Contemporary Magazine, chaired symposiums at Cafe Oto

9. Peter Blake: English pop artist, who celebrated his 80th birthday last year and continues to be a major force in the art world

10. Iwona Blazwick: Director of Art at the Whitechapel Gallery, former Head of Exhibitions and Displays at Tate Modern, and Chair of Cultural Strategy Group, London.

11.Erica Bolton: PR catalyst and organisational magician. Partner at Bolton & Quinn Ltd.

12. Trisha Brown: Postmodernist Artist, dancer and choreographer, inducted into the National Museum of Dance C.V. Whitney Hall of Fame in 2000, and awarded the National Medal for Arts in 2002.

13. Jonathan Burton: Director of London Art Fair  (new

14. Kate Bush: Head of Barbican Art Galleries, made multiple TV appearances on the subject of Art, and even been mentioned in a Harry Hill sketch.

15. Romain Chenais: French London-based art critic and independent curator, curated the first major retrospective of British filmmaker John Smith at the Royal College of Art.

16.  Billy Childish: prolific painter, poet, printer and musician. Co-founder of the Stuckist art movement. (new)

17. David Chipperfield: Modernist architect, with two buildings shortlisted for the 2007 RIBA Stirling Prize, and winning with the Museum of Modern Literature, Marbach.

18. Matthew Collings: began his career on Artscribe, before producing and presenting The Late Show for BBC, and is still involved with broadcasting on productions such as School of Saatchi and

19.Susan Collins: Slade Professor at the Slade School of Fine Art since 2010,  (new the 2010 BBC documentary ‘Renaissance Revolution’. He also lectures at the City and Guilds London School of Art.

20. Sacha Craddock: art critic and curator, Programme Director of Max Wigram gallery, curator of the Bloomberg Space, tutor at the RCA, Chair of New Contemporaries, and sat on the 2009 Turner Prize judging panel.

21. Michael Craig-Martin: Emeritus Professor of Fine Art at Goldsmiths London, previously a tutor at Goldsmiths where he fostered the talent of many of the YBAs.

22. David Crawforth & Naomi Siderfin: founders, Directors, Curators, and artists at Beaconsfield, a gallery with a vision to ‘provide a critical space for creative enquiry’, that occupies ‘a niche between the institution, the commercial and the ‘alternative’’.

23. Martin Creed: artists and musician, Turner Prize winner 2001, numerous exhibitions and projects in 2013.  Look out for his retrospective exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in 2014

24. Penelope Curtis: Director of Tate Britain with a scholarly background in British art, especially 20th-century sculpture, she was also the first exhibitions curator at Tate Liverpool when it opened in 1988. She was a judge of the Turner prize 2012.

25. Alan Davey: Chief Executive of the Arts Council, has worked in the Department of National Heritage, and as head of the Arts Division and Director of Arts and Culture in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

26.*Jeremy Deller : English conceptual, video and installation artist. Winner of the Turner Prize in 2004, represented Britain at 2013 Venice Biennale

27. Melissa Denes: The Guardian’s arts editor, she also writes for the New Statesman.

28. *Chris Dercon: Director of Tate Modern since 2011 with an enthusiasm for ‘mixing it up’,

29. Emily Druiff: Director of Peckham Space, one of London’s newest purpose-built public galleries, dedicated to commissioning artworks made in partnership with community groups.

30. *Elmgreen & Dragset:  leading contemporary artists currently exhibiting a site specific installation at the V&A

31.  Kate Fowle:  Chief Curator of Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture, Moscow (new)

32. James Franco: American artist, actor, and writer who balances his work as an artist with a mainstream acting career.

33. Katherine Fritsch: for her large blue cockerel Hahn/Cock currently to be seen on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square

34. Jason Gaiger: Head of the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, also a Fellow of St. Edmund Hall Oxford, previously worked as Director of Research of Art History in the Open University, and Recently published ‘Aesthetics and Painting’.

35. Ryan Gander: London-based artist, creator of the Locked Room Scenario in Shoreditch, awarded the 2010 Zurich Art prize, accompanied by an exhibition at the Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich, and winner of the 2003 Prix de Rome.

36.  David Gryn: Director Artprojx, curated moving image projects  (new)

37. Andreas Gursky: German visual artist who is known for his large scale architecture and landscape photographs

38. Zaha Hadid: architect responsible for the 2012 London Olympics Aquatics Centre, and has won the RIBA Stirling Prize twice, winning this year for the Evelyn Grace Academy, Brixton. Designed Serpentine Sackler Gallery which opened in 2013.

39.  Margaret Harrison: Feminist artist and winner of 2013 Northern Art Prize  (new)

40. Thomas Heatherwick: English designer known for his innovative use of materials, also designed the London 2012 Olympic cauldron and the ‘Borismaster’ bus launched in 2013.

41. James Hughes-Hallett: Chairman of the Courtauld Institute of Art.

42. Achim Borchardt Hume: Returns to Tate Modern as Head of Exhibitions. Previously Chief Curator at the Whitechapel Art Gallery

43. Heather Hubbs: Director of NADA art fairs  (new)

44.  Roger Hiorns: artist, 2009 Turner Prize nominee, His work Seizure currently on show at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Unititled series is at The Hepworth Wakefield.  (new)

45. Thomas Krens: former Director of the Guggenheim Foundation, New York, currently Senior Advisor for International Affairs, overseeing the completion of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.

46. Yayoi Kusama: Japanese artist who had a major lifetime culmination of her work shown at Tate Modern.

47. Michael Landy: YBA most famous for the work Break Down (2001), elected a member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 2008, current Rootstein Hopkins Associate artist in residence at the National Gallery

48. Joseph La Placa: CEO All Visual Arts curator of Metamorphosis, Vanitas and The Viewing Room.

49: Nicola Lees: Curator of Frieze Foundation (new)

50. John Leighton: Director General of National Galleries of Scotland, taught Art History at Edinburgh University before moving into curating at the National Gallery, acquired the Artist’s Rooms collection for National Galleries of Scotland, and was awarded an honorary degree for services to the arts from Edinburgh University in 2009.

51. *James Lingwood/ Michael Morris: Co-Directors of Artangel since 1991, responsible for building Artangel into a significant international commissioning and producing organisation.

52. *Jenni Lomax: Director of Camden Arts Centre, led the major refurbishment of the centre that was completed in 2004.

53. Declan Long: Irish art critic, curator and lecturer. He teaches at the faculty of visual culture at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin[1] and regularly appears on Lyric FM, discussing and reviewing contemporary art.

54. Sarah Lucas: part of the Young British Artist movement that emerged in the 1990s. The subject of a current major retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery

55. Christine Macel: Chief Curator of the Musee National d’art Moderne- Centre Pompidou, currently developing the exhibition ‘Dance your life’ which will open in November 2011, she also writes for FlashArt and Artforum.

56. Anna Maloney: Director of Hackney WickED festival (new)

57. Christian Marclay: Swiss-American visual artist and composer, most recently exhibited at the 2011 Venice Biennale where he won the Golden Lion for his piece The Clock.

58. Rebecca May-Marston: Director of Hoxton’s Limoncello gallery, and One of the Independent’s 10 gallery owners who ‘are changing – and challenging – the British art scene’.

59. Ben Moore: Artist/Curator of Art Below (new)  a London based public art enterprise, founded in 2006 using billboard space in underground stations to display artworks in London and overseas.

60. Simon Morrissey: independent curator and writer on contemporary art, who regularly talks publicly about contemporary art and curating, as well as frequently acting as a visiting tutor on a number of leading Fine Art courses at UK universities.

61. Gregor Muir: Executive Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.

62. Banksy clever street artist and art guerrilla. Nominated this year for setting up a stand in New York and selling ‘Spray Art’ for £40 a pop. Real value £20,000-£100,000 He sold 6 paintings for $420.

63. Andrew Nairne: Director of Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, Chair of the Visual Arts and Galleries Association (VAGA), and former Director of  Modern Art Oxford.

64. *Elizabeth Neilson: Director 176 Zabludowicz Collection

65. *Hans Ulrich Obrist/ Julia Peyton-Jones: the Serpentine Gallery’s Co-directors of Exhibitions and Programmes.

66. Kirsty Ogg: curator at the Whitechapel Gallery and of the London Open, and Lecturer in Curating at Goldsmiths, University of London.

67. Yoko Ono: Japanese painter, and performance based,Director of Meltdown festival 2013

68. Sandra Penketh Director of Art Galleries National Museums Liverpool

69. Nicholas Penny, FSA a British art historian. Since Spring 2008 he has been director of the National Gallery in London.

70. *Grayson Perry: artist known for his work in ceramics, and awarded the Turner Prize in 2003,  self-curated show The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman at the British Museum 2011, received BAFTA in 2013 for his series All in the best possible Taste and will deliver this year’s Reith Lectures for Radio 4

71. Michael Petry:  multi-media artist, writer and curator. Director of MOCA London, co-founder of the Museum of Installation,   (new)

72. Heather Phillipson: video and installation artist, 2013 exhibitions at Zabludowicz collection, BALTIC centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead

73. Victoria Pomery: Director of Turner Contemporary since 2002, previously the Senior Curator at Tate Liverpool, has worked at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, Australia, and was part of the selection panel for the 2007 Ebbsfleet Landmark Project.

74:  Alan Powers: teacher, researcher, writer. Former chair of 20th century society (2007-12) and organizer of the campaign to save public art around UK. (new)

75. Elizabeth Price: video artist and winner of the 2012 Turner Prize

76. Laure Provost: filmmaker and 2013 Turner Prize nominee, Her piece Wantee was included in the Tate’s Schwitters in Britain exhibition.  (new)

77. Pussy Riot: Russian guerilla art movement, three members were imprisoned last year based on their involvement in an “anti-Putin” ‘art performance’ piece.

78. Gerhard Richter: German visual artist who specializes in abstract photorealism.

79. David Roberts: Prolific art collector in the UK, in 2008 started the ‘David Roberts Art Foundation’ to help emerging artists and young curators.

80. Ralph Rugoff: Director of the Hayward Gallery, previously Director of the Wattis Institute, best known for his curated work Just Pathetic (1990).

81. *Tino Seghal: British-German artist of partly Indian origin, based in Berlin. Exhibited at Tate Modern for the 2012 Unilever series commission. Won Golden Lion for best artist at 2013 Venice Biennale and nominated for Turner Prize 2013.

82. Nicholas Serota: Director of the Tate (1988-present) and the driving force behind the opening of the Tate Modern. Has participated on the board of The Architecture Foundation and chaired the Turner Prize jury.

83. Amanda Sharp/Matthew Slotover: founders of Frieze magazine and the Frieze Art Fair in London and New York

84. David Shrigley: British Artist known for his work in humorous cartoon style, contributes a weekly cartoon to the Guardian’s weekend paper, and has exhibited internationally including solo shows in New York, Gateshead, Barcelona and Mainz. Nominated for 2013 Turner Prize.

85. Taryn Simon: American art photographer, with a major feature show at the Tate Modern in 2011.

86. Bob and Roberta Smith: contemporary British artist operating under pseudonym, famous for painting slogan-bearing signage in support of various activist campaigns.

87. Donald Smith: CHELSEA Space Director, with the ambition to create ‘a research development centre for invited art and design professionals, providing a gallery space, library research facilities, and a platform to develop personal projects that may otherwise remain unrealised’.

88. Polly Staple: Director of London’s Chisenhale Gallery, contributing editor to Frieze, on jury panel for Max Mara Art Prize for Women  2009- 2011, and one of the Guardian’s 2010 ‘women to watch’.

89. Katherine Stout: Head of Programmes at ICA, formerly Head of Contemporary art at Tate Modern.  (new)

90. Callum Sutton; CEO Sutton PR – 2013 clients included Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art, Art Fund Prize for museums and galleries,

91. Paul Warwick Thompson: Rector of the Royal College of Art, served as Director of the Smithsonian’s National Design Museum in New York until 2009, trustee of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and a Member of the Wellcome Collection Advisory Committee at the Wellcome Trust.

92: Jeremy Till: Head of Central St Martins Art School since 2012 (new)

93. John Tusa: British arts administrator, currently the Chairman of the University of the Arts London, presented BBC 2’s Newsnight from 1980-1986, from 1995-2007 was managing director of the Barbican Arts Centre, London, and is Honorary Chairman of

94. Christoph Vogtherr: Director of the Wallace Collection from October 2011, previously the Curator of pre-1800 pictures at the Wallace Collection.

95. Mark Wallinger: sculptor and installation artist, double Turner Prize nominee, won the Prize in 2007 for the work State Britain. Notable work includes the sculpture on the Fourth Plinth of Trafalgar Square Ecce Homo (1999). Created Labyrinth for 150th anniversary of the London Underground in 2013.

96. Ai Weiwei: Chinese contemporary artist and political activist, awarded Das Glas der Vernuft Kassel citizen award in 2010, and serving as an Artistic consultant for the 2008 Olympics Bejing National Stadium.

97. Matt Williams: Curator of exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, and co-editor of the annual publication Novel, which focuses on artists’ writing and poetry.

98.Godfrey Worsdale: Director of the BALTIC centre for contemporary art, Gateshead, responsible for hosting the Turner Prize 2011, Vice Chairman of the UK’s Visual Art and Galleries Association, and selector for the 2011 Threadneedle Prize for Painting and Sculpture.

99. Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Exhibited Extracts and Verses at Chisenhale Gallery, nominated for 2013 Turner Prize (new)

100. Anita and Poju Zabludowicz: founded the Zabludowicz Collection in 2007, a space for exhibitions, commissions and residencies, as well as establishing the Zabludowicz Collection ‘Curatorial Open’ and ‘Testing Ground’ programmes to promote contemporary art education. She is also a key sponsor of the upcoming Sunday Art Fair.

* = Top Ten entry

Compiled by Artlyst © 2013



The Art Fairs of Frieze Week 2013

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Julian Hoeber, Twins #1 (Execution Changes #44, #45), 2011, Courtesy of Blum & Poe
It’s London’s turn in the great art fair cycle, and Frieze and its satellites have descended upon the British city for the eleventh year. The Carmody Groarke-designed pavilion will be even roomier this year, with wider aisles to suit visitor’s comfort and optimize the art-viewing experience. Along with the expected roster of top galleries, the fair welcomes some new seasoned faces like Blum & Poe, Marian Goodman and Maccarone. As expected, the powers behind Frieze have a world class line up of special exhibitions, film, and a sculpture park curated by Clare Lilley, Director of Programs at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, that will pair contemporary and historical pieces, giving a well-rounded presentation of modern masters like Judy Chicago, Jaume Plensa and Rachel Whiteread.
Judy Chicago, Rearrangeable Rainbow Blocks, 1965. Courtesy of Riflemaker.
Nicola Lees of the Frieze Foundation will put her newly-appointed curatorial imprint on the fair, curating both Frieze Projects and Frieze Film, for which she partners with Victoria Brooks of EMPAC (Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center) at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. This year, Frieze Projects has commissioned site specific pieces by Andreas Angelidakis, Gerry Bibby, Rivane Neueunschwander, Ken Okiishi, Angelo Plessas, Lili Reynaud-Dewar and Josepf Strau, while Frieze Film has commissioned works by Petra Cortright, Peter Gidal, Patricia Lennox-Boyd, Oraib Toukan and Erika Vogt, made during a residency at EMPAC.
Petra Cortright, vvebcam, 2007, avi file, webcam video, 1:42 min. Courtesy of Frieze.
For the collector seeking the art historical, Frieze Masters will return, with highlighted works by Pieter Breughel the Younger, Murillo, Velazquez, and modern masters like Bacon, Calder, Guston, Picasso and Pollock. There is also an incredible Masters Talks program planned with contemporary artists John Currin and Catherine Opie, whose work references the historic, whether in subject or technique, alongside conversations between the Victoria and Albert’s Director Martin Roth and Beatriz Milhazes, and the Kunsthustorisches Museums’ Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Jasper Sharp with Richard Wright.
Pieter Brueghel the Younger, L’Auberge St. Michel, 1619. Courtesy of De Jonckheere.
Philip Guston, Untitled (Shoe), 1968. Courtesy of McKEee Gallery.
This year Frieze will also bring its influences into the retail realm, with a partnership with fair sponsor Alexander McQueen. During the fair, the London retail stores (Bond Street and Saville Row) will feature contemporary art curated by Sadie Coles, once again merging art and fashion like the late designer did so expertly.
The exciting week will kick off on October 17, with special combination discounts for art lovers visiting both the Frieze and Frieze Masters Fairs.  And once you have had your fill at the main fair here is a selection of satellite fairs to visit, guaranteeing something for everyone, including cutting edge contemporary, street art, video art , African art, artist multiples and design.
Sunday Art Fair. Courtesy of Sunday Art Fair.
The edgy satellite fair features only 20 galleries, with an emphasis on the best of emerging art.  The feel is like a large group show, without the stereotypical booths that define an art fair (exhibitors are instead separated by tape on the floor). This year’s participants include New York’s White Columns and London’s Studio Voltaire, with a fair sponsor of ICA.
Still from Annika Larsson’s Animal in 14 movements, 2012, video, 41 minutes. Courtesy of Moving Image.
The unique fair returns to the Bargehouse to celebrate video art, including 30 single-channel videos, video sculptures and large video installations. The fair brings the issues surrounding the collecting video art to the forefront, even offering the “AV Bar,” a sort of take on the Mac Store’s Genius Bar, to answer collectors’ questions about displaying and caring for video art. This year curators, Kyle Chayka and Marina Galerpina, will indulge the self-portrait craze, with the National #Selfie Portrait Gallery, featuring short form “selfies” from 16 emerging video artists from the EU and the US.
Moniker Fair. Courtesy of Moniker Fair.
For its fourth year, the street and urban art fair will be shacking up with The Other Fair at the iconic Old Truman Brewery. Expect works by recognizable urban artists like Banksy, The London Police, D Face, Greg La Marche, Shepard Fairey and Pure Evil, plus special installations.
Delphine Lebourgeois, Deesse VIII Photo de Classe. Limited edition of 3 Giclee print finished by hand with pencils and inks. Courtesy of The Other Fair.
Also at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, The Other Fair offers collectors a chance to scoop up works by over 100 unrepresented artists. The fair fosters artists year round by offering free seminars and workshops to help them enter the art market and connect talent with buyers.
Stephen Hobbs, Pop-up Book, 2013, silkscreen book, Courtesy of David Krut Projects, Johannesburg, Cape Town & New York.
Collectors of prints, editions and multiples can find all they are looking for at the fourth edition of Multiplied. With an emphasis on art priced for every budget to bring art to everyone, Multiplied extends this mission with its charity affiliate, Vital Arts, which brings art, music and performance to hospital patients. The fair, located at Christie’s auction house in South Kensington, is free to the public and will feature live printmaking workshops and an exhibition by Graduate students of the Royal College of Art’s Print Department.
Cameron Platter. Courtesy of Jack Bell Gallery.
New to Frieze Week this year, 1:54 is the first contemporary African Art Fair and brings together 17 carefully curated galleries, accompanied by an educational and artistic program curated by Koyo Kouch. 1:54 will also offer lectures, film screenings and talks, such as Hans Ulrich Obrist in conversation with Godfried Donkor, Christine Eyene in conversation with Senam Okudzeto, as well as a discussion on building an African collection of contemporary art. The 1:54 fair aims to educate visitors on the importance, context and market of African art.
PAD London. Courtesy of PAD London.
The PAD fair is designed to ask art collectors and enthusiasts to relate fine art to the same context as design, decorative arts, photography and tribal arts, encouraging visitors to use each of these elements to find their aesthetic voice by building comprehensive collections that touch on each genre. The eclectic fair offers pieces steeped in history, museum quality art works, notable photography and design furniture of the highest caliber, all set in an all encompassing, boutique style atmosphere.

Hans Ulrich Obrist: The Contemporary Artworld’s Curatorial King




Interview by Pierre Huyghe and Hans-Ulrich Obrist

Hans-Ulrich Obrist: My first question is, to begin with the beginning, what prompted the transition from film-based experiences to the new work you showed me when we met last month. Is there what Matthew Barney calls a new desire for non-mediated experience? In a postmedium condition, what is your medium?Olivier Bardin: Ever since I first entered art college as a student at the beginning of the nineties I have thought of exhibition as a medium. In the first instance, I made use of the closed space of the college as a means to produce and mediate my work, my concept of exhibition involved a stage which contained its own means of production. Exhibition is, for me, the opportunity to create a physical encounter between myself and a spectator, and between spectators. In a context where experience dominates, it is left for me to construct the scene. What I create, the formal element which can be transmitted and reactivated, is the set-up itself. The system is fixed, it is an architecture. I don’t tell how it should be occupied, but the visitor is immediately subjected to its influence. The constituent elements of the scene lie in the choice of a location, its proportions, the sense of movement around it, the presence of one or several people, and, depending on the circumstances: my presence, the materials in the space, a spoken word, a speech, recording instruments.Pierre Huyghe: Exhibition is, for you, a system which redistributes roles and reinvents the status of the image. It takes place in the present, in an exchange between you and visitors who are treated as protagonists, and it often operates through dialogue or a game rule. The image is the site where representation is transformed into play. Is exhibition a necessary path – albeit a dangerous one – to self-reinvention within the context of a shared image?Olivier Bardin: I would say yes. The situations I create contribute to the development of a community, bound together through the use of the gaze, which goes beyond considerations of class, social group, generation, and language. The visitors at an exhibition are images which move around, observe each other, and engage in interactions with each other. This is something that cannot occur in television, cinema, theatre or dance, only exhibition makes it possible.

Pierre Huyghe: It seems to me that you have always been interested in the moment of reconfiguration of power, in the moment when roles are being redistributed, where a change of representation is taking place. I am thinking of your fictional role as director of the Bordeaux École des Beaux-Arts in 1994 when you were still a student there, of your first exhibitions in the college’s gallery created during a single night with other students invited by you. You reconfigured the space of the exhibition by using what was already there. I am also thinking of Une télé pour la télé (A Television for Television) in which you invited individuals in a television studio to control the equipment which recorded their own images, I am thinking of Robespierre’s speech on the origins of the French Constitution (Sur la Constitution à donner à la France, 2004), or again of your most recent exhibitions which put the spectator on show.

Olivier Bardin: My early projects involved the organisation of exhibitions according to strict rules. Already, in 1996, it was the relationship between me and another artist, while producing a piece for an exhibition within the short time-span of a night, which was more important than what we were going to produce and be able to display the next day. The work was being created and it was enthralling, but we were the only ones to be involved in this very intense moment. The mediation of the moment was impossible on that occasion.

It seemed to me, for this reason, that television was the medium which would best allow me to give form to such a moment. Real time, the continuous flow of the transmission, the studio, the guests, the means of transmission, are the parameters of television. Combined, these elements generate an unusual situation which obliges participants to invent a character, a role, a new mask for themselves. Now, there exists a period of latency, of adaptation, during which an individual is feeling around to construct a new mask. This latent period corresponds to the duration of the broadcast itself and it is this revealing moment which I attempt to capture. My television projects began with your invitation in 1997 on behalf of your channel in Dijon, Mobile TV. At that time I created six programmes called A Television for Television, which invited young people into the studio individually, asking them to create a live half-hour broadcast which would take account of the technical features of the broadcast, of the set, of my presence, and of the real-time transmission to viewers who could see us, but with whom interaction was, by definition, impossible. I was greatly surprised by the attitude of these young people who were content simply to be present in a studio. They were there, with no personal statement or message to convey, not wanting to speak to anybody. The transmission of the image of their bodies, of their presence, was all they required during that half-hour. My research and productions for local television stations continued until 2004 and the exhibition at the ARC Museum of modern art in Paris, where I was invited by Hans-Ulrich to present a sort of overview of the whole.

For the Liverpool exhibition I propose a new piece. In an empty white room, which visitors are obliged to cross in order to continue their visit in the rest of the museum, I am installing out nine identical armchairs (of the sort to be found in an English gentleman’s club) facing the entrance to this space. On entering, you immediately see these iconic armchairs in which visitors to the exhibition are seated, in other words the viewer become the object itself of the exhibition. But you also see the space which you are going to occupy, a moment later, when you yourself sit in the chairs. Once seated in the chairs, you watch, as in the theatre, a ballet of spectators who appear suddenly on the stage, are surprised at being observed, and are obliged to become both participants in the exhibition and its objects. Both those who enter and those who are seated display themselves and observe each other in a choreographic tension which is defined by the movement of their bodies or the expression on their faces. The choice of furniture, the dimensions of the exhibition space, the lighting, and the distance between the armchairs and the entrance are essential to the staging, they determine what visitors see and the moment of their awareness. The number of seats is limited, it is for each individual to decide whether or not to give up a seat, in other words, to work for the balance of the whole composition. Each visitor’s responsibility is brought into play, each self-image then interacts, as you said, with a communal or shared image.

Pierre Huyghe: When we understand that we are on show or when we look at somebody else on show we put ourselves in the other’s place. In your work, representation always seems to have a political or psychoanalytical dimension – we find it in Dan Graham too – there is a process where the construction of the subject is transferred.

Olivier Bardin: The risk we take in exhibiting ourselves must necessarily happen in relation to the other, to a receiver, a spectator. It is an intimate and unique experience. If there is no desire, bringing with it the possibility that curiosity may triumph over uneasiness, then spectators are in danger of moving across my exhibitions without seeing what is to be seen, frozen in their own images. But once I offer an inter-subjective experience, desire is produced by a relationship, and it is, indeed, very close to the psychoanalytical concept of desire. It is a means, not an end. It is not embodied in a thing, but is instead a tension. This desire is not new, but with the (art)market, we have become accustomed to measuring desire against the merchandise.

Hans-Ulrich Obrist: Is time your medium?

Olivier Bardin: I think that my work can certainly be understood through the concept of temporality. Time is the property of each spectator. Through the conditions which I set, I make it possible for time to belong to each individual. Time is the necessary condition to understand the full complexity of the images of others. If we initially perceive individuals as objects, when they first declare themselves on show, we then need time to recognise them as subjects.

Hans-Ulrich Obrist: How to document time-based work?

Olivier Bardin : The question of time is just as important in the photographs I take. I preserve, in films or photographs, facial expressions or arrangements of bodies in space which have been influenced by one of my systems, such as a speech, for example Lou Castel under the influence of a speech by Robespierre. I prefer still photography to film. A photograph is an object which complements an action. Such images show the ways in which people exhibit themselves. What is seen in the visual record cannot be captured in the action. Films or photographs thus appear as objects which complete and prolong action. The recorded image is accordingly never simply an archive document.

Pierre Huyghe: Are spectators not also witnesses? Could we not consider them as a means of recording or transmitting experience?

Olivier Bardin: The spectators who exhibit themselves at my exhibitions often express spontaneously what they see or feel, some also take photographs or make video recordings. The intersection of the words and images extends the event and indeed allows it to be transmitted to others. I think that these words and images are testimonies. Each one bears witness to an experience in the present moment and communicates that experience to other viewers. In principle, of course, we testify to a past experience. Testimony has the status of proof, it allows us to reconstruct a past reality, but from a single viewpoint, that of the witness. In that, it seems to me that the time of direct experience and the time of its recording cannot be separated in my work, and that the encounter between the two is the condition of its transmission. I propose a frame of experience, but I do not control in any way the words of the witness, who remains entirely free.

Pierre Huyghe: You invent systems, game rules which authorise, and, in a certain way, oblige subjects (often spectators in an exhibition) to bring into play their own image, their role in the situation in which they find themselves; by having to participate they exhibit themselves. What happens in that moment of self-exhibition? Can you take us back over such situations, such systems?

Olivier Bardin: What Hans-Ulrich has referred to earlier, following our discussions last month, and what you and I have been discussing a great deal recently, is the series of exhibitions which I created in museums where I asked that the spaces should be completely emptied. I wanted to allow visitors to move from the status of exhibition viewers to that of exhibition objects, and then subjects. In Vassivière, Nuremberg, and Geneva, we designed an invitation card, we invited people to come and view an exhibition for a few hours in a location which was intended for exhibition but was empty. I was present and I would say to spectators: ‘You are in an exhibition space. For there to be an exhibition something has to be exhibited. Who wants to exhibit themselves?’ When a spectator said that he would like to do so, and it is easily the case in this empty space, the exhibition would begin.

The others would look at him, go up to him, sometimes even touch him, then they would move away, move around him, adopt the pose of a museum visitor; all of them found it very easy to make the connection between their own experience as exhibition-goers and what was happening at that moment. But the person who was exhibiting himself was alive, he could use his eyes, move his body. This person on show had also come along as a spectator like everybody else and everyone remembered that the question had been asked of all of them. All the participants then became conscious of their own images and of being on show themselves, each becoming in turn the exhibited object. These spectators had simply come to see an exhibition and as a consequence of the precision of the system, its effectiveness, they became the exhibits. Each of them was thus compelled to play two roles at once, that of spectator and that of exhibit. Nobody could hide, be in the position of a voyeur, for example: we were all subject to the gaze of others. The gaze is egalitarian and free. Two visitors to an exhibition can experience the loss of their own masks and discover each other’s image. The system allows a balance between all the participants and avoids all forms of judgement about others.

Hans-Ulrich Obrist: Can you please tell me about your yet unrealised projects? Projects which are too big to be realised, to small to be realised, forgotten projects, self-censored projects, censored projects, concrete utopias and utopias?

Olivier Bardin: My projects are born in the course of encounters. This fits with the principle that the museum or exhibition is a specific site for encounters. Each day, I imagine the organisation of potential encounters, in museums, in different countries, in political or religious institutions, at historical sites, etc. I sometimes reorganise their spaces, imagine what might be done to encourage people to look and make that moment individual. It is also a matter of scale and means, you can’t approach encounters with individuals and vast audiences in the same way. I enjoy being challenged on different scales.

There is, in my work, the idea of acting everywhere that it is possible to act. I imagine setting up my systems from Japan to Brazil, via India, that is, provoking ways of looking which take account of the particular organisation of personal relationships in each of these areas of the world. There is no relationship without a mask, and that is common to all societies. The process of losing and finding masks occurs everywhere.

Olivier Bardin, Interview by Pierre Huyghe and Hans-Ulrich Obrist in The Fifth Floor: Ideas Taking Space, Editor Peter Gorschlüter, Liverpool University Press



Hans Ulrich Obrist – The Contemporary Artworld’s Curatorial King



interview by Hans Ulrich Obrist

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Six AM Wednesday, 2009
Courtesy of Corvi-Mora, London

HANS ULRICH OBRIST   In your paintings you have a very clear methodology, which is actually quite conceptual. It sounds like, in a sort of On Kawara way, a painting a day. Can you talk about this? It seems that with a painting, no matter what, you finish it.
LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE   Yes, exactly. That started off as being a practical consideration: the way I was initially painting, if I didn’t finish in a day the surface wouldn’t work, it would dry at different times, so it was completely a structural thing. Then I started to realize that the way I was working was as important to the work itself as the finished product, it was about reading between works rather than becoming very precious about one. It’s to do with the way I think: I say it’s a short attention span, but what I mean by that is that it’s one thought and it’s fresh in my mind. It’s about a certain kind of urgency and capturing that time frame. Because if it were dragged out over days I feel like the whole resonance of it would go, it would become a much more labored process and I would personally become too precious. If I get to the end of the day and something hasn’t worked I don’t sleep well. I’d rather destroy it than think about it over night just to come back and try and force myself to like it.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Hard Wet Epic, 2010
Courtesy of Corvi-Mora, London

HUO   It’s interesting also because you say that you don’t fix the particular narrative behind it. The paintings are like snippets or part of something, it’s almost like the viewer writes the stories. Duchamp said the viewer is half of the work, Dominique Gonzales Foerster says the viewer does at least half of the work. It seems to be the case with you as well.
LYB   I give all I can, as I think seduction is very important. I love painting. I love the surface of it. I know how it makes me feel when I see certain works or when I’m in the presence of works that I really admire, and I think the pleasure for the viewer comes out of that kind of feeling, rather than me trying to tell a story. It’s a sensual thing—it’s about a sense of touch and a sensibility. I want it to be that kind of experience as well, which is why I don’t like the idea of giving too much of a story and trying to control that response too much.

HUO  You say in all your texts and interviews that you conceive the paintings as groups, and think of how they could work together. Can you tell me a little bit about the main groups in your work?
LYB   They develop over a period of time, and relate more or less directly to what I’m thinking about at the time. I try to put as many different things into a group as possible and often things that relate to each other. There are paintings that come in pairs. But I don’t necessarily show them together. There’s a recurring pair that goes into every body of work. When I start a body of work I will do these two paintings and each time there will be a slight variation but essentially it’s the same man. He’s always wearing basically the same thing, always facing in opposite directions, the pose changes and the facial expression changes slightly, so he’ll always come into that group and there’s always a man in a stripy top. In a way they are like an anchorage. Somehow they start the body of work and then from there everything kind of builds around them. It changes each time. More recently I’ve been trying to paint a lot of landscape, and I’m not very good at it. (Laughs.)

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, From Here Until Never, 2011
Courtesy of Corvi-Mora, London

HUO   I wanted to ask you about these two characters. They are larger portraits filling the canvas completely and almost coming out of the wall. You say that they are always there, these figures, one has a stripy top and the other one not. So how did they enter? You have often mentioned that this is a recurring element but I didn’t find any literature on how they entered into your work. How did you have the epiphany? How did these two guys pop up?
LYB   They happened quite separately. The really big ones of the man with the white top, the massive ones that always come as a pair, they started of as a very small work. It was a triptych of three of that man and there was something in the facial expression that really captured everything for me, everything that I was trying to do somehow. Really, if I had to choose two pieces that encapsulate the spirit of what I’m trying to do, it’d be him and the stripy man. When I say capture everything I’m trying to do, or the spirit of what I do, I mean the way that I think, the way my sense of humor works. When I start a body of work they are a good reminder, if you like, an anchoring of how I think generally and the reminder of where I am. It is also the sense of getting to know someone better. They have changed a lot since their first incarnations.
HUO   And what about the stripy one?
LYB Again it’s like they are opposite poles of the same thing. So there are two emotions there. There’s this calm, sense of something level and almost elegant in the stripy man, and then the white shirt is far more like a sphinx I suppose.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Bound Over To Keep The Peace, 2012
Photography by Marcus Leith
Courtesy of Chisenhale Gallery, London

HUO   I’d like to talk about the characters that you invent for each of your portraits. Your fictitious characters are all black people, and you have said that that it produces a kind of normality. I wanted to ask you about this, and to what extent you view this as a political gesture.
LYB   I think it’s always in some way going to be political. But for me the political is as much in the making of it, in the painting of it, in the fact of doing it, rather than anything very specific about race or even about celebration. I don’t see what I do as at all celebratory, because to me it just is. The fact that they are all black is double edged as well. They’re all black, or what I should say is they are all tinted black or brown—some of them actually have black features, others have completely Caucasian features—but they are still sort of black. For me, that is the normalizing aspect. It’s not normal, because they’re not real people, but at the same time that means also that race is something that I can completely manipulate, or reinvent, or use as I want to. Also, they’re all black because, in my view, if I was painting white people that would be very strange, because I’m not white. This seems to make more sense in terms of a sense of normality. I suppose with anyone doing anything you set yourself certain parameters, it’s not about making a rainbow celebration of all of us being different. It’s never seemed necessary to alter the color of people just for the sake of making that point.

HUO   You also say in a statement that you don’t like to paint victims. Jennifer Higgie says it’s a kind of empowerment, kind of power to the people.
LYB   Absolutely. I said that many years ago in relation to how I like to think about how I finish a person, how a person should look in a painting, and what I want their expressions to be. One of the things I always destroy in the work is anyone that I think looks passive. In part, this is because they’re black, and in part because I don’t want them to like anyone has taken anything from them. I don’t want them to be victimized basically, or to look that way. It’s as much about avoiding certain tropes in the work as anything else.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Fiscal Sweatsuit, 2012
Photography by Marcus Leith
Courtesy of Chisenhale Gallery, London

HUO   I would like to ask you about Ghana, as your family comes from there. I was wondering if you have any connections to Ghana or to Africa?
LYB   Not very strong ones. I mean, my strongest connection is my parents.

HUO   Who live there?

LYB   No, they live here in London, and they have for forty years. But just the fact of them having raised me the way that they did, they are my connection. I kind of have an idea of Ghana from them, but I wouldn’t say I have a strong personal connection with it, in that I haven’t been there that much and I certainly never lived there. I wasn’t born there—I was born here, and I was raised here. Really my connection is through my relatives, the people who raised me, and their way of thinking, which to me is very much Ghanaian, and that has obviously effected how I think and what I think about. But it would be disingenuous of me to claim some strong connection with Ghana as a place because I don’t really know it and I wasn’t raised there.

HUO   But it’s there through the transmissions of your parents.

LYB   Definitely. The way I always put it was that Ghana is present as a way of thinking and a way of seeing, which has influenced me.


HOMEBLOG › Epiphanies: In Conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist
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Some of Hans’ published works Hans in conversation with John Baldessari at LACMA last month Giacometti Still from The Way Things Go Still from The Way Things Go Published to accompany Richter’s 1992 show at Nietzsche’s house in Sils-Maria Richter’s Swiss mountains
Epiphanies: In Conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist
by Yanyan Huang
Arts contributor Yanyan Huang travels the world in search of big game. In her first blog post with OC she interviews contemporary art curator Hans Ulrich Obrist.An anomaly within the art world, Hans Ulrich Obrist operates as an auteur who takes ideas from the past, present, and future and stitches them together to provide a well-founded framework. Hans’ approach to his work is organic: ideas come from conversations and spill over to provide the fuel for the next project, ad infinitum.Of course, there can be no reaction without a preceding action, and Hans has had incredible luck in finding the right mentors to fuel his imagination. In a conversation with him after one of his public talks at LACMA last month, he cites the generosity of these “artist-teachers” who provided the inspiration and set him along on his artistic trajectory.Yanyan Huang: During tonight’s talk you asked John Baldessari about the epiphanies he’s experienced throughout his life and career. He mentioned: “conceptual art is pointing at things,” “talent is cheap,” and “be in the right place at the right time.” Have you ever had such epiphanies?
Hans Ulrich Obrist: One of the first epiphanies that triggered my obsession for art was the Giacometti collection at Kunsthalle Zürich. I was 12 years old and would visit the gallery after school.The second was when I began to meet artists: it was like I was reborn. At the age of 17, I visited the studio of Peter Fischli and David Weiss. At this time (1985), they were just about to work on an amazing film called The Way Things Go, a film of chain reactions. I decided I wanted to be a curator after visiting their studios and speaking with them. Out of this grew one of my first exhibitions held in my kitchen and in a hotel room.A few months later I met Gerhard Richter, prompting another development. He had a big show in 1986 in Switzerland and invited me to his studio. This is a dialogue that has continued ever since. We collaborated in 1992, at Nietzsche’s house in Sils-Maria (where Nietzsche wrote Thus Spoke Zarathustra). I organized Gerhard’s work, particularly photographs he did of the Swiss mountains. All my early shows had to do with this idea that art can happen unexpectedly in unexpected locations.Fischli and Weiss suggested I go to Rome to meet with Alighiero Boetti. I spent a day with him where we discussed the concept that artists should be involved in a global dialogue. This triggered in me a whole other way of working. From then on, I never stopped. I had infinite conversations and these conversations led to more epiphanies or moments of insight. It’s always a dialogue. I started thinking about how I could expand the notion of curating. How could I curate science, literature, and music? I started exploring these fields.YH: You realized it was important to contextualize your ideas within other fields of study?
HUO: I thought it could be interesting to curate in different fields: to curate in science and literature museums and in the context of architecture. This led to Cities on the Move and other museum mutations.YH: Have you found similar themes underlying the different fields of art, architecture, and science?
HUO: There’s not one thing that connects everything together, but many. I’ve been working with the Institute of the 21st Century to archive my conversations. Within the digital interview archives there are a lot of recurring conversations, so we did tagging. Whenever someone speaks about museums, that’s a tag, and so on. Eventually, we tagged different conversations between different fields and different practitioners. It will make the interviews more accessible in the future. The idea is that this archive could be a “book machine.”



Limited Lifespan of Cities

An interview with architect CEDRIC PRICE on the limited lifespan of cities. By Hans Ulrich Obrist. Issue #02 (summer 2001).


HANS ULRICH OBRIST: One of the reasons your work has been so important to many architects in Asia has a lot to do with the notion of time and the ephemeral, something which is understood better in Asia than in Europe.
CEDRIC PRICE: A short lifespan for a building is not seen as anything very strange in Asia. Angkor Wat in Cambodia is so vast and yet it lasted for less than three hundred years. I liked your dependence on change in the “Cities on the Move” exhibition you curated and I particularly liked the Bangkok exhibition where time was the key element. I see time as the fourth dimension, alongside height, breadth and length. The actual consuming of ideas and images exists in time, so the value of doing the show betrayed an immediacy, an awareness of time that does not exist in somewhere like London or indeed Manhattan. A city that does not change and reinvent itself is a dead city. But I do not know if we should use the word ‘city’ any more; I think it is a questionable term.

What could replace it?
Perhaps a word associated with the human awareness of time, turned into a noun, which relates to space. The paradox is that the city changes all the time, so it would have to be a word in permanent mutation; it could not be a frozen term.

But let’s return to the idea of dead cities, tell me more about why they die!
Cities exist for citizens, and if they do not work for citizens, they die.

Which is interesting because you also talk about the fact that buildings can die.
Yes, the Fun Palace was not planned to last more than ten years. The short life expectancy of the project had an effect on the costs, but not in a limiting, adverse way. No one, including the designers, wanted to spend more money to make it last for fifty years and we had to persuade the generators and operators to be economic in terms of both time and money. The advantage, however, was that the owners, the producers and the operators, through necessity, began to think along the same lines, as the project created the same set of priorities for everyone. That should be one of architecture’s aims; it must create new appetites, rather than solve problems. Architecture is too slow to solve problems. I suppose we should ask what is the purpose of architecture? It used to be a way of imposing order or establishing a belief, which is the purpose of religion to some extent. Architecture does not need that mental imperialism any more. As an architect, I do not want to be involved in creating law and order through fear and misery. I see the creation of a continuous dialogue as both interesting and also perhaps the only reason for architecture. In the sixteenth or seventeenth century, someone defined architecture as “commodity, firmness and delight.” Commodity equates to good housekeeping, particularly in terms of money; firmness is the structure; and the delight factor is the dialogue.

Could you talk a bit about your time-based project in Glasgow and how that opened up a dialogue between the city and its citizens.
The city hall is in the centre of Glasgow. They are very proud of it and people are not allowed in very often, unless they have got a complaint against the city. We decided to improve the lift to the top of the tower – putting a carpet in, installing lovely mirrors, spraying it with perfume – and invited the public in. We did not tell them why; all we said is that they could go to the top of the tower and for free. In the lift was a tape announcing “tonight, all the areas which we think should be saved without question will be floodlighted red.” Only parts of the city were lit up, so their attention was focused. You heard comments like: “Well of course that church should be saved” and “Why keep that slum?” The next night, different areas of the city were flooded green, indicating districts they decided should be improved. On the last day, the floodlights were white. The public was invited to tell the city what they should do with the spaces lit in white. There were no “superiors” involved, no architects with patches on their tweed jackets around for miles. The city was saying, “We’ve thought about it for years and still don’t know what to do with the white areas. You tell us. But don’t tell us next year, tell us within a month, because after that it’s too late. As you go down, pick up a free postcard and mail us your response.”


Sarah Lucas & Hans Ulrich Obrist

The bad-girl artist and the Serpentine curator talk shop

Bruno Serralongue 1_web

Twenty years ago, Sarah Lucas and Tracey Emin set up The Shop in a former doctor’s surgery on Bethnal Green Road, east London, selling handcrafted art and knick-knacks like badges, t-shirts, keyrings and wire penises. Their DIY enterprise stayed open for six months while they got pissed in front of their David Hockney altar and used their aquarium as a moneybox. Meanwhile, budding curator Hans Ulrich Obrist was initiating his project do it, conceived with artists Christian Boltanski and Bertrand Lavier, which invites artists to invent sets of handwritten instructions, or “scores”. do it has now grown to include Ai Weiwei’s instructions on how to make a spray device to block a surveillance camera, Gilbert & George’s “Ten Commandments for Gilbert and George” and Theaster Gates’ “How to Catch the Holy Ghost in a Shopping Mall”.

For the new do it 2013 exhibition at this month’s Manchester International Festival, Lucas has created a homage to Franz West using instructions from the do it back catalogue and Emin has paid tribute to the late Louise Bourgeois. The ideas, DIY attitude and “just do it” spirit of 1993 are still going strong.

The Shop

Hans Ulrich Obrist: It’s not that in 1993 all of these things were invented. The spirit – the genesis of it – started much earlier. But maybe in 1993 it all came together. 1993 was the year of The Shop, it was the year when do it happened, it was the year of Aperto ‘93 in Venice, where a lot of artists from our generation met for the first time. A lot of things crystallised.

Sarah Lucas: It wasn’t one thing or one person; so many people kept the whole scene buoyant. We were our own audience and we liked it. It generated a lot of energy but
I don’t think you can bring it down to one moment.

HUO: I remember the first time I visited your studio. A DIY spirit was very much in the air. What was the epiphany behind The Shop? Do you remember the day you and Tracey had the idea?

SL: Yeah, I think we were sitting in a restaurant in Brick Lane. I was previously at a studio with Gary Hume. Tracey was mostly writing then, she wasn’t making much art… And we came up with the idea of getting a shop. Just doing it, I suppose. There was this particular shop that was empty and I contacted the estate agent. We rented it for six months and paid in advance. We thought we’d just start turning up there and make it up as we went along. Looking back on it, Tracey really did have this entrepreneurial flair. We used to make these t-shirts, and Tracey would say, ‘When we sell the first one it’s a fiver, we make another it’s a tenner and then the next one, £20.’ We did a lot of drinking at The Shop until the late hours. I can always remember swinging in this hammock we had and falling out on many occasions. We used to spend a lot of time in the pub next door. When someone came in and bought a badge they’d pay 50p. We’d go next door to the pub and buy two halves of Guinness because they were 25p a half. We did actually get by from what we made at The Shop.

(The YBAs) were largely our own audience, but other people came along because we were having such a huge party. So in the end, we decided what art was legitimate

HUO: You invented The Shop in an Indian restaurant in London with Tracey, and I had coffee and breakfast with Boltanski in Paris maybe about the same month and conceived do it. It was also about the promiscuity of collaboration. For me, do it was almost open source. It was the beginning of things becoming more global. It was a moment of intense travelling, taking night trains all over Europe. You know, ‘How can I make things that globally make sense, have a show that travels in a different way?’ For my Hotel show (Hotel Carlton Palace: Chambre 763, 1993) I was basically in the hotel room for 24 hours and anybody could come in at three or six in the morning. It was non-stop. It was a similar feeling to The Shop – your dialogue with Tracey was also non-stop.

SL: Certainly on Saturday nights, we were open all night on purpose. It was a good area to be, just off Brick Lane. There were bagel shops open all night. We were absolutely knackered at the end of the six months. We went from nothing to having half the world coming through the door. I look back on it all fondly. I’m one of these people who are very fond of their own work. They’re sort of like friends to me.

HUO: I remember I basically had no money, but I bought this cigarette package from The Shop, a ready-made one. I remember a conversation we had then about the use of cigarettes and you said something I never forgot. I was wondering if it was about death and you told me, ‘Only if we think about such distractions that make us think about life,’ something like that. So that was already all there, no?

Sarah Lucas at The Shop
Courtesy of Sadie Coles HQ

SL: Yeah. It’s amazing, making things, how often you realise that something was there very much earlier. Really, things started happening for me in early 1992. I did ‘Two Fried Eggs and a Kebab’ and I had my first one-person show at City Racing, which was where I met Tracey. You could even say it started before that, being part of the Goldsmiths group. The Shop was about using premises that nobody else was using at the time. It was a social necessity (to adopt the bad-girl image) in those days, living in squats and co-ops in rundown areas of London. I didn’t have that much money so I was either cycling, walking or taking the nightbus. I found it useful to have a good pair of boots on and look a bit tough. It was a way of not getting picked on. Now I live in the countryside and don’t feel a great necessity for that. I mean, there are similarities in my appearance now in the sense that I’m still in old jeans and jumpers with black hair, but that toughness was rather integral to the reality of living in that situation.

New generations have to reinvent this for themselves, not that it really went away. It is continuous. There’s just that feeling that the energy has to come again.

HUO: It’s interesting that you mentioned City Racing. When you talk about the DIY spirit, the artist-run spaces were very important in early 90s London.

SL: City Racing was an old betting shop, and ‘Two Fried Eggs and a Kebab’ was in a shop in Kingly Street, which funnily enough is where Sadie Coles is opening her new gallery. So that’s kind of gone full circle, back in Kingly Street where it all started for me.

HUO: When I came to London in the late 80s, early 90s, there was a whole map of these artist-run spaces, which is quite difficult to imagine now because it was obviously before rent was expensive. Now most of those spaces are public spaces and commercial galleries. Back then, none of these spaces were really commercial – they were self-organised, artist-run spaces that worked on a shoestring budget. Gilbert & George were a great inspiration for me, that idea of art for all. I remember as a teenager I went to see them and they explained about that famous 1969 show When Attitudes Become Form at the ICA. Gilbert & George were devastated as young artists not to be invited, so they just went to the opening as living sculptures, and that’s obviously what got the most attention. That was a great inspiration, to see that one doesn’t have to wait for an entitlement.

SL: It’s also who decides what’s legitimate art. In terms of the huge bunch of artists that we became (and it seems to be continually expanding), it was like a sort of ongoing party. We were largely our own audience, but other people came along because we were having such a huge party. So in the end we decided what was legitimate.

 The Shop

HUO: Robert Musil said in his great novel The Man Without Qualities that art can happen when we expect it least. That’s why my first show in ’91 was The Kitchen Show. When your show Penis Nailed to a Board happened, it happened in a shop. After that I invited you to my Hotel exhibition because that was another model of an exhibition that was more in the context of life.

SL: New generations have to reinvent this for themselves, not that it really went away. It is continuous. There’s just that feeling that the energy has to come again.

HUO: One of the reasons we did the new do it book is that there are so many younger artists reconnecting to that DIY spirit. There is also the idea of the rumour. In 1993 I lived between Switzerland and Paris and heard rumours about The Shop and came to London to see it. A similar thing had happened with my shows – there wasn’t really any advertising, so it became a rumour. People came to the hotel room and there were queues outside. Richard Wentworth said one of the ways an exhibition travels is in these concentric circles through rumour. The same for 60s performances which only seven people saw but then became very well known.

SL: And some things, because of the rumour, continued to grow after they opened, even when they had technically finished. The rumour keeps it going.

Until September 22, DO IT 20 13, Manchester International Festival, Manchester Art


Art 101

8 Super-Curators You Need to Know, From Massimiliano to HUO

By Alex Allenchey

May 30, 2013

8 Super-Curators You Need to Know, From Massimiliano to HUO

Massimilano Gioni at the Cinema Manzoni (Photo by Marco Di Scalzi)

As today’s art world continues to expand at an exponential rate, with new museums, exhibitions, and biennials popping up seemingly by the minute, contemporary curators are increasingly expected to be up-to-date and knowledgeable about all the goings on around the globe. Only a select few “super” curators have the drive and the wherewithal to handle the mounting responsibilities required to stage today’s monumental shows. We’ve compiled a list of eight of these exceptional gatekeepers, who also happen to be some of the most influential and important people around.

Hans Ulrich Obrist
Affiliation: Serpentine Gallery in London (Co-Director, Exhibitions and Programs, and Director of International Projects)
Known For: Being everywhere at once, writing a Brief History of Curating.
Curatorial Approach: Interdisciplinarily-inclined advocate for evolving and participatory exhibitions, Obrist’s curatorial reach knows no limits.
Most Notable Exhibition: “do it,” a still-ongoing project begun in 1993 consisting of a set of instructional works—contributed by artists including Rirkrit Tiravanija, Marina Abramović, Christian Marclay, and Olafur Eliasson, among many others—that anyone can follow to create an open exhibition in any location.
Weirdest Exhibition: Beginning with an “Interview Marathon” in 2006, Obrist has conducted a series of 24-hour cultural endurance tests, with themes ranging from “Experiments” to “Manifesto” and “Poetry.”
Sartorial Flourish: Blazer, no tie.

Name: Okwui Enwezor
Affiliation: Haus der Kunst in Munich (Director)
Known For: As a writer, critic, and editor, as well as a curator, Enzewor serves on numerous curatorial teams and advisory boards.
Curatorial Approach: Enwezor’s exhibition topics focus primarily on post-colonial art and political activism.
Most Notable Exhibition: In Enwezor’s case, it’s a tie: As the artistic director of the second (and final) Johannesburg Biennale, Enwezor’s “Trade Routes: History and Geography” is largely credited as an important moment for African art on an international scale. As curator of Documenta 11 in 2002, he made the exhibition truly international, conceiving it as a series of decentralized “platforms” located in Vienna, Berlin, New Delhi, St. Lucia, and Lagos, as well as the main event in Kassel.
Weirdest Exhibition: Not so much weird as revolutionary, “In/Sight,” an 1996 exhibition of African photographers at the Guggenheim helped challenge visual stereotypes of African representation.
Sartorial Flourish: The man can rock an ascot.

Massimilliano Gioni
Affiliation: The New Museum in New York (Associate Director and Director of Special Exhibitions); the Nicola Trussardi Foundation in Milan (Artistic Director)
Known For: Being the Wall Street Journal-annointed “crown prince” of the art world.
Curatorial Approach: Gioni frequently pulls together art regardless of genre classification, creating generally pleasant and thought-provoking juxtapositions.
Most Notable Exhibition: His “Younger Than Jesus” exhibition, the first iteration of the New Museum’s triennial, which he co-curated with Lauren Cornell and Laura Hoptman, reads like a “who’s who” list of hot young artists, from Cory Arcangel and Tauba Auerbach to Elad Lassry and Adam Pendleton.
Weirdest Exhibition: His exhibition for the Venice Biennale sports the theme “The Encyclopedic Palace,” based on an outsider artist’s theoretical museum, and contains a bizarre assemblage of art, including “anonymous tantric paintings” alongside work by Robert Crumb and James Castle.
Sartorial Flourish: No blazer, no tie.

Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev
Affiliation: Independent
Known For: Being the first woman to reach #1 on Art Review‘s annual “Power 100″ list.
Curatorial Approach: The American writer and art historian often takes a step back curatorially and lets the potentially-drawn associations between her disparately gathered artworks do the talking.
Most Notable Exhibition: Under her curatorial guidance, Documenta 13 in 2012 was a smashing success, drawing over 100,000 more visitors than its previous edition in 2007 and being an impressive feat of organization, as it spread beyond the usual location of Kassel, Germany to Kabul, Banff, and Cairo.
Weirdest Exhibition: Serving as the senior curator at MoMA PS1 in 2000, Christov-Bakargiev helped mount the first edition of the quinquennial “Greater New York” exhibition, which spotlights the very diverse (and very weird) art being made throughout New York City.
Sartorial Flourish: Scarves and those glasses.

Klaus Biesenbach
Affiliation: MoMA PS1 (Director) and MoMA (Chief Curator-at-Large)
Known For: His ascetic lifestyle, not having any furniture in his apartment.
Curatorial Approach: Ideas for Biesenbach’s exhibitions tend to derive from his own personal taste, which is excellent.
Most Notable Exhibition: While his retrospective for (former flame) Marina Abramović in 2010 deserves mention, “Any Ever,” the New York debut of innovative video artist Ryan Trecartin in 2011 probably takes the cake.
Weirdest Exhibition: In 2006, Biesenbach curated the group exhibition “Into Me/Out of Me” at PS1, which focused on the act of “passing into, through, and out of the human body.”
Sartorial Flourish: Tailored Terminator.

Thelma Golden
Affiliation: The Studio Museum in Harlem (Director and Chief Curator)
Known For: Championing early career artists.
Curatorial Approach: Golden’s exhibitions tend to focus on emerging African American artists, considering their work within nuanced conceptual and theoretical groupings.
Most Notable Exhibition: Shortly after joining the Studio Museum in 2000, Golden curated “Freestyle” (2001), a widely lauded exhibition of 28 emerging artists of African descent. Golden’s catalogue essay for the show introduced the concept of “post black,” a term coined by Golden that “identified a generation of black artists who felt free to abandon or confront the label of ‘black artist,’ preferring to be understood as individuals with complex investigations of blackness in their work.”
Weirdest Exhibition: Golden was on the curatorial staff at the Whitney when they launched their infamous “Identity Politics” biennial in 1993 that forever altered the course of contemporary art.
Sartorial Flourish: Bold patterns.

RoseLee Goldberg
Affiliation: Performa (Founding Director and Curator)
Known For: Writing the definitive tome Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present.
Curatorial Approach: As the driving force behind the Performa biennial, Goldberg is known for being on the cutting edge of performance art.
Most Notable Exhibition: Performa 2012 included commissioned work by a laundry list of art stars, including Elmgreen & Dragset, Ragnar Kjartansson, Liz Magic Laser, Laurel Nakadate and James Franco, Shirin Neshat, and Frances Stark.
Weirdest Exhibition: David Salle‘s first solo exhibition “Bearding the Lion in His Den” at the Kitchen in 1977, which featured ten high intensity light bulbs flashing at random while Tim Buckley’s “Song for the Siren” plays.
Sartorial Flourish: Killer bangs.

Paul Schimmel
Affiliation: It was recently announced that Schimmel will be joining the blue-chip gallery Hauser & Wirth as a partner in a new Los Angeles space, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, which is set to open in 2015.
Known For: Putting on critically acclaimed exhibitions year after year and getting unceremoniously fired for it.
Curatorial Approach: His vision is expansive and his exhibitions are often grand in scale, though they have often tended to focus on L.A.-based artists.
Most Notable Exhibition: Schimmel set the bar high with “Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990s” (1992), his first exhibition as chief curator at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, which sought to upset stereotypes about West Coast art and challenge the assumed superiority of the New York art scene.
Weirdest Exhibition: His (probably) once-in-lifetime show “Robert Rauschenberg: Combines” at LA MOCA (2005), which traveled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art the following year, a collection of over 50 of the postwar artist’s rare and fragile collages.
Sartorial Flourish: Cosby sweaters.


An Interview

Hans Ulrich Obrist and Damien Hirst 2007

‘Away from the Flock’ (1994). Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012

Hans Ulrich Obrist  You often work in series.

Damien Hirst  I’ve always liked series. I remember looking at Robert Motherwell’s painting when I was young. Do you know ‘Splashes by the Sea’? I thought that was great.

You get some sort of security from the repetition of a series. If you say something twice, it’s pretty convincing. It’s more convincing than if you say it once. [Laughs].

I think it’s also an implication of endlessness, which kind of theoretically helps you avoid death. I’ve thought quite a lot about it. In a way, that’s why smoking is so sexy. Apart from the addiction, the attraction is that there’s nothing certain in life and things change all the time, but you can always rely on something like a cigarette – which punctuates your whole existence time and time again – to be the same. It’s almost like you’re cheating death. But it’s killing you, so then, smoking becomes even sexier. People are afraid of change, so you create a kind of belief for them through repetition. It’s like breathing. So I’ve always been drawn to series and pairs. A unique thing is quite a frightening object.

HUO  A sort of umbilical cord in your work, which is more than a series, is the idea of the aquarium. You’ve spoken about that in many interviews before, but I thought it would be interesting if we could touch on it briefly. It revisits Minimalism but recharges it with a very different content. So how did this aquarium idea start?

DH  I’ve always had a thing about glass. I had a magic mushroom experience very early on where I got a bit freaked out about being symmetrical. I imagined I had a sheet of glass running right through me. Glass became quite frightening. I think glass is quite a frightening substance. I always try and use it. I love going around aquariums, where you get a jumping reflection so that the things inside the tank move; glass becomes something that holds you back and lets you in at the same time. Its’ an amazing material; it’s something solid yet ephemeral. It’s dangerous as well. I just love glass. And it’s a way to separate people but engage them. You can invite them in and keep them away at the same time. It’s probably my favourite material, glass. And water. No, my favourite material is water and then glass. But glass and water are very similar. Glass in water is amazing; glass disappears if you put it in water.

HUO  And there’s the series of animals in formaldehyde.

DH   ‘Natural History’ that was called. I just imagined a zoo of dead animals. I keep thinking that I’m done with that, but then I recently had the idea for the crucifixions, which I think are fucking brilliant; I have to do that. I think there’s a narrative within those now. I was also thinking about doing the Stations of the Cross as fourteen cabinet pieces. I don’t really think they’re a series. I’m not sure.

HUO  If one thinks about all the different series, one can see your whole work as a sort of open system from which new series start and others stop.

DH  I think they’re aspects of personality. It’s shit to go on the wall at the end of the day. You’re decorating apartments a lot of the time; it’s something to go over the sofa. I remember my friend Joe Strummer said to me that a long time ago, cavemen used to go out and smash buffalo over the head and bring them back and cook them and eat them. Then at some point there were are a couple of guys who got their hands in the blood and put something on the cave wall. It was just about making the cave nice. Art came out of the desire to make your habitat more interesting. I love that. Or even music – the guy who started banging bones together and the other guys said, ‘We like the sound of that and we like the way the walls look. Why don’t you guys stay her and we’ll get the meat for you, so at least when we get back to eat the meat we’ll be in a cool place?’ So I’ve always loved that kind of view of art: that art is a reflection of life. I think there’s an infinite number of ways to get to the same point. Every artwork is fundamentally the same thing.

HUO  Some of your work links to display features in science museums, and other works have more to do with scientific formulas. I’m interested in this relationship to science. Can you talk about that?

DH  I just hitched a ride on science – or not really science – it was medicine. It’s just collage, isn’t it? Art is always very simple, or good art is always very simple. I took science in the way that Picasso took the bike seat and the handlebars and made the bull’s head. I mean, there’s nothing complicated about it. Science seemed to be getting people’s attention and art didn’t, so I hitched a ride on that. Or people were believing in science and questioning art, so I just took it very directly and used the science. It’s been a very rich vein for me. It also partly came from David Cronenberg’s film ‘Dead Ringers’.

HUO  ‘Dead Ringers’ was the original of all the ‘Medicine Cabinet’ works?

DH  Yes. Jeremy Irons as a gynaecologist, in the red fucking robes, and those weird gynaecological instruments that were like art. It was that real high-end medical stuff. And I saw some dark, smoked cabinets in there and I thought, ‘Fucking hell. They look great.’ And so I made some myself. That, combined with seeing Jeff Koons’ Hoovers, and all that Neo-Geo stuff and Kurt Schwitters. I was thinking, ‘What would Kurt Schwitters be doing if he was alive today?’ Bless him, he’d be down the pub. He’d be a priest.

HUO  I think he might just have continued his Merzbau.

DH  Yes. He’d have finished it.

HUO  Because nothing could really stop him from doing it.

DH  Only one thing.

HUO  Death.

DH  Death, yes. Don’t you hate that guy?

HUO  Schwitters?

DH  Death. No, I like Schwitters. I just fucking hate death. He’s such a dumb guy.

HUO  It’s a dull fact. Leon Golub called death, ‘A dull fact’.

DH  If it’s true. I don’t know if it’s true. [Pause] Come on, it can’t be true!

HUO  It’s a rumour.

DH  Elvis is still around. And sex doesn’t really make babies. How the fuck could that work?

HUO  Another rumour.

DH  Yes, it’s a rumour. It’s bullshit. I heard a great quote by George Burns, the American comedian. Somebody asked him in an interview when he was about 96, ‘What do you think about death?’ And he said, ‘It’s been done’. [Laughs].

HUO   [Laughs] Great! We were talking about science.

DH  Yes, the whole story of it, alchemy and everything; it’s fantastic. Trying to understand the world, looking for the keys to understanding: that’s what artists do as well in some ways. It’s like God should be, the way they sell you the pills, the forms, the utopia, the hope, the cure. We’ve come a long way since quack doctors.

HUO  Were you inspired by science museums?

DH  Yes. I love them: science museums, natural history museums, anything that takes your mind off death, really, or focuses your mind on it. I love all that hands-on stuff. It’s great when you feel that you’re being entertained and also educated. I’ve always felt if you could do that with art it would be great.

HUO  I’m interested in finding out more about how you work, in terms of the collection, archives and studios. Picasso said one should never give up a studio: you should shut the door and take a new one and forget about it and accumulate more studios. Each time we’ve met, you’ve mentioned another place and it seems as if you’ve got lots of studios all over the world.

DH  I think you should definitely shut them down. Somebody once said to me, ‘Which bit do you like the most? You must love it when you’ve got all these big machines and tanks and people and they’re all in the gallery piling stuff in and there’s all this chaos.’ I said, ‘No. I fucking hate it.’ I like it when it’s all one and there’s just a perfect exhibition at the end. Picasso was obsessed with fame, he wasn’t he? He thought every time he wiped his ass people would find it important. I’m more convinced by the Beatles than Picasso these days.

HUO  Why the Beatles more than Picasso?

DH  They had much more influence on the people around them at the time, and they were struggling with truth in a much deeper way. They grew up in public and they went through so many changes. Picasso is brilliant, don’t get me wrong, especially the late Picasso. Maybe it’s because I’m an artist… When I was a kid, I just loved the Beatles. I think I wanted to be the Beatles or something. It’s funny because I was from a different generation. I wasn’t around when the Beatles were around. I was born in 1965, so I witnessed it second hand, in the same way, I suppose, that you witness Picasso second hand. And then I was too young to be a punk. A lot of our generation missed the punk thing that really split everything wide open; we came in the wake of it. We were like punk artists. Some of us have a lot of the attitude. I always thought; especially when you look at the Beatles and the artists who were around at the time – Richard Hamilton and Peter Blake – that the Beatles really made a different. The artists, especially compared to the Americans, didn’t really.

HUO  Warhol made a difference.

DH  Yes, it was Warhol and the Beatles. With Picasso, maybe the talent is a little too apparent. I don’t know. Picasso became his own idea of himself; he created a persona and he lived it, whereas the Beatles split at the height of their fucking success, which is a phenomenal thing to do. They just got sick of it; they said, ‘We’re not going on tour any more.’ They were never just going to take the money. Which is great for people from a working-class background.

HUO  Warhol is in your collection. Can you talk a little bit about him?

DH  Warhol’s great. You can’t argue with it. It’s simple, isn’t it? And visually great. It’s easy, cheap, simple. He certainly doesn’t over-complicate things. I think that’s good. And in terms of consumerism and all that sort of stuff, art has been in a constant battle for hundreds of years with every other kind of image-making. We’re fighting it today. The paintings that I’m doing now are about that battle. The paintings came out of the time when the newspapers went colour. When newspapers go colour, it’s almost like you get information overload and image overload. Newspapers are about facts and truth, and you believe you get a true view of the world from these images when you don’t: they’re completely fake.

HUO  Which paintings are you referring to?

DH  The realistic ones I’ve been doing. Like the ones in the Gagosian show this autumn. It’s like taking one of those images and trying to make it into a painting, because paintings you believe and images you don’t, so you want to throw away the images. What’s happened though, is that we believe in images.

HUO  How are these paintings made? Are they done by people who work with you, like in Warhol’s Factory?

DH  For two years I worked with a sculptor called Nick Lumb. I was giving him these little photographic images and saying, ‘I want it to look like that.’ But I didn’t really know what I wanted. We didn’t get any results – well, we did, but they were horrible. We were trying to do it with airbrushing. I kept going back to these paintings and hating them. And after all the airbrushing, after two or three years, we just went back to oil paint. When you’ve learnt all that discipline, the oil paint really cracks back in. They’re still not there, but all I know is they’re getting better. They’re getting closer to what I want. I’ve been setting up my own photographs. I’ve taken photographs of diamonds. I’ve been doing photographs of the Beatles; just creating this mass of images that keep piling up. But it’s real chaos because I don’t know what I want. I keep stopping and starting. I keep thinking about Goya and Soutine, and I sort of imagine that at the end of my life I’ll just fucking paint. I’ll be fucking sat in a tiny little room with one light bulb doing self-portraits on my own. There’s a lot of complications with what I do now. You have to be young, you have to be fit, to run the operation that I run, and I certainly don’t think I can get old running an operation like this.

HUO  So the operation will have to reduce?

DH  Yes. It will have to. If you’ve got people working for you, and they’re getting older and you keep replacing them with younger people, and you’re getting old too, it’s going to be mental. But if you keep everybody working for you and they get old, eventually they’re not going to be able to move big things around. So instead of getting rid of them younger, why not make the works smaller? You could make smaller things that they can carry. You’d end up with this fucking studio of old people carrying little things around – ‘Can you make it in wood, please? I can’t carry the steel.’ It would be good if you could do that. I love the idea of a company, an old-fashioned company. I’m just an old-fashioned boy at heart, really.

HUO  In some ways it does feel like a new model of Warhol’s Factory. But this idea of revisiting painting is interesting. You could get rid of all these structures without concentrating on painting. Why painting?

DH  It’s like, ‘Why books?’ It’s just a great way to convey a message. It’s a brilliant illusion. It’s very simple; the illusion that something two-dimensional is three-dimensional evokes emotions in people.

HUO  You mentioned that you’re doing a new show and a book of the drawings in New York.

DH  It’s called ‘CorpusI’ve just sent 300 drawings over to Larry Gagosian, so it’s kind of everything I’ve done. When I started doing the drawings, I didn’t really want anybody to see them. But as I’ve been doing it for longer and have got older, I think maybe it’s good to see them.

HUO  Is there a daily practice of drawing?

DH  Yes, it’s the first point of call, isn’t it? You have an idea, and when it gets too complicated to hold in your head, it’s a great way to visualise it. It’s a very cheap and effective way to visualise it. I love that. You can work out what size it needs to be. You can imagine it. So I’ve always done that. I can work out in a few lines with a pencil on a piece of paper how big I need to make a tank. That way, you don’t make expensive mistakes.

HUO  Peter Fleissig showed me the drawing of the shark.

DH  That was done after the fact. Peter said he wanted a drawing of the shark, so I did one. I think you can tell if they’re done afterwards because you can see they’re drawn from a photograph of the piece.

HUO  Are the drawings after the fact rare, or are there lots of them?

DH  I think as long as you don’t pretend that they’re done before, it’s OK. If someone said to me, ‘Can you do me a drawing of the shark?’ I don’t mind doing that. But the ones done before are more interesting, because you’re trying out different possibilities and you can see the progress of how you got to the actual shark.

HUO  Are there a lot of unknown drawings in the show that nobody has ever seen before?

DH  Yes, there are lots. There are some drawings of horrible sculptures that never got made. There’s one called ‘Lambie Loves Snoodle’. It’s got a pram in it and a baby monitor with a skull; it’s the very stupid idea of death talking to birth on a baby walkie-talkie or a mobile phone. The title was from a Lonely Hearts column.

HUO  That piece was never made?

DH  No. I don’t think it ever will be. There are lots like that. Loads. When you have an idea for an animal in formaldehyde, you do drawings for every animal. I was going to do a big Raft of the Medusa with dead animals and meat and big butchers’ tables, but I never made it. There’s a great one of a butterfly made out of two pigs sewn together ass to ass; you cut the back end off it and then four sides of beef make the wings. It’s a huge thing, like a butterfly of death, which I never made. You do drawings very quickly, and that’s easy, but then you work out how much it’s going to cost to make it and it becomes a ridiculous amount of money.

HUO  There was this whole debate in the press the other day. People were asking about the shark: how will it be in the future? Does it matter if it’s a different shark? Does it matter whether or not you, as the artist, choose the shark? Can someone else make it?

DH  The idea of replacing the shark is a bit of a difficult one. The original shark (in ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living‘) was done badly – that’s the problem. With the other ones, you probably won’t replace them. Everything is replaceable in my mind, but then, I’m not the person who’s going to decide that, because it happens when you’re gone. But I feel pretty bad about the way the shark was looking, because it’s deteriorated. A shark has got to look fierce. So I think it really had stopped doing what I wanted it to do. The problem with the shark was that it was done with MoMA and it was done with Charles Saatchi; there were too many people doing it and they all got involved with the commission. Different people advised them that there was no need to inject the shark. I wanted to inject the shark, they didn’t want to inject it – Charles can be a bit bullish – and they pushed me into not injecting it. So in the end, it didn’t get injected, and it was the only thing that didn’t get injected. Then we had all the stories that it had started floating; it completely rotted insider, and we had some real problems with it. In the end, Charles went off on his own and had it gutted and skinned and stretched over a fibreglass mould, so it wasn’t a real shark after a while, and it just started to be totally wrong: it was the wrong shape, it just didn’t look frightening, didn’t look dangerous, didn’t look like a shark. So for me to get involved at this point now, knowing what I know, I can go back in and get a new shark and make it look exactly like I wanted it to look originally because I’m still alive, so I think that’s good. But that’s an example of an artwork being handled really badly. It’s not like the ‘Venus de Milo’. The arm is missing – it looks great. With old art you’ve got to use a lot of imagination. In a way there’s a big joy in looking at things and reconstructing their past lives. I mean, every day you have to deal with your own mortality, so a good way of doing that without too much fear is to deal with the mortality of an object.

HUO  Some artists in the 1960s tried to make contracts stating that a work had to be dealt with in a particular way. That was another part of my question: how do you feel about that difficult business?

DH  I don’t mind. There are two things in an artwork, aren’t there? There’s a visual thing and there’s a cerebral thing; there’s a mind thing and an eye thing going on. And then mind thing is always secondary; no matter how great or important conceptual art is, at the end of the day, it’s secondary to the eye thing. If it looks fucking good on the wall, none of that matters; it’s really not important. But I think you’ve got to be careful. When you’re making an artwork, there’s an idea and you play around with it and then it comes to life. But you can have an idea and put things together, and then it doesn’t work. So I suppose if things can come to life then they can also die. You can create an artwork, and it comes to life, but then maybe 500 years later it dies. I’ve never really thought about that. It’s a weird thought; a good thought.

HUO  A limited lifespan? Like buildings.

DH  Yes, like everything else. In my mind I think that art’s immortal, but maybe it has a limited lifespan. All these Old Masters are falling apart, and we’re clinging onto them through preservation. It’s like in that film of HG Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’, when the books fall apart in his hands. You’ll get that happening with art, I guess. With a Jackson Pollock painting that’s going to happen eventually. Or is it? You can create it digitally. Maybe art is like true love; maybe it never dies. That’s my hope, anyway. But it will die with the world. If we do nothing, the earth is going to smash into the sun, so we’re fucked really.

‘An Interview’ constitutes excerpts from an interview (with permission from the artist and the interviewer) which took place in connection with the exhibition ‘In the darkest hour there may be light. Works from the Damien Hirst murderme collection’ at Serpentine Gallery, London.

Copyright © Hans Ulrich Obrist/Damien Hirst, 2008.

Hans Ulrich Obrist — A Biography

Hans Ulrich Obrist is Co-director of the Serpentine Gallery, London. He has served as curator of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and has curated 250 exhibitions worldwide.

Obrist’s recent publications include A Brief History of Curating and The Conversation Series (Vol. 1-20.)

In 2011, Obrist has been awarded the Bard College Award for Curatorial Excellence and the Swiss Institute Honoree Award 2011.


Artfacts.Net Interview with Hans-Ulrich Obrist

Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Marek Claassen
Hans-Ulrich Obrist is one of the most prestigious curators of contemporary art. Currently he serves as a Co-director of Exhibitions and Programmes, and Director of International Projects at the Serpentine Gallery in London.

AfN: Hello Mr. Obrist

HUO: Hello. Good morning.

AfN: Rather randomly I browsed to a web site called A website where usually scientists publish their very personal opinion, for example their dangerous idea. Now it’s you the curator asking about the formula of life. When did your connection to the world of science occur?

HUO: My connection to science started a long time ago in Germany. When I was a young curator, I started to work with Kasper König in Frankfurt. He was at Portikus, at Städelschule in the early 90s. We were working in ’91 on a book called “The Public View”, my first book, and then on a big painting show called “Der zerbrochene Spiegel” [The broken mirror], in ’93 in Vienna. I was contacted by Christa Maar who runs the Academy of the Third Millenium which brought people like Ernst Pöppel, Wolf Singer, two German neurologists, together with architects and scholars from all disciplines and artists.

In ’93, they had invited me to come to the Academy meetings. For me, it was really a revelation because it was the first time I met scientists. I had never met scientists before in my life, I was always with art and architecture. I had long conversations with Ernst Pöppel and others. And that really triggered a relation to science. I would show Semir Zeki a Mark Rothko exhibition, and he would tell me about neuroscientific issues, about what happens in our brain when we see a Mark Rothko painting.

So little by little, I began to think that it could be very interesting to connect artists with these scientists and develop an approach. And one of the first approaches was called “Art & Brain” which we did in a science centre in Germany where we basically had an extended coffee break. Carsten Höller was there, Rosemarie Trockel, Douglas Gordon and many others. And then, after that extended coffee break, we did another project called “Bridge the gap?”, and another one called “Laboratorium” which then became a bigger project.
I started this thing at a certain moment when I thought it could be interesting not only to do conferences but also bring that science link into the medium of the exhibition which is my primary medium. I basically worked on these different things and on conferences like the 24-hour marathon here in London. That obviously shifts the rule of the game of what a conference is.

But for me, the main medium remains the exhibition. And the question was how to bring science into an exhibition, and this was the primary focus for “Laboratorium” in ’99 – the show which Barbara Vanderlinden curated, where we invited scientists and artists to talk about the laboratorium, about their studio, about their science lab. Different labs have happened in Antwerpen. Rosemarie Trockel did her sleeping lab; Jonas Mekas revisited Andy Warhol‘s factory, and wondered what happened to the factory later on, what it became; we had Luc Steels developing colour recognition experiments and robots; we had basically Panamarenko defining his laboratory, his studio to be close to the public; it was a secret place; and we invited also the eminent Bruno Latour to actually curate a show within the show, and he came up with this idea of the table top experiments. So he curated a series of public lectures and demonstrations where scientists, artists and architects would publicly present either a new or an old experiment. So that’s the first time in ’99 where we – the science investigation – reached a critical mass. We really developed a larger scale exhibition.

Then it moved on with conferences again like “Bridge the gap?” with Akiko Miyake where we invited – for a week – scientists, artists and architects to Japan, and had a sort of a think tank where art meets science meets architecture in a different environment. In this case it was a house on the outskirts of Kitakyushu, very remote.

Then, I moved to London last year, and we started with Julia Peyton-Jones to welcome these different projects of the Serpentine Gallery: education and public programmes, exhibition, and architecture which are the three main strings. Obviously, the question was also: how can the pavilion be a “content-machine”? And Julia had initiated and invented in 2000 this pavilion scheme with world leading architects doing a temporary pavilion every year. Together, we invited Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond to design the pavilion, and we spoke with them about his idea that it could also be a forum, an agora for conversation. We had a very intense summer of conversation last year which culminated in the marathon, and Rem said, architecture without content is meaningless shape. So when this year, we approached Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen, they immediately picked up on this idea as well but pushed it further, and Olafur agreed to be involved. Olafur was here most of the weeks; there was a colour experiment, there was an experiment of models; there was another one about sound. The pavilion became a musical instrument.
Olafur and I had been through “Bridge the gap?”, but also through an event in Eidar, in Iceland which was another interdisciplinary think tank. So it’s a really long story. We’re working a lot on these art-science-relationship. So we felt it could be interesting that the pavilion becomes really a place where a marathon of experiments could take place. And Olafur thought that maybe last year, there have been enough conversations, and it could be interesting to, this year, really not talk but ask people to do something, to do an experiment in the pavilion. There have been up to 60 experiments on the Frieze weekend in October, ten days ago, where artists, scientists did an experiment. The results are on

Hans-Ulrich Olbrist during the interview in the streets of London

AfN: And is this your formula of life?

HUO: Yes, that brings us to the question about the formula. Besides the exhibitions, the conference season, the symposium, I have always had this other type of projects, more immaterial exhibitions which are basically “Do it”, a book made out of recipes, or also “The future will be” where I had asked artists to define the future, and my most recent project of such an immaterial exhibition is “Formulas for the 21st Century”.

So in the last 18 months, I started to ask artists from all over the world to send a formula for the 21st century. It was triggered by an interview I made with the great inventor Albert Hofmann. At the end of the interview, he drew on a piece of paper the formula of LSD. It was an incredibly simple formula, and I just thought “wow, it could be interesting to ask 100 artists to email their formula!”. My projects are kind of a flanerie. Out of this flanerie, things very often – also by chance – develop. It’s not a masterplan. These things, these projects just happen. Little by little, whenever the artists email a formula, I put it on the wall of my office. At the beginning, when I started to work here, my office was empty, there were just three formulas on the wall, and then, the office became more and more full with these formulas which had been faxed or emailed. After about the year, the whole office was full with these formulas.

One night, when we had an opening, Brian Eno who is my neighbour here in Notting Hill and who obviously had been one of the world’s great pioneers to bring music in relation to science, he came with John Brockman to one of our openings. John Brockman is the founder of “Edge”. He saw all these formulas on the wall at my office, got really excited and said “this is an ‘Edge’ project! We should do something together!”. I had known John Brockman for almost 10 years, through James Lee Byars and many other common friends, but we never had collaborated directly. I contributed to some of his online-things but we have never done a big project together. He said: “You do it with artists but I could ask the ‘Edge’ list to contribute”. John Brockman asked all the scientists of his mailing list to send a formula; so in some kind of way, he had quite a parallel way of working. He took my idea, obviously with my acquaintance, and asked his mailing list to send a formula which we then presented as part of the science marathon we did here. We invited John Brockman not only to do this formula but we also thought it could be interesting that John Brockman actually does a section of the marathon. Brockman invited about 10 scientists to do an experiment, so there was an ‘Edge’ sequence. Projects of this sort are not developed in one masterplan. It’s an archipel-like model of different islands which we then connect in many different ways. So there was a John Brockman island, there was a Israel Rosenfield and Luc Steels island;…. On the website, you can see an image of each experiment.

What happened is that suddenly this immaterial exhibition of formulas has, by being on ‘Edge’, reached a completely other context. Suddenly we ended up on top of Boing Boing which is the biggest blog on the planet, and hundreds of thousands of people all over the world would visit it. To some extent, that obviously is very important for us because it is not only about bridging the gap between disciplines, but it’s also about reaching art and building bridges to other visitors who usually would not come to an art gallery, and we have 800,000 visitors p.a. Admission is free. So this kind of way is also an interesting link to the internet. You go to “Edge”, it’s free. You come to the Serpentine, it’s free.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2007 by Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen

AfN: ‘Edge’ always asks these interviews “What is your question?” with a question mark. And you have a website called “Point d’ironie”, and there is also a question mark but it’s turned upside down. So I asked myself how these things are linked with each other? It has nothing to do with irony, right?

HUO: No, artists like James Lee Byars or Alighiero Boetti have been immensely influential for me when I started in the late 80ies, early 90ies to work as a curator. James Lee Byars had in ’71 this wonderful project called “The World Question Center”. It was a huge inspiration for me, but it was also an inspiration for Brockman who has seen Byars earlier than me because he started earlier than me. But we both, being from different generations, were equally inspired by James Lee Byars, and we kind of met through this inspiration by James Lee Byars‘ “World Question Center”. And he asked as an artist all the eminent people like Freeman Dyson, the Dalai Lama among others, to ask one question. He’d ring them, and the moment, he had that question, he’d hang up the phone. So the World Question Center was certainly a trigger.

The “point d’ironie” leads us to another project; it is related in a sense that we disseminate art broader than just in the conventional way, and it’s got to do with this idea of inventing other circuits of disseminating art. The “point d’ironie” was really a discussion between Christian Boltanski, the French artist, Agnes B., the French designer, publisher, and collector, and myself. About ten years ago, we were thinking, it could be nice to do two-folded posters that would be a magazine and a poster in one. We had printed hundreds of thousands of copies and distributed them for free all over the world. If you go the “point d’ironie”-website, you will see that it’s been going on now for ten years. Jonas Mekas did the first issue; the most recent ones were done by Damien Hirst and also by Richard Prince and Hreinn Fridfinnsson. What is interesting is that each time, it’s also a different circuit because we print about a hundred thousand copies and distribute it globally, obviously through Agnes B.’s channels, then through the mailing list of museums, but each time also, through where the artist wants it to travel. So the artist brings each time his or her mailing list. I think, to some extent, that’s the core of this project.

Currently, we have all these forces of globalisation, and obviously, they lead to a danger because sometimes the danger is that in my world of exhibition, they can lead to a homogenising force. The difference disappears. I believe in this idea that we use the forces of globalisation because they are an opportunity, a possibility to stimulate and trigger more global dialogue but that we, at the same time, resist those homogenising forces so that we define models which are actually a difference producing globalisation.

AfN: We are sitting here in this wonderful pavilion designed by Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorson. It’s a temporary installation. This pavilion will be replaced by another one. Isn’t this sad, don’t you want to keep it. What’s your relationship to possession?

HUO: Interesting question. I mean, to some extent, exhibitions are temporary mediums that is so much related to possession. In the art world, there is a strong art market; there is galleries, there is collections, and I think that’s incredibly important. I am very much convinced that there is a necessity for that because it helps to create sustainable, long-term presence of art and of architecture.

However, parallel to that, it is very important that we have laboratories, that we have experiments which not necessarily last, which are temporary because they allow to test things, they allow to test ideas, they allow new things to emerge, and I have always seen my role rather on that end to basically develop experimental situations where temporary constellations can be tested and can be invented. The exhibition is very much a temporary medium; exhibitions are temporary constellations of objects, of quasi objects, of processes which, after the exhibition, dissolve again. You have a book, you have a website, sometimes you have a lot of interviews and conversations, you have a memory, you have a documentation, you have archives, you produce archives but not necessarily permanent objects. With architecture it is similar because we are not producing permanent situations but we basically produce temporary architecture, temporary buildings which are pavilions. And this project initiated by Julia Peyton-Jones has actually developed a very very global visibility for architecture because it is visited by hundreds of thousands of people, it is published all over the world. However, it is not creating a lasting building here. First of all, we are not allowed to do it because this is “Royal Parks”, and it can only have temporary things but beyond that, it is also carried by the belief that temporary architecture sometimes produces the most innovative architecture. If you look at the history, there have been a lot of incredible inventions of architecture done by pavilions. If you think for example of the Mies van der Rohe pavilion in Barcelona…

Buckminster Fuller once said that maybe we can own cars or buildings, but we can also consider cars or buildings to be a service which means we only have the building when we need it. We only have a car when we need it. We do not necessarily have to own a car. […]
However, I do believe that there is a place and a necessity for such experiments which are not necessarily gone by thinking. Somebody builds a building, and it has got to last; he builds that building with a different spirit than if he builds a building for two or three months. So it gives the freedom to the architect to really test something maybe more daring, more extreme than he or she would if it was a permanent building. He would build a different pavillion. [...]

AfN: You are known a somebody who breaks the custom habits of viewing (e.g. Hotel Carlton Palace, Cloaca Maxima, Take me (I’m yours)) or the casual ways of presenting art (e.g. Biennale Lyon). Your putting the things in a different context or adding a layer. It’s like reminding the people: Hey, this is art, it’s here and there it’s everywhere. Do you consider yourself as somebody appointed to train our senses?

HUO: I think it grew out of a necessity of conversations with artists. […] Alighiero Boetti once told me that, as an artist, he was always asked to do the same thing. You are asked to do gallery shows, you are asked to do museum shows, you are asked to do these very repetitive things, and it is unbelievably limited and restraining. [...] [An art project and its realisation] are very much driven by discussions where one thinks about how to produce reality, how to make things happen which very often prove to be possible. [...] It has to do with making things happen but it has also to do with the fact that when you ask an artist to do things which are not a routine but which are slightly different, he produces sometimes very very different work. […] It is the drive or necessity to produce new experiences

AfN: Another thing, something that striked me by reading one of the many interviews you did was that there was quite a lot of traveling involved. But not in the sense of just visiting some other place more in the sense of the German word “Wanderjahre” (journeyman). Where one to be considered professional has to gain knowledge by working and learning through emigration. Is this physical emigration obligatory if someone wants to succeed in the art world?

HUO: […] Since last year, I spend my week, from Monday to Friday, in London. Then I started to always travel from Friday night to Monday morning, each time to another continent. So I do my China research, the India research, and then my New York research – I changed my rhythm, and I began to do more short journeys. [...] In 2000, at a certain moment, I chose not to travel at all, to stay for three years at one place. [...] There are so many professions in history where it was not necessary to travel at all, and the idea that it becomes an obligation, in the worst case, even to do travelling without it being a necessity or a pleasure or a conviction, is not beneficial. It cannot be an obligation. Everybody travels, and it is certainly good that there is a lot of travelling going on but then, at the same time, maybe it is not important for every practice. Whenever I write a book, I cannot travel. Then I have – for several weeks – to stay somewhere. So to some point of vue, it is about rhythms, waves with intervals, pauses, silences.

I mean, sometimes it is very interesting not to go somewhere but to imagine a journey; if you think for example of Robert Walser’s fictitious Gazettes Parisiennes or Joseph Cornell’s European Grand Tour that never took place. It happened in the imagination.
And particularly in terms of exhibitions, it is sometimes not necessary to travel, sometimes it is more important to do a local research. One of my most interesting experiences was for example when I did the first Berlin Biennale with Nancy Spector and Klaus Biesenbach, and we decided “let’s just look at Berlin!” [for the selection of artists]. So we did not proceed like curators who travel all over the world to catch artists for a biennale but we just stayed in Berlin and looked at all the artists who live and work in Berlin. And it was really a very interesting experience. [...] I prefer to focus on a few places and to dig deep. The cities where I live are obviously the cities where I research more deeply what is going on. [...]

AfN: I always had the feeling that there are three different layers in the profession of an artist. You either are a teacher, or an installation artist in shows or you produce for the art fairs. And some of them serve every layer. Do you think that this trichotomy exists?

HUO: The big danger is that there is a pressure to homogenise practices, and that the difference disappears. It is interesting, to some extent, to resist this whole organisation and to be different. [...] Everbody doing the same leads to an impoverishment, and in some kind of way, it is all about how – in a context where the homogenising forces are at stake – to produced a difference. That’s why there cannot be a prescription which says “It has got to be this way. An artist has to be like this”. It is something which has really to do with finding out one’s own projectory.
It has a lot to do with “Spaziergangswissenschaften” (Lucius Burckhardt). There are so many different ways of navigating the world.

AfN: But the artists you choose, do you meet them by wandering around?

HUO: It is also systematic. As John Cage said, it is chance but it is very controlled chance. […] I have been very inspired by Cage’s idea of the musical score and analogue the curatorial masterplan being too policing; maybe we should allow more chance in it, we should allow more improvisation, and that is something that you have in urbanism, in music a lot.
[…] At the same time, you have Yona Friedman or Oskar Hansen and Cedric Price in urbanism who, since the 60s, have talked about how to question the masterplan.
If you look for example at these people over there at the bus stop, we do not know whether they are going to take the bus or to change their mind, maybe they are going to walk… there is a lot of unpredictability, and how can we actually bring what urbanism and music have done since the 60s about questioning the masterplan, to curating. In terms of curating, it is very much about the masterplan. The curator makes the list of artists. In France, you even call the curator a “commissaire” which is police vocabulary. I found it very inspiring: music and urbanism, and how I can bring that into curating and develop self-organisation, develop models where controlled chance can enter.

AfN: Is this habit you have “quality”? – In the art world everybody speaks about “quality”. But when you talk, I get the impression that this is the quality of an artist – to jump in, to build a pavilion, to do something completely different. Would you call this quality in terms of an art work?

HUO: It’s also to change what we expect from art. I think, great artists always change what we expect from art.
And then there is the famous “étonnez-moi”. In the conversation with Cocteau and Diaghilev and the Ballets russes which was a great moment where art met theatre, and there was this famous explanation, and they said “étonnez-moi” (surprise me).

AfN: Dear Mr. Obrist, thank you for the interview


Hans Ulrich Obrist interviews Emily Wardill

Curator Hans Ulrich Obrist talks to Emily Wardill about her enigmatic film work

'Sick Serena and Dregs and Wreck and Wreck', 2007, 16mm film. Courtesy Fortescue Avenue London. Photo Polly Braden

‘Sick Serena and Dregs and Wreck and Wreck’, 2007, 16mm film. Courtesy Fortescue Avenue London. Photo Polly Braden

Hans Ulrich Obrist: It’s the first month, the 10th year, the first decade, the third millennium and we’re in London — Deleuze wrote about repetition and difference…

Emily Wardill:
Yes, I was thinking about him, because I was thinking about windows.


Throwing a body through a frame. You couldn’t really throw yourself out of that window.

No, I couldn’t throw myself out of the window. But why do you think about windows this morning?

Partly because I’m working on a catalogue at the moment and trying to organise everything under ideas of theatre and the object in the window, and I had heard that Deleuze, when he threw himself out of the window, did it because he was trying to get air into his lungs.

Christian Boltanski told me that in an artist’s life there are a couple of inventions, great inventions, just as in a scientist’s life. Benoît Mandelbrot still remembers the day he discovered fractals. When was the first time you had an awakening epiphany?

I think art made sense of the feeling that some things make sense and some things don’t. Maybe it was more accumulative than an epiphany.

Do you remember the first piece you were happy with?

I was really into editing and filmmaking — it was a performance piece (a re-enactment of Joris-Karl Huysmans’ black dinner from À rebours, 1884), ‘The Feast Against Nature’, 2005. When I was making sense of that vast project — two years of trying to work out the voices and how they came together — I realised that something happens when you edit, you can make connections that are not expected. It was an important piece of work also because it was made as a collective.

'Sick Serena and Dregs and Wreck and Wreck', 2007, 16mm film. Courtesy Fortescue Avenue London. Photo Polly Braden

‘Sick Serena and Dregs and Wreck and Wreck’, 2007, 16mm film. Courtesy Fortescue Avenue London. Photo Polly Braden

So it was a performance in which, for the first time, things came together. What was your inspiration?

I remember being struck by Des Esseintes’ temporary loss of virility and that this gigantic black feast would then be something ridiculous and grand at the same time. And also the idea of decadence — decadence in the sense of the late 19th century word, but also the American contemporary version of decadence, which relates to its original meaning — a kind of moral decay (in relation to Gary Indiana). It was just before Bush was re-elected, so that feeling was really present in people’s minds in New York. In England this decadence came across as a much more romantic sort of dandy-esque embodiment.

And did you see a link to ‘happenings’?

Yes, people had this pathological relationship to the thing they were talking about instead of having an academic one, and I think that that was something, as I understand the ‘happenings’, that happened to the participants; that you would kind of play through your roles, be it gender roles or societal structures.

Etel Adnan, the seminal poet and painter from Lebanon, says that identity is shifty, identity is a choice.

That you perform it? Yes, and also that you can have stories you hold onto, that you carry along with you as ‘being’, as opposed to being therapy which demands you search for answers and origins. Adam Phillips talks about this.

Cerith Wyn Evans was telling me the other day that when he was a student Peter Gidal told him to read Proust and Beckett and that had completely changed his life — have any books changed your life?

A Fire On The Moon by Norman Mailer. He was commissioned by the American government to write about the moon landing and it got really slated by the critics. So he took out an ad in the New York Times which published all the criticism from Moby Dick when that first came out. Hilarious. The thing I liked about it was it was constructed like Moby Dick, so it had this big sort of technological expansion in the middle of it, but also right in the beginning he puts himself in it. Even though it’s about a grand world event, he’s always there. He always places himself there so you have this thing that’s both expansive and grounded in autobiography — everything that is wrong with him, all his vices, all his insecurities and passions and posturing become part of this world event — when you hold a lens up to something it makes it big but you’re aware of it being small and you’re aware of the mechanics of that sort of magnification as well.

'Game Keepers Without Game', 2009, video. Courtesy Fortescue Avenue London. Photo Polly Braden

‘Game Keepers Without Game’, 2009, video. Courtesy Fortescue Avenue London. Photo Polly Braden

Obrist: Any other books which are oxygen?

I’ve been reading Carlo Ginzburg’s essay ‘Making It Strange’ (from Nine Reflections on Distance). He’s talking about Tolstoy’s writing, which he wrote from the perspective of a horse, and this idea of changing perspective in order to point out how strange common sense is. And then, Love is Colder than Death, the Fassbinder book. I love where he talks about his films being like the walls of his house. So he never needs a house because he’s constantly making films. That’s his stability. The thing I like about it is that it can’t just belong to him.

After that you made your first solo show, the legendary Reader’s Wife at Fortescue Avenue.

The Reader’s Wife was an expansion of the Smithson example of the boy running around in a sand pit that’s half black sand and half white sand. If he runs around clockwise it turns grey and if he turns around anti-clockwise it doesn’t go back into its two distinct halves. I was really interested in how that stage towards understanding could become a kind of theatrical stage and how you could then re-complicate it and make new connections from it. So in terms of fictionalising significant spaces, it was a kind of an epiphany. I’m using your word now. I’m not sure if I like the word.

What does London mean to you as a kind of context where you work?

I keep on getting out of London and then coming back and really liking it a lot more than when I left. But I think what’s hard about London to leave is that it’s full of people that I love and respect and it’s full of a kind of energy which is special.

: So cities are people?

Yeah, but when I went to Marseilles last year I really liked it better then any other city. That was a different thing, because in Marseilles it feels like everyone is outside and swarming around each other. The beaches in the city are all rocky with graffiti and people go swimming as the sun sets. Everyone is in on it — grandmas, kids, groups of teenagers playing guitar, army men, inflatable aeroplanes…

'Game Keepers Without Game', 2009, video. Courtesy Fortescue Avenue London. Photo Polly Braden

‘Game Keepers Without Game’, 2009, video. Courtesy Fortescue Avenue London. Photo Polly Braden

Obrist: In 2006 you did the exhibition Basking In What Feels Like An Ocean Of Grace, I Soon Realized That I’m Not Looking At It, But Rather, That I Am It Recognizing Myself. Titles seem important to your work. Sometimes you have verylong titles. What’s their role?

Well that one was because the film was based around a soundtrack I wrote which reflects in on itself. So if you look at sheet music, it’s like you’re holding a mirror down the middle of it and then you play the music backwards. But I didn’t want to actually play it backwards, because I thought it would have allusions to Satanism and I didn’t want that. So the title becomes a thing that’s almost semi-therapeutic — it has to do the same thing that the work is doing.

What role does chance play in your work?

It helps. [laughter] It’s dangerous but it helps.

Is music important to you?

Definitely. Because it does this thing where it bypasses your brain. I’ve been thinking about dub a lot for the new film, because of this relationship of sort of talking to people who are dead and on repetitions. But I also like what Marguerite Duras said when she was making ‘India Song’— that she played music to the actors so they would relax and could do nothing without feeling.

You’ve got a lot of soundtracks to your films.

Well in something like Basking In What Feels Like An Ocean Of Grace, I Soon Realized That I’m Not Looking At It, But Rather, That I Am It Recognizing Myself, the music gives it structure, becomes this cage. But with something like BornWinged Animals and Honey Gathers the Soul, [2005], the music is much more like an image. The next film was called ‘Ben’ [2005], and I quite like the fact that that title was so surly in relationship to the earlier title. It was shot on a set built to look like it was black and white but is in colour and has two stories about Ben. Ben becomes an object halfway through — I was thinking about case studies, and how they take ostensibly casual situations and expand out to reach giant conclusions and patterns which can be applied to other situations. Because one of the case studies is about a person suffering from paranoia, I tried to make the film paranoid. It’s like when you can’t disconnect the idea from the form.

'Game Keepers Without Game', 2009, video. Courtesy Fortescue Avenue London. Photo Polly Braden

‘Game Keepers Without Game’, 2009, video. Courtesy Fortescue Avenue London. Photo Polly Braden

Obrist: What about the sound of ‘Ben’?

The sound is two voices and one of them one is the voice of a girl — Keisha Sandy Wellington. She’s reading the case study about the man Ben. The other is the voice of a hypnotist — he lulls you into feeling you can trust him. He’s like the voice of God as voice-over. She’s a much more faltering, fragile voice.

Which film followed Ben?

After ‘Ben’, I made a film called ‘Sick Serena and Dregs and Wreck and Wreck’, [ICA, 2007]. It was a kind of playlet based on ideas from British stained glass. I was trying to shoot it in such a way that it looked like the colours were really saturated but also, as with stained glass, things are framed in a really illogical and fragmented and, it seems, in very contemporary way. The stuff I was looking at was medieval English — you have faces with eyes and noses lobbed off and all these kind of strange framings. The film is framed in a similar way, but it was the beginning of an interest in the way in which stained glass windows were used to communicate to a largely illiterate public. I was trying to make this connection between that and the way Karl Rove had woven religion into the republican party discourse. So that then leads on to the film ‘Sea Oak/The Diamond (Descartes’ Daughter)’ which was a much more pedagogical way of thinking about that.

Why Descartes’ Daughter?

Because there’s a famous story about him being summoned by Queen Christina to be part of her court and he doesn’t want to go because he is scared his thoughts will freeze over like the water in Sweden. He was right because that was when he died.

And so his intuition was right?

Yeah. His daughter had died when she was five, of scarlet fever and it was the big sorrow in his life that he carried around. He booked into this journey on a ship with his daughter but they never saw her with him. There was a huge storm and in the midst of it the sailors went to look for Descartes. There was no one in his quarters but they found a box with a little automaton that he built that moved just like a little girl. They were shocked by this and thought she had cursed the journey. So they threw her overboard. So he loses his daughter twice, but the second time he loses her she’s a strange embodiment of all his rational ideas taken to the point of irrationality. I thought that this was amazing.

'Game Keepers Without Game', 2009, video. Courtesy Fortescue Avenue London. Photo Polly Braden

‘Game Keepers Without Game’, 2009, video. Courtesy Fortescue Avenue London. Photo Polly Braden

Obrist: Your work has a lot to do with the digital relating to the physical.

Often the way I make a film is to start it as a performance. Similarly with ‘Gamekeepers Without Game’— the performance ‘Life is a Dream’, at the Serptentine, helped me to think through the film.

So the performance triggers the film, the film triggers performance? It’s kind of a communicating vessel maybe?

Yes, but I’m also quite slow, my brain works quite slowly. Which is why I’m not very good at keeping up with these ideas of epiphanies. But that being so, it helps me to think through what the film is going to become.

Can you tell me about this performance you did in Reykjavik [relates to ‘Sea Oak/The Diamond (Descartes’ Daughter)’]?

It was about this imagining of me, trying to remember this scene from a film where there’s a diamond in a room protected by lasers, but also, the search for that scene. So I re-created the scene and then I had a girl dressed up as one of the subjects that Etienne Jules-Marey used to use when he was conducting chromophotography. She’s playing on a Nintendo Wii under a strobe light, so she’s a physical version of his photography. I was trying to think of a contemporary movement that was like sport: playing tennis with the television seemed to be the closest thing, using stunted mechanical movements particular to the present. With the voiceover I wanted to make the connection between this and the fact that his photography was really important in relation to proving the efficiency and productivity of the labour force in America. So there was a relationship between what this original and rationality, and a way of living that is like a machine.

Do you make drawings?

I have big sketch books full of things, full of workings through ideas and then I have photography and drawings.

Are they like storyboards?

Some are like storyboards. Some are like costume design — similar to things I’ve seen. Some are credits.

'Game Keepers Without Game', 2009, video. Courtesy Fortescue Avenue London. Photo Polly Braden

‘Game Keepers Without Game’, 2009, video. Courtesy Fortescue Avenue London. Photo Polly Braden

Obrist: 2010 has been a really active year because of the show at De Appel. But you also had a solo show called Solo Show?

Imaginatively! At Spacex. That was the same film I was showing at The Showroom in London — ‘Gamekeepers Without Game’.

Can you tell me more about that film and how it works?

Well, I wrote a script for a future film because I became interested in adopting modes of communication that are really familiar to explore ideas that are difficult. This script has everything you would have in a conventional melodrama: an introduction, a violent scene, a sex scene, a death scene. Everything’s told through objects that go from being status symbols, to evidence of crime, to theatrical props… and there are acted scenes you get dropped into, where people are acting very realistically, but not touching each other. It looks a bit like airline food, so you kind of have this separation, but it’s all brought together under the rubric of a script. There’s also a drumming soundtrack that’s in 5.1 that runs all the way through. So you have again this feeling of a house being built, but are aware of it being built through individual elements. It’s like individual drums become the bricks. It carries you through pathologically too. At one point, the younger son has a panic attack and you become anxious because the drums are fast. As he calms down they slow and you can relax.

It reminds me of the Fassbinder story of the house. You’re back to that idea — it seems recurrent.


There’s also the house of the Winchester Widow, where the widow of the man who invented the Winchester rifle builds room after room after room.

My next film, ‘Full Firearms’, is based on that story of Sarah Winchester — she had upset the spirits and they were hounding her, so she builds a house to accommodate them all. She was trying to disorientate them so they would leave her in peace. As a story it’s really intriguing but when you actually see the house, it’s kind of ‘wacky’ in a really tinny way.

'Game Keepers Without Game', 2009, video. Courtesy Fortescue Avenue London. Photo Polly Braden

‘Game Keepers Without Game’, 2009, video. Courtesy Fortescue Avenue London. Photo Polly Braden

Obrist: I’m wondering what your unrealised projects, dreams, utopias, projects, the projects you don’t dare do (as Doris Lessing pointed out to me recently were so important) might be?

I’m 32 so I hope I still have some unrealised projects! One of the things I really want to do, but probably won’t until I’m Doris Lessing’s age is to set up a film school/production company.

Your own structure?

Yes. And then have a group of people that you have a sense of responsibility towards.

Do you have a motto?

A motto?

Hans-Peter Feldman answered the question with an image — a photograph of a boy in front of a closed wooden door, next to a brick wall.

I like that. I like answering a question with an image, but I can’t do that here.

What’s your connection to science?

Science is massive, how am I supposed to answer that?

Duchamp was inspired by Poincaré.

Well, Marey was a scientist — I was really interested and still am in how those documents which are essentially scientific become influential outside their original intent… the Robert Smithson example as well is, obviously, an example which relates to entropy, I suppose. There’s a way in which science adopts the material in order to clarify its ideas that I find interesting.

What ought to change?

The people who are in power ought to change, the reliance of government on business, this ought to change, education should be more elliptical to the economy. Lots of things ought to change.

Are you a situationist?

The inheritance from the situationists is that spectacle is inherently suspect — I have a real problem with that. Though I obviously have a lot of respect for its history. I think a lot of art people have inherited this attitude, which is really problematic — it relates to a kind of inheritance from fascism, that spectacle in itself, is evil.

'Game Keepers Without Game', 2009, video. Courtesy Fortescue Avenue London. Photo Polly Braden

‘Game Keepers Without Game’, 2009, video. Courtesy Fortescue Avenue London. Photo Polly Braden

Obrist: What role does the computer play in your work. Paul Chan says, ‘Linking is beautiful and de-linking is sublime’.

De-linking is sublime?

There are moments when it is important to disconnect.

You know, I was in Chicago giving a lecture and I showed ‘Gamekeepers Without Game’ and a student asked me, ‘What’s the relationship between the white space and me and how am I supposed to enter this white space of your film’? I had to keep on asking him what he meant because I didn’t really understand. In the end, it seemed to me that it was a kind of compression: the film gets compressed and then de-compressed in your head. I think there’s something about what the computer does that has completely changed the way we think about that idea of what images can become and then how they come back to us. Also, it offers up the democratic promise of linking people up, but actually, what you’re doing is looking at a screen and it becomes a different matter. It has the potential to be so much, but that potential very often seems unrealised.

It’s a ‘spectacle of’ unrealised projects.

[laughs] Maybe so.

What’s your favourite mistake? In our western society, it has become very difficult to make use of mistakes.

I like when you make mistakes in bookshops and in record shops. When you go to buy something but buy something else. Or, I like it when people read things wrongly.

What was the new work you created yesterday?

[laughs] What I did yesterday was try to think about a compilation tape I made for a friend when I was a teenager. It had a picture of a woman on it and her spine was the spine of the cassette and I was thinking about how books become bodies.

'Game Keepers Without Game', 2009, video. Courtesy Fortescue Avenue London. Photo Polly Braden

‘Game Keepers Without Game’, 2009, video. Courtesy Fortescue Avenue London. Photo Polly Braden

Obrist: What’s your favourite sport?

Curling. Because it makes art look less ridiculous.

What’s time?

Can I answer that with a quote?

Yes of course.

‘The hands of the clock must know where they stand. Otherwise, neither is a watch but only a white face and a trick moustache.’

Beautiful. Who said that?


What have you forgotten?

So many things. [laughs]

Do you have dreams?

I have really good dreams. I often have dreams where I’m being chased by a faceless predator around a multi-story car park. I have better dreams than that but that’s a re-occurring one.

Please tell me about an exhibition that has inspired you?

An Anselm Franke one in Antwerp, Animism. It was very atmospheric but also intelligent. It didn’t make this strange disconnection between being emotional or intelligent. It was both things at the same time. Also, I really loved the Richard Wentworth at Lisson about a year ago. You saw all these objects from very different artists, from very different points in their career, but that didn’t matter; they were not named. You looked at them for what they were. You didn’t really understand it but then you saw the film about Rem Koolhaas’ house, shot from the perspective of the cleaner, and you realised in this generous and slow way —‘ah!, that’s it’ — it’s about seeing privilege from another position where it becomes almost comical.

What is energy?

Is it something to do with the present? I wonder if it is, I wonder if that’s why the present is so scary — why people are constantly deferring it. I mean that’s what money does isn’t it — it defers the present to what it might become.

Do you have nightmares?

I had a nightmare the night before the Haswell and Hecker laser show at Conway Hall. It haunted me for a long time. There was an old woman lying on top of me, scratching at me. She was still there when I was awake and I had to leave that show— the show was aggressive attacking.

Obrist: Jeannette Laverriere, an extraordinary one hundred-year-old designer in Paris, asks visitors, ‘Are you political?’, and if you say no she doesn’t see you. So are you political or do you think art is political?

I think politics has become this difficult thing now — I had a meeting the other day with the poet JH Prynne and he said to me. ‘I think artists are parasitical’, and I said parasitical in what way? I think there’s been this thing that politics has done very slowly, which is to create the idea that art is somehow parasitical and kind of dangerous. That it’s sort of fluffy. That it’s a useless thing and has been replaced by a weird sort of rationality, which is all to do with the way we spend and the way we serve and what we conserve. The government somehow doesn’t allow any sense of responsibility for that and I find that really terrifying and think it’s going to get worse. So, yes I’m political. It’s completely necessary to be political right now.

And the future is?

I’m not a predictor. I thought that’s what you do.

I listen to artists. I’m not predicting anything. Last question: what kind of cameras do you use?

I use everything, everything’s a technology. A lot of the time I’ve used an old Bolex camera, but then the last thing I shot was on HD with 35 mm lenses.

Do you have collections? Do you collect art or found objects?

I collect cassettes and records, CDs and sort of collect books. I’d like to collect art but can’t afford the art I’d like to collect.

What would you like to collect?

I’d collect Rembrandt’s ‘Abduction of Proserpina’, Hans-Peter Feldmann’s ‘All The Clothes of A Woman’, Hollis Frampton’s ‘Nostalgia’. Oh, lots of things. Actually, I was sort of inspired by the way that you ask questions, to go around asking people if they could collect ten things, what would it be? It’s a nice question to ask people.

And you’ve got already some answers?

Yeah, lots of people have different answers, and lots of people say they wouldn’t collect anything. They don’t feel like they should.

Hans Ulrich Obrist is co-director of exhibitions and programmes and director of international projects at the Serpentine Gallery, London



Photo Essays

Inside the Mind of Hans Ulrich Obrist

Portrait of Hans Ulrich Obrist by Ian Cheng and Micaela Durand (2013) (all images courtesy Badlands Unlimited)

Portrait of Hans Ulrich Obrist by Ian Cheng and Micaela Durand (2013) (all images courtesy Badlands Unlimited)

The celebrity curator may be a phenomenon on the rise, but before Klaus Biesenbach and Paola Antonelli, there was Hans Ulrich Obrist. Obrist, who’s currently the co-director of exhibitions and programs and director of international programs at London’s Serpentine Gallery, has a list of curatorial accomplishments so long, it’s daunting. He started out small enough, organizing a show in his kitchen in 1991 (he was 23) that included contributions from Christian Boltanski and Fischli & Weiss; in the decades since, he’s curated and co-curated more than 250 exhibitions, including the first Berlin Biennale and the first Manifesta. He’s also known for his ongoing conceptual projects, among them do it, a roving show built around artist-given instructions for viewers, and The Interview Project, for which he’s racked up more than 2,000 hours of conversation so far, with artists, writers, philosophers, scientists, and others.

It turns out he’s also been taking notes the whole time — making diagrams and sketches, scribbling down ideas and keywords. And when artist Paul Chan, who’s also the founder and publisher of Badlands Unlimited, found out that these copious notes and drawings existed, he knew he wanted to release them.

“I wanted to publish them because I’m surprised they exist, still,” Chan told Hyperallergic over email. “Badland’s publishing program is mindlessly simple: we publish things that no one knew existed. The poems of Yvonne Rainer, speeches on democracy by Saddam Hussein, afternoon interviews of Marcel Duchamp, and now this. I didn’t know he made them. Did you?”

The resulting book, Think Like Clouds, premieres at the New York Art Book Fair, where Badlands has also mounted a small exhibition of the some of the artworks — or whatever you might call them. “I don’t know if these drawings are important,” Chan said. “I don’t even know if they are in fact drawings. This is to me their appeal.”

Badlands sent us six of Obrist’s sketches specifically related to his curatorial practice:

All drawings untitled, ink on paper, date unknown

All drawings untitled, ink on paper, date unknown






And here are a few more from the book:






The New York Art Book Fair opens to the public today and runs through Sunday, September 22, at MoMA PS1 (22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City).



Hans Ulrich Obrist interview for Serpentine Gallery’s Map Marathon

Alastair Smart meets the Serpentine’s revolutionary co-director, officially the most powerful man in art.

Marathon man: Hans Ulrich Obrist

Not since Roger Federer has a Swiss reached the top of his profession with quite such speed and humility as Hans Ulrich Obrist, officially the most powerful man in art.

Obrist, 42, has come a long way since staging his first show in the kitchen of his student-flat in St Gallen in the early Nineties. The co-director of London’s Serpentine Gallery since 2006, last year he came No 1 in the annual ‘Power 100′ list published by ArtReview magazine, leaving previous winners – Hirst; Saatchi; Christie’s owner François Pinault; super-dealer Larry Gagosian – trailing in his wake.

Not that he himself paid much heed. Obrist reckons he’s a mere ‘utility’, arguing that ‘it’s not curators or collectors who set the art-world agenda, it’s artists. By definition, without them there would be no art world.’

Fair enough, Hans, but it’s surely no coincidence that Venice Biennale curator Daniel Birnbaum ranked fourth in the Power 100 – behind curator-cum-museum directors Glenn D Lowry (MoMa) and Sir Nicholas Serota (Tate). It seems that while artists’ prices and collectors’ clout have both waned in the global economic downturn, it’s now the moment of the creative curator.

But what sets Obrist apart from the rest? Well, first, a relentless schedule. He juggles day-job commitments at the Serpentine with endless freelance commissions around the world. He is newly returned from talent-spotting at the São Paulo Biennial in Brazil and, ahead of this week’s Frieze Art Fair jamboree in London, he’s just unveiled an exhibition of Anish Kapoor sculptures in Kensington Gardens.

‘The 21st-century curator works in a supremely globalised reality,’ he says. ‘Where once there were just a few centres, now the art world has a polyphony – India, China, Latin America, the Middle East…’ Obrist has done his bit to introduce us to artists from two of those centres, with his Serpentine group shows Indian Highway and China Power Station (held off-site in Battersea Power Station).

Fluent in six languages, with full-time museum jobs in Vienna and Paris behind him, he’s also bombarded with invitations to seminars and symposia, to discuss his trendy ideas about the future of exhibiting. The antithesis of your stereotypical, dusty-old-relic curator who never leaves his museum, Obrist is of a new, go-getting breed of über-curator.

He has long advocated taking art beyond the confines of the gallery –
as well as in kitchens, power stations and Kensington Gardens, Obrist has held shows in a monastery, an aeroplane and even Friedrich Nietzsche’s Alpine home in Sils-Maria.

‘To keep art stimulating, it’s important to open it up to new horizons, which includes showing it in unexpected contexts,’ he says, decrying the normal museum-going experience as ‘like being on a ski piste: go
left, go right… It’s too linear, too homogeneous.’

Traditionalists often call Obrist a charlatan, a celebrity curator intent on stealing the thunder from art and artist. But, in his defence, aren’t we all a bit tired of the diktat that contemporary art must be viewed in crushingly anonymous, white-walled galleries?

Obrist is also a serial interviewer. Down the years, he’s conversed with pretty much everyone in contemporary art – from Robert Crumb to Yoko Ono – recording the results in two 1,000-page volumes called Interviews. His contacts book is duly tome-like, and since 2008 he’s attracted artists in the Richard Prince, Gerhard Richter and Jeff Koons league to show at the humble, one-time tea room we call the Serpentine.

Next weekend he’ll be calling on yet more of his contacts. As his fellow art-world potentates descend on London for Frieze, Obrist will be chairing the latest of his annual ‘Serpentine Marathons’, for which he invites 50 artists, architects and philosophers to give short presentations on a chosen theme.

In 2009, he had them reciting verses (Poetry Marathon); in 2008, they launched manifestos for the future of art and society (Manifesto Marathon); and this year he’s decided on a Map Marathon, with the likes of Gilbert & George and Marina Abramovic each producing and discussing maps.

‘In this new age of GPS, Google Earth and multidimensional digital maps, mapping is suddenly hugely relevant again,’ Obrist says. The Marathon promises a postscript to the British Library’s recent Magnificent Maps exhibition, which held up the Enlightenment as the previous major turning-point in cartographical history: between maps as art and maps as scientific record.

Rather fittingly, this year’s Marathon – the first ever outside the Serpentine – is being held at the Royal Geographic Society, with talks running non-stop through next weekend’s waking hours. Even by Obrist’s standards, it promises to be a busy old week, with ArtReview publishing its new Power 100 list on Thursday. What odds that he’ll continue to dominate the contemporary art mappa mundi?

‘Map Marathon’, Royal Geographical Society, London SW7 (08444 771 000), Oct 16-17

This review also appears in Seven magazine, free with The Sunday Telegraph


To arrive at the edge of the world’s knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves.


Hans Ulrich Obrist [5.5.08]


Introduction By: John Brockman

These are exhibitions which are not material, but which are more virtual, virtual in the sense of them always being able to be reactualized. They can be revisited and reactualized and updated, and they are also not related to a place. The exhibition can go to where the viewer is. Anybody in the world can download these formulas and pin them on the wall, or they can do their own and trigger their own formulas. We are in the very early days of understanding how the Internet can be used for exhibitions.

15 May – 17 August 2008

Reykjavik Art Museum – Hafnarhús


Curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist

In collaboration with artist Ólafur Elíasson

HANS ULRICH OBRIST, a Swiss curator, is Co-director of Exhibitions and Programmes and Director of International Projects, of the Serpentine Gallery in London.


By John Brockman

Beginning May 15, Edge travels to Iceland for the Reykjavik Arts Festival, which will reprise the Edge Formulae of the 21st Century project, presented last October at the Serpentine Gallery, London, by curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director of the Serpentines Exhibitions and Programmes. ThatWorld Question Center project was a response to Obrist’s question: “What Is Your Formula? Your Equation? Your Algorithm?”

One of the highlights of the Reykjavik Arts Festival will be the Experiment Marathon Reykjavík, an exhibition and program of related events organized by the Reykjavík Art Museum and the Serpentine Gallery, London. Lasting from 15 May through August 17, the focus of the project is experimentation. The RAM [Reykjavik Art Museum] will become a laboratory in which leading artists, architects, film-makers, and scientists will create an environment of invention through a series of installations, performances and experimental films.

Additionally, previous related projects will be presented as archives within the exhibition. The exhibition and related events are curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director of Exhibitions and Programmes and Director of International Projects, Serpentine Gallery, London, in collaboration with artist Ólafur Elíasson.

The Experiment Marathon Reykjavík builds on the enormous success of the recent Serpentine Gallery Marathons which have taken place in successive Serpentine Gallery Pavilions, an annual architectural commission conceived in 2000 by Serpentine Gallery Director, Julia Peyton-Jones. In the 2007 Serpentine Gallery Experiment Marathon, which took place in the Pavilion designed by Ólafur Elíasson and Kjetil Thorsen, leading artists, writers and scientists performed a huge variety of experiments, exploring perception, artificial intelligence, the body and language. Participants included John Brockman, Steven Pinker, Marina Abramovic and John Baldessari. The event was collaboration with Thyssen- Bornemisza Art Contemporary. The Serpentine Gallery Marathon series began in 2006 with the 24-hour Interview Marathon conducted by Rem Koolhaas and Hans Ulrich Obrist. A presentation of these previous programs will be shown in the Reykjavik Experiment Marathon in a pavilion of archives designed by Ólafur Elíasson and Einar Þorsteinn. Another collection of archives will refer to Hans Ulrich Obrist’s and Barbara Vanderlinden’s exhibition, Laboratorium, from 1999.

A substantial catalogue will be published on this occasion, documenting the Experiment Marathon Reykjavík together with previous marathons and with textual contributions by Bruno Latour and others.

Obrist and I, as Edge readers may recall, have a mutual connection: we both worked closely with the late James Lee Byars, the conceptual artist who, in 1971, implemented ”The World Question Center” as a work of conceptual art.

As a curator, he is ever curious about the world around him and this includes the latest ideas and developments in science. Obrist interviewed me for Art Orbit in the 90′s. With this Edge feature, I get to ask the questions.


HANS ULRICH OBRIST, a Swiss curator, is Co-director of Exhibitions and Programmes and Director of International Projects, of the Serpentine Gallery in London.

Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Edge Bio Page


One of the questions I started out with, at the beginning, was trying to understand the forces effective in visual art and contemporary art, which is my field as a curator, trying to understand what is necessary in art: Is it necessary to understand the forces effective in other fields of knowledge?, which is a question Alexander Dorner asked early in the 20th century.

He was the great pioneer of experimental 20th century museum studies, he inspired Alfred Barr to do the Museum of Modern Art, and he wrote a very groundbreaking book called Ways Beyond Art, where he really expressed the necessity of going beyond the fear of pooling knowledge. The question of how we can create a pool of knowledge has somehow been at the beginning of my activity.

Another great inspiration was György Kepes, the artist and legendary editor of the Vision + Values book series, which were books introduced to me early by Bruce Mau and which have been instrumental ever since. And that has led to a lot of projects relating art and architecture, art and science, art and literature. And that has been the umbilical cord of a question that I that I’ve always asked while working with artists, and then later with scientists and architects, because I tried to do to curating what happened to art in the ’60s and ’70s when artists expanded what art is. They created an expanded field on an expanded notion of art.

And if you think about an expanded notion of art, it becomes interesting to think about an expanded notion of curating. But I was thinking how it could be an interesting to ask how we could do the same thing to curating as what had happened to art in the ’60s and ’70s, how we could really have an expanded field of curating — curating at large, where there would be curating of art, curating of science, curating of architecture — and about how these things could be brought together.

Now, that obviously always implies a problem, which is the curator defining a “rule of the game.” Every project has a rule of the game. Every exhibition process has a rule of the game. What this means is that the curator sets these rules of the game, but then it might not fit what the art is about, and then it is the art illustrating the curator’s rule of the game, and that is not as interesting. So, from that point of view, I started to think a lot about just starting with artists, and starting with architects and scientists, and above all, listening to them.

One of the key aspects of my trajectory has always been conversations with artists. And this became particularly clear to me in a very early conversation I had, which was an early encounter with an artist that changed the way how I see. I had gone to Rome, and I was told by my friends Peter Fischli and David Weiss, the amazing Swiss artist, who was the first artist I had really long conversations with, that I should visit Alighiero e Boetti there. Mr. Boetti was from the same generation as our mutual friend James Lee Byars. He was a visionary artist who emerged in the ’60s.

I went as a student to his studio, and just paid him a visit. And he told me that there had always been curators and museum people and galleries inviting him to do projects, and it was always the same format — it was museum exhibitions, it was gallery shows, or maybe it was art fairs, maybe biennials. But he said there were all these other things he wanted to do. So, I asked him what he wanted to do. And he said one of his main desires had always been to exhibit in all the airplanes of an airline, to do an airplane exhibition. And within the parameters of the art world, of what is given in the art world, that project would never have been possible. He just was never asked to do it, and never able to do it.

I was 18 or 19 at the time, so really just starting, and he said, “you know, young man, it will be a project for you to actually not squeeze art into your kind of predetermined scheme, but to start to look around and see what great projects artists have and try to make them happen, to produce them as realities.” At the time I went back to Switzerland and I started to work with museum in progress in Vienna, in Austria. But then we approached Austrian Airlines, and three years later we made Boetti’s project happen, so that for a year he had an exhibition on every single airplane of that airline, which was carried all over the world. It not only developed an expanded notion of what an exhibition is, but it also geographically disseminated the exhibition into totally different circuits where art wouldn’t normally go.

More or less at the same time, I spoke to the French artist Christian Boltanski as well as Fischli/Weiss, and they said that it would be interesting to do exhibitions where nobody ever does them. And I said, “Where?” And they said, “In the kitchen. Do it in your kitchen.” They had always thought a kitchen show could be interesting. So, they transformed my kitchen in my apartment into an exhibition space, out of which then grew this idea that maybe exhibitions can also happen in unexpected places. And ever since my beginnings in the early ’90s, that is a question I’ve asked myself, and also the question I’ve asked each of my interlocutors, each of the people I have talked to: What are your unrealized projects? What projects have been too big to be realized? What projects have been too small to be realized? What are sense of projects of yourselves, sense of projects?

Doris Lessing, the Nobel Prize winning author, once told me in a conversation that there are not only the projects which are made impossible by the frames of the contexts we work in, but there are also the projects we just don’t dare to think up. The self-censorship of projects. And there are all the books she hasn’t written because she didn’t dare to write them. So, that is the question that been my umbilical cord, and it’s also the only question that I ask in all of my interviews. What is your unrealized project?


I started out actually studying economics, social science, political science at St Gallen University, but I was always friends with artists. It was almost a sort of parallel reality. I never wanted to study art because curiosity drove me to understand other fields. But from that moment on I was always anchored in the arts, because I knew from the beginning of my early adolescence that somehow I wanted to work with contemporary artists.

In Switzerland there was Harald Szeemann, the legendary curator, so the notion of a curator for me as a kid growing up in Switzerland was already somehow concrete. But I always thought that curiosity drove me to all these other disciplines. And during my studies, when I started to do exhibitions, little by little, I wanted, through the exhibitions, to make these bridges.

First it went from art to architecture. Architecture was the first contact zone. I started to work a lot with architects, and that is obviously also a quite direct contact zone, because when you do exhibitions you have a link to architects, you have exhibition designs, and you involve architects in the exhibition design. So I started a lot of research in that direction. And the history of exhibition design is incredibly interesting, because it has got to do with the invention of new display features.

Exhibitions can push the radical, experimental solutions because they are not permanent. I think that is why very often exhibitions are an interesting “laboratory” for architecture. It is not by coincidence that pavilions and exhibition designs were the contexts for a lot of inventions in architecture, because it is not the rigid thing of a permanent structure, but an ephemeral structure where an architect can really play, and can experiment.

Other exhibition designs are invented by the artists themselves. When you think about Marcel Duchamp and his radical displays for the surrealist exhibitions — which for me were very inspiring — if an exhibition does not really invent a new display, there’s a risk that it is forgotten, because art is not only about the works, but also it’s about a new way of seeing the works.

I always felt that when I went into other disciplines, I learned a lot for my own field. From architecture, I became familiar with the whole critique of the master plan, because, in the late ’50s, there was an increasing critique of the Le Corbusier notion of the master plan, the top-down master plan, and architecture started to look into this idea of self-organization. So, I became very familiar with architects like Yona Friedman, Oskar Hansen and Cedric Price, all of whom very early on thought about how self-organization could be brought into the master plan. This questioning of the master plan I then fed back into curating, and I started to think about how could we do exhibitions which are not just a top-down master plan, but which could grow more organically.

There is the link between art and literature and philosophy. If you look at all the avant-gardes of the 20th century, they have a great link to literature. And that connection goes from the beginning of my work, when I worked with Gerhard Richter on Nietzsche, to a current exhibition, “ever still”, that I have curated at the Lorca House in Spain, which is about the poet and writer Lorca.

Science never really played a role for me at the beginning. I was completely ignorant about science. I didn’t grow up with a scientific background, I didn’t study it, and I didn’t auto-didactically work on it. Then in ’93, I got a phone call from Christa Maar, who at that time was just about to set up the Academy of the Third Millennium with Hubert Burda. She had read an article about my unusual exhibitions on airplanes and in hotel rooms, and she thought it would be interesting to invite me to these meetings.

I went to Munich, and the first couple of times I was completely lost, because I had never met scientists before, I had never read science, and there were people there like Wolf Singer and Ernst Pöppel. After not saying anything during the first meetings, I then started to systemically read. And it was really through these experiences at the Academy of the Third Millennium that I began to build bridges with scientists. In the meantime I had started to work as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, and each time a well-known scientist would visit Paris, Christa would ring me, and would say, “Show him your museum.” I started to walk with biologists and neuroscientists through the Mark Rothko exhibition at our museum and that was really the beginning of how this whole bridge with science began.

A very interesting next step somehow happened. In a certain way, all my work in terms of curating, and expanding the notion of curating, has never been a priori defined, because it’s almost like a long walk. It is a sort of a “flânerie,” to use the French term. It is almost like strolling. It is a promenade. And chance plays a very big role. It is a sort of controlled chance, but it is always about how to allow chance to come into the process.

Out of our conversations in ’95, Christa then invited me to do an exhibition for her first big conference in Munich, Mind Revolution, which was about the connection between the computer and the brain, between neuroscience and the computer. Bruce Sterling was there. It was the first time I met Bruce Sterling. A lot of scientists were there, neuroscientists. But I felt intuitively that somehow it would be wrong to get artists to illustrate a scientific conference, and I also felt the conference wouldn’t be the right place for an exhibition to take place, so, instead, I suggested to Christa, and to Ernst Pöppel, that we could invite artists to Ernst Pöppel’s KFA in Jülich, artists from Douglas Gordon to Matt Mullican to Rosemarie Trockel to Carsten Höller.

Ernst was located near Cologne in Jülich, Germany’s biggest science center, which has hundreds of labs. He is a leading neuroscientist who is also part of Edge. We thought we’d do a conference there, but then talking to Ernst, we actually realized that that was again wrong, because to some extent why would we do a conference with artists and scientists who had never met, and who would feel put on the spot. Instead, we decided that the most important thing would be to create a contact zone, which wouldn’t put people on the spot, where something could happen, but nothing had to happen.

I feel very often with my projects that we cannot force things. One cannot engineer human relations. One can set the conditions under which things then happen. For that reason, we decided, a few hours before the event was supposed to take place, to cancel the conference and to just do a “non-conference.” It had all the ingredients of a conference — badges, tee shirts, bags with all the speakers’ CVs, a hotel where all the people would stay, a bus to pick them up in the morning and bring them to the science center, people at the airport picking the guests up, all of the logistics — but the conference no longer was there. It was just a coffee break. It was the invention of this idea that we should just do a coffee break. And it was my first project with art and science.

This came from that observation that obviously at a conference the most important things happen in the coffee break. Why do the rest? We’ll just do the coffee breaks.

The most important things happen in interstitial spaces, they happen in between, and they happen when we least expect it. Incredible things happened. The artists visited the science labs they were interested in. At the end we made a little film, and everybody spoke about his or her impressions. We published a set of postcards. It was the first conference as a coffee break, of which we did many afterwards.

Just as Cedric Price talks about the “non-plan” in urbanism, this was the “non-conference.” That was the inspiration. As a curator, conferences and symposiums are not my main activity. But I felt it was a very interesting thing, because in exhibitions almost every single rule of the game has been invented. The whole 20th century is a permanent invention of new ways of doing exhibitions. Almost every radical gallery gesture has been tested, from the full gallery, to the empty gallery — everything. Yet somehow with conferences and symposiums very little has been shifted in terms of rules of the game. It is always the same kind of protocol: there is the table, there are speakers, there is a speech by everyone, then there is discussion, then there is a Q&A, and then, maybe, there is a dinner. I think there is a huge potential to change the rules of the game.

Then we did Bridge the Gap?, which was in Japan with Akiko Miyake and CCA Kitakyushu, and it was again art and science, and we paid homage to Francisco Varela, who had just passed away.. Varela was a very important person for me, a mentor, a great inspiration in the few meetings we had. We made a homage to him, so we invited a lot of his friends. At the same time, we also had scientists and artists and architects. We thought we’d do it in a remote house, on the outskirts of Kitakyushu. Guests would fly to Tokyo, and then there would be an internal Japanese flight, and then an hour-long car ride. Finally they were brought to this very old Japanese house so remote that once they were there, they couldn’t get away anymore.

The idea was for three days to bring into the house all these incredibly busy people, who would usually immediately run away after their lecture and have meetings. We had rooms that would were for official meetings, and then, inspired by online chat rooms, we had rooms where people could retire and have their own self-organized chats. There were a lot of rooms in the house, rooms for Hosts, Guests and Ghosts to quote Marcel Duchamp.

There were about 30, 40 speakers, all in one big house. There was a a Japanese garden, so people could also stroll outside. And we had all the books by all the speakers inside, so there was a reading room that was a big success. The speakers went from Rem Koolhaas, to Marina Abramovic, to Gregory Chaitin. Anton Zeilinger who came with a little suitcase and made one of his teletransportation experiments.

The whole event was also about what artist Paul Chan calls “delinking.” That was also a conference that had to do with how we can delink very linked people.

Curating is my primary activity, even while experimenting with these different types of conferences, I always wanted to bring it back to the exhibition, which is my main medium. So, even though my whole venture into science actually started out with actually refusing to do an art and science show, I then, in ’99 with Barbara Vanderlinden, brought science back into the exhibition, and we did Laboratorium, which investigated how studios and labs are more and more inter-related. And we investigated the notion of the laboratory in the late 20th, early 21st century. Laboratorium was a transdiciplinary project searching the limits of the places where knowledge and culture are made. It started as a discussion that involved questions such as:

What is the meaning of Laboratorium?

What is the meaning of experiments?

When do experiments become public and when does the result of an experiment reach public consensus?

We installed many laboratories all over the city:

A laboratory of doubt

A cognitive science laboratory

A highway for choreographic investigation

An existing artist studio

The first laboratory of Galileo etc

We invited Bruno Latour to curate the theatre of proof, a series of demonstrations, a lecture series aiming at rendering public what happens in the laboratory. At the same time we declared the whole city of Antwerp a lab. And we found out that actually labs are very often invisible, part of the invisible city. People were saying, “You’re crazy to do a show in Antwerp about labs. There are no labs in Antwerp.” But we had a whole group of researchers mapping every lab, and there were dozens of world-leading labs in Antwerp; people just didn’t know about them. They’re invisible. So, we had an “open lab” day so people could visit the labs throughout the whole city. And then the museum became a place for all the artists’ “labs.”

The city got behind it. And we had the full support from Antwerpen open. It was really about the idea of the citywide lab exhibition, and then the museums.

Laboratorium showed me that the most effective thing for the issue of art and science is really this idea of doing something together to produce reality.

This leads us right away to the Marathons in London last autumn. I moved to the Serpentine London two years ago, and with the Serpentine director Julia Peyton-Jones, we started to think about concentric circles: the gallery, the park, the world. We started the Serpentine International projects with China Power Station and now a big project on India. We also felt it was important to open up in terms of disciplines, and to go beyond the fear of pooling knowledge, so we thought it could be very interesting to connect this to the Pavilion, which Julia Peyton-Jones had invented nine years ago, with an amazing pavilion by Zaha Hadid, which became the Serpentine annual Architecture commission.

We thought it could be interesting to have the content reflected as much as the building. So when Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond did the pavilion in 2006, Julia and I discussed with Rem the idea of conversations. The pavilion became a place for interview marathons It was basically an “infinite conversation” in the Pavilion — an architecture of conversation. It culminated in October ’06, when Rem and I interviewed 70 Londoners from all disciplines in 24 hours, including, for example, Brian Eno or Richard Hamilton. The London Marathon is part of my ongoing project of, so far, 1400 hours of recorded conversations.

Then when Olafur Eliasson, together with Kjetil Thorsen, designed the Pavilion last year, he said he would very much like to continue this idea of a marathon. So, we felt it would be interesting to make it a completely different temporality, a 24-hour non-stop thing, so people can come and they can go, and then they can have dinner, and then they can come back again. And there can also be chance encounters.

Olafur said he would like to do an experiment marathon rather than a conversation marathon. It was very much tied in with what we earlier discussed with Latour, with the tabletop experiments. The idea was that we invited people throughout the summer, and then in autumn, to participate in this marathon. It was an experiment marathon, where we invited practitioners from all kinds of different disciplines to develop a new experiment and to realize it in the pavillion.

The interesting thing was that artists did their experiments, and scientists did their experiments. It wasn’t necessarily about forcing artists and scientists to collaborate. They all did their own thing, but yet it happened in the same space. And there is the possibility that certain encounters happen. What I have experienced is that very often these things take a lot of time. For me, it’s never a question of doing these things in a rush, because very often they trigger something. It is like a butterfly effect. It is maybe five or ten years later, and two of the people who met there are doing a book together.

For me, it is very important to trigger these possible sparks, and it is very organic. Freeman Dyson was saying on Edge that the 21st century will be biological. I think it is also very possible to think about exhibitions and conferences in biological terms, as growing over time, and not just as these sorts of one-off events. We are living in an event culture where we always switch on and off, and it’s very unproductive because we move on to the next thing.

For me, it is very important to work on these things as if it were long distance running, over many years. Little by little, new ramifications happen. So, the answer to your question of how one can bring these things together is by, first of all, not rushing them, and, secondly, not jumping from one project to the next, but instead having sustained projects that evolve over a long time, through different chapters. It’s about making mistakes, learning from those mistakes, and then making new mistakes.

There are a lot of aspects of exhibitions and the world of art that have to do with objects, and that is a very important dimension, but I don’t think it is everything. I think art has many, many dimensions. In this multi-dimensional field of art, I think it is also important to explore all the other possibilities that are not objects: performances, processes, and also non-material exhibitions.

Besides my more “materialized” exhibitions I’ve always been very interested in the idea of the dematerialization of art, which led to new forms of exhibition. In the ’60s, Lucy Lippard wrote the famous book on dematerialization of art. I’ve always been very interested in lists, something we actually share. I think it’s not by coincidence that we somehow directly and indirectly met through James Lee Byars.

And there is this whole idea of exhibitions and lists where one asks the question. I very often just launch the question, “what is your unrealized project? What is your dream project?” I’ve asked hundreds of artists and that’s going to be an online project at the Serpentine. I asked hundreds of artists and architects and scientists, “What is your recipe? Is there a recipe? Is there an instruction?” And that led to Do It, which is my score book based on an idea we developed with Boltanski and Lavier.

I think art can travel in different ways. Art can travel through objects, and great artwork can travel over centuries, and that’s a very valid way for art to travel. But art can also travel through scores, like in music.

Scores was Do It, like musical scores. Or as Pierre Boulez, the French composer, told me, we should think of open scores, of how the scores are actually unfinished. That leads us to Project Tempo del Postino, where Philippe Parreno and I curated for the Manchester Festival a time based group show for an opera house: The group show as an open score. Last but not least there is the Formulae project, where I invited more than a hundred artists to contribute a formula or an equation for the 21st century. These projects arrived in my office, where they are pinned on the wall. Many arrived by email. Many by fax. After about six months, my office wall was completely filled. And there was the day last October when Brian Eno came with you to my office, and that encounter triggered a fantastic Edgeproject where you invited your whole Edge community to develop a formula or an equation for the 21st century.

You could really say these are also exhibitions. These are exhibitions which are not material, but which are more virtual, virtual in the sense of them always being able to be reactualized. They can be revisited and reactualized and updated, and they are also not related to a place. The exhibition can go to where the viewer is. Anybody in the world can download these formulas and pin them on the wall, or they can do their own and trigger their own formulas. We are in the very early days of understanding how the Internet can be used for exhibitions. For instance, there was Do It, where with, we developed an online project, where anybody who sees the instructions online can download them and can then send their feedback. They can send a photograph of their interpretation. And then, all of a sudden, we have many different possible interpretations of an artwork. It is the very early days, but I see a great potential for these digital exhibitions for my curatorial work in the next years.



The Man Who Made Curating an Art

%name The Man Who Made Curating an ArtHans Ulrich Obrist enjoys a level of prominence in the art world that would have been unimaginable for a curator of contemporary art 20 years ago. Back then, curators didn’t get famous, and though they talked among themselves about their work, no one else cared very much about who they were or how they made their decisions.

People care about Mr. Obrist. At 41, the Swiss-born impresario has spent the past three years as co-director of the Serpentine Gallery in London, and has curated some 150 exhibitions internationally since his early 20s. His reputation is that of a fast-talking, tireless obsessive, and his various activities–which include mounting shows around the world, moderating panels, writing catalog essays, hosting early-morning salons and conducting scores of in-depth interviews with artists and other cultural figures–have made him an improbably influential, globally ubiquitous presence in the art world.

After making his first bit of noise as a curator in 1991 with a group show in his kitchen that featured, among others, Christian Boltanski and the duo Fischli/Weiss, Mr. Obrist quickly made a name for himself as a self-consciously innovative exhibition-maker interested in working closely with artists and mounting shows in unconventional spaces.

“There’s a certain kind of curator who is really down with the artists, and Hans Ulrich is definitely down with the artists,” said the downtown gallerist Jeffrey Deitch. “There are many other curators who keep their distance, simply because it’s their personality or their background or because they think that’s what one should do. They’re not on the scene. You’re not going to see them at a party at 1 a.m., deep in discussion.”

The interviews Mr. Obrist has conducted over the years currently add up to some 2,000 hours’ worth of tape. A fraction of them have been published in books and magazines, but the vast majority remain in Mr. Obrist’s personal archive. Through these interviews, Mr. Obrist has established himself as the unofficial secretary of the contemporary art world. “The way we might read Vasari for primary information on the Italian Renaissance,” said Mr. Deitch, “people will be looking at the archive of Hans Ulrich’s interviews to construct the art history of this era.”

For all that, Mr. Obrist remains all but unknown to the general public.

“Sometimes people who are a little bit below the popular radar are actually more powerful than people everyone knows about,” said Paula Marincola of the PEW Center’s Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, who edited a 2006 collection of essays on curatorial practice. “In our field, he’s kind of a rock star.”

In that capacity, Mr. Obrist has functioned as a “catalyst,” according to the artist, critic, and White Columns director Matthew Higgs, but at some point during his career, “this other thing happened, which is that this character emerged, ‘Hans Ulrich Obrist,’ who is clearly at the center now of all this activity and is as well known as a lot of the subjects of his interviews, exhibitions, and research.”

Earlier this fall, Mr. Obrist was named the most powerful person in the art world by the British magazine ArtReview, bumping the fellow who topped last year’s list, Damien Hirst, down to No. 48. The U.K.’s Independent wrote at the time that Mr. Obrist’s placement was evidence that “it is curators rather than artists who are now regarded as the real movers and shakers of the art world.”

THOUGH HE GRADUATED with a degree in economics and social science, Mr. Obrist was set on being involved with art from the time he was a teenager, and made himself known in the art world at a young age.

“He was this enthusiast, you know? This kind of genius thinker who was very hyperactive,” said gallerist Barbara Gladstone of Mr. Obrist’s first few years on the scene. “He read voraciously-he’d wake himself up in the middle of the night to read. He had this huge library in Switzerland, which wasn’t so much where he slept as where he kept his books.”

At this early point in Mr. Obrist’s career, no critic or scholar had thought to study the role of curators in art history, and while there was plenty of secondary literature on museums as institutions, there was no book one could read to learn about milestone exhibitions or the history of curatorial practice. Mr. Obrist was surprised to discover this state of affairs when he resolved, in his early 20s, to learn everything he could about his chosen line of work.

“At a certain moment, when I started doing my own shows, I felt it would be really interesting to know what is the history of my profession,” Mr. Obrist said in a phone interview last week. “I realized that there was no book, which was kind of a shock.”

Mr. Obrist was not the only one who had this experience. In New York City, a young gallery director named Bruce Altshuler found himself in the same position, and in 1989 quit his job to research a book on the history of exhibitions that became 1994′s The Avant Garde in Exhibition.

“I was working in a commercial gallery, so I was seeing the role that exhibitions played all over New York in terms of the functioning of this overall system,” said Mr. Altshuler, now the director of the museum studies program at N.Y.U. “Art history tended to be written monographically: most of the effort in the discipline had gone into studying individuals and their works, rather than looking at the system of display and distribution of those works.”

Mr. Altshuler’s book was followed two years later by another milestone text, Thinking About Exhibitions, this one an anthology of essays on exhibition practices edited by the independent curator Bruce Ferguson, the art historian Reesa Greenberg, and British museum professional Sandy Nairne.

This flurry of scholarly interest in the work of curators and the history of exhibitions–now a burgeoning field within art history–came as a result of several factors, starting in the 1980s with the emergence of a class of independent curators who saw the exhibition as a medium unto itself and were driven to experiment with it.

These curators collaborated more with artists than traditional museum curators ever had. They weren’t merely taking care of collections, but commissioning original work and organizing group shows around sophisticated themes. As the contemporary art world exploded in size during the 1990s, international biennales proliferated–there are now more than 150–and became platforms for ambitious emerging curators who wanted to showcase their curatorial voice and vision. Curatorial-studies programs, where students learned the trade and thought critically about the practice, popped up all over the country.

“In many ways, curators took on the role of what we might have once thought of as a role of the critic,” said Tom Eccles, the executive director of the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. “Someone like Clement Greenberg was able to codify moments in art and promote individual artists into groups, and say, ‘This is what is significant in our time.’ I think there’s a moment in the ’80s when that transfers over to curators.”

BY THE TIME Mr. Obrist read Mr. Altshuler’s book and the Thinking anthology, he had already begun making his own contribution to the field by interviewing the generation of ’60s curators–men his grandfather’s age, like Walter Hopps, Pontus Hultén and Harald Szeemann–who had inspired him.

“Exhibitions are kind of ephemeral moments, sometimes magic moments, and when they’re gone, they’re gone,” said Mr. Obrist. “I wanted to find a way of recording this. And since there weren’t any books, I thought a good way would be to do an oral history, to start to speak with all these pioneers who had been somehow forgotten. … It was the last moment when one could get a really firsthand account of the history of curating in the 20th century.”

Starting in 1996, some of the interviews started appearing in ArtForum, and this fall, 11 of them were collected in a book called A Brief History of Curating. It is Mr. Obrist’s third collection of interviews–the other two are with artists–and an informal survey this week made it seem like basically every curator of contemporary art in New York is either currently reading it or already has. Though it is hardly the first time someone has published a collection of extensive conversations with curators–see Carolee Thea’s 2001 book Foci and her recently published follow-up, On Curating–Mr. Obrist’s book is nevertheless being called a landmark work, in part because so many of the people in it have passed away in recent years.

Norton Batkin, the founding director of the curatorial-studies program at Bard, called it an “invaluable contribution,” and praised Mr. Obrist for getting his subjects on tape while they were still alive. “Other people didn’t think of interviewing curators,” Mr. Batkin said. “It’s a history that in some sense wasn’t there before.”

And yet, Mr. Obrist is decidedly not a historian. Rather than synthesizing primary-source material and making arguments about what it means, he merely generates that material and moves on, hoping others will pick up the ball. Throughout his career, he has made little of his own views on art, asserting his taste through exhibitions, to be sure, but only occasionally writing argumentative essays of the sort one might expect from a man famous for his rigorous engagement with ideas. In effect, Mr. Obrist functions as something like a neutral mediator–a listener who asks questions of others and provokes them to explain themselves while keeping his own beliefs to himself.

That he has managed to become as famous and influential as he is in spite of that role is what makes him a singular figure in the art world, and a poster boy for how much that world has changed since the days when curating was considered just a job.

“Anybody who pumps a lot of energy into a situation, anybody who expresses interest in other people and brings good things out of them … is bound to be a player of a special variety,” said Robert Storr, the curator, critic and current dean of the Yale School of Art. “The ability to generate excitement, to focus attention and to stir things up in a positive way is a particular skill, you know, and it is not to be taken lightly. We need animators. We have too many of them who have no seriousness and no curiosity, who are just making events and spectacles. He’s an animator who actually creates interesting situations.”



Hans-Ulrich Obrist interviews Matthew Stone

April 2009 London

Hans-Ulrich Obrist: To begin with the beginning, Id like to ask you how it all started, where are your beginnings? In terms of feeling your way around, in terms of becoming an artist.

Matthew Stone: I have always been aware that you can be an artist. There is a history of going to art school in my family. Very few people are taught that it is a job, or even a way of being, so I’m lucky. But essentially I’ve always known that it was something I would do.

 HUO: I was wondering if there was some kind of an epiphany, you know, some sort of a revelation or epiphany.

 MS: I don’t know about one particular event, I think about the role of the artist in relation to that of the shaman, within a Beuysian tradition. I remember lying in bed when I was a kid playing with balls of invisible energy in my hands and then bouncing them off the walls. What I am doing now feels the same as that, so… I guess it has always been there.

HUO: Thats interesting, because during my childhood in the late 70s and in the early 80s, Beuys was really like God. He came to Switzerland and gave a lecture and he was somehow, the most important living artist, it was his aura… And strangely when he died, somehow his influence diminished considerably and throughout the 90s and the 00s, Warhol became much more of a greater influence. What is interesting is that I have a feeling that in the last couple of years theres been sort of…

MS: … A renewed interest. Well I’ve always made a comparison between Warhol and Beuys. I wrote my dissertation at college on the spiritual content of Warhol’s work, arguing that he recognized an inherent religiosity to post-war America. They had very similar messages, but they explained themselves in very different ways. These differing ways were relevant to their specific socio-political environments at that time. Andy Warhol took the everyday and turned it into art, whereas Beuys wanted our everyday lives to become art. It’s almost the same statement and surely the same sentiment, but superficially inverted. I think that Warhol, to all appearances, didn’t state his true intent and that’s one way to be very powerful as an artist.

HUO: So they were different sides of the same coin or something like that.

MS: Exactly, and I think that finding this spiritual aspect in Warhol is an idea that runs completely against the grain of most people’s approach to his work. It’s too easy to read his work in an overly simplistic way. I think that if you really listen to what he said, you find the depth he spoke of when he said “deeply superficial”.

HUO: I was very curious how you reconnect to a kind of unmediated experience. I think that after 2000, there seems to be a reconnection to unmediated experience, and also performance comes back and that obviously ties in with Beuys, who was involved with all of these performances and political activities, which were at the moment he died, kind of forgotten.

MS: I think the main thing that was forgotten about Beuys, was the seriousness of his intent to reform society. I think that in the 90’s, that was something that disappeared, replaced by a fetishization of nihilism, which is a dead-end ideology.

HUO: So one can say that clearly you are part of a new generation. Are you younger than Jesus?

MS: I’m under 33, yes. I think it’s interesting, because a “generation” is a myth, but one that we can in certain ways use. In a sense definitions can become a death to possibility. As soon as you define something, you limit what else it can be or become. So in that sense, the idea of a generation or of a singular movement is perhaps limiting. However if it can be used in a playful or more fluid sense, then it can become something that is empowering, not only in terms of comprehension for the audience that encounter it, but also for the community of artists who are linked to it.

HUO: So then its positive.

MS: It can be positive, but you must be aware of its potential to create elitist structures rather quickly.

HUO: We met in a group context on the roof of Hannah Barrys Gallery, about a year ago, you were a part of Bold Tendencies II. You have developed an artist-run space in London, you have weekly salons. You are involved with a lot of collectives. You are not identified with one context.

MS: I hope that the current level of activity promotes further diversity. Art must fight for freedom but if it can only light one path to freedom, it returns to oppression. But to retrace your initial question, which I feel described my extended sense of community… This is something central to my work. Whether conscious or not, collaboration is inherent to every human process. I think that often for artists there is a fear to expose where somebody helps them. What I tried to focus on was crediting my creative interactions. It was quite a frightening thing to do, because you have to give up on the myth of being a solo operating genius. It’s very seductive this myth of the artist working alone, misunderstood by everyone else. When I exposed this level of constant collaboration, the work developed a much wider meaning, and became stronger. As I tried to destroy myself (by recognizing other people), my individual identity actually became stronger. For me it really exposed a rational argument for altruism.

I think a lot of the ideals, which Joseph Beuys upheld and supported very sincerely, have sadly been seen as irrelevant hippie liberalism, unfounded in any intellectual structure. But there is a real context to find and reactivate the initiatives that were started in the sixties. They were dialogues that aimed to do more than just passively comment on the nature of society, they were to truly transform it. For example the Art into Society – Society into Art show at the ICA [Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 1974].

HUO: Thats an exhibition, featuring Gustav Metzger, Hans Haacke, Joseph Beuys…

MS: I’ve have the catalogue.

HUO: So thats a reference for you.

MS: Definitely.

I was part of this community in 2004-2005 in Peckham, we were a squat-based collective that involved not only artists, but fashion designers, writers and musicians. We squatted an old 7,000 sq ft, Co-op department store and maybe ten of us lived there. At that time, it felt that there was no identifiable young art collective in London. We were doing ambitious exhibitions and throwing huge after-parties with performances involved. We ended up with 2,000 people in this old ballroom.

HUO: So that was before you had an identifiable art structure?

 MS: Yes, but we had our own structure and organized a series of artist-run shows in different buildings.

 HUO: Can you tell me about these shows?

 MS: There was one that was called Rising Tendencies Toward the United States of Mind, and there was Optimism as Cultural Rebellion

HUO: So optimism started there?

 MS: Yes, in 2004 I wrote “The Manifestation”, which was a manifesto that didn’t seek to dictate a specific course of action. It was a call to self-manifest. In a way I returned to it when I wrote the introduction to the book for Optimism – The Art of Our Time show at Hannah Barry’s, and then that text was included as part of your Manifesto Marathon event.

HUO: Exactly, and obviously were now curious to know more about this manifesto about optimism, because Ive always thought we needed new optimism and then we see here that in 2004 you became interested in optimism.

MS: Well it takes a few years for a new century to start. When cultural movements occur, artists pay attention to one specific aspect from what is a wide spectrum of art-making, this is because a previous generation seems to have neglected that specific aspect. This is why movements aren’t forever and they shouldn’t be. Movements exist to momentarily remind us to question the fluidity of what we collectively assume is solid.

In a sense I think all art is optimistic. My optimism is not necessarily about happy art or cheap positivity, Optimism is the vital force that entangles itself with, and then shapes the future. So for me it’s a dynamic stance rather than a belief that everything will be OK, it’s not a naive hope. Optimism is about actively commandeering reality, and shaping the future. I am an optimist, and always have been. At first formulating this approach to art and idea of optimism really felt like the antithesis of cultural credibility.

HUO: So this is a kind of a counter reaction?

MS: Well, my blog is “Optimism as Cultural Rebellion”…

HUO: So your blog is a kind of daily practice of rebellion!

MS: Well, I think optimism itself is still a rebellion. But at that time, it really felt that there was no space in art for a sincere discussion relating to optimism. Back then I was thinking about blind optimism, that to seek utopian ideals or even to speak the language of those kinds of manifestos was a necessary cultural rebellion. I was thinking less about the real consequences of that, just that it needed to happen.

You manifest the full intensity of an idea to understand it. This is part of the process of creating visions of the future. But once you have this vision of the future, you have to step back to understand how and to what extent you are going to work towards realizing it. Like the Dogma films, at the beginning they made and stuck to the rules, but afterwards were still influenced by the most useful parts of what they had established. I think that’s the way that movements should operate. I think Beuys said that inside every human, there’s all of the past, but there is also visions of the future.

HUO: Panofsky said that if we want to be the future, its out of fragments of the past.

MS: Within shamanic logic, there exists a non-linear sense of time and a relation to history that is impossibly intertwined with all the potential futures. History cannot and should not be forgotten. But also if we only think of the past there is a danger that we will forget to design the future. In your interview with Ballard, he says “We now live in the present, unconsciously uneasy at the future, and this short-term viewpoint does have dangers. We know that, as human beings, we are all deeply flawed and dangerous, but this self-knowledge can act as a brake on hope and idealism.”1

HUO: Talk more about your exhibition, “Interconnected Echoes”, in Paris.

MS: In that show there is a series of digital collages, one drawing and also a photographic billboard work that is installed sculpturally. The billboard is sunk into the walls of the gallery. Similarly, the collages appear to show cubes that have sunk into each other. The show is called Interconnected echoes, which is also the official title of my salon and an interview-based blog that I run. “Interconnected”, is a term that relates to this advanced idea of community that we spoke about earlier. The collages emerged from designs for my sculptures which you saw on the roof in Peckham.

HUO: These are photographic sculptures, kind of performative photography, fragments of bodies blown up, its quite monumental.

MS: I was thinking about creating 3D Venn diagrams which evidence shared space. But in my sculptures these solid and geometric cubes somehow go off the grid and sink into each other. The Venn diagram moves into the next dimension, from the second into the third. I was wondering whether this sense of multidimensionality could move from the formal perspectives that cubism challenged into the conceptual realm. We can project ideas into multiple dimensions, and then maintain a multitude of perspectives on those ideas.

HUO: … Its multidimensional.

MS: Marina Abramovic and I talked about multidimensionality in terms of travelling between worlds, and from the shamanic perspective, that’s always been possible. We can all perceive these things directly, but you need to shift your consciousness slightly in order to experience them. They don’t happen in the same way as placing a cup on a table does.

But going back to the cubes with bodies on them, they have become a way of proposing the coexistence of uncompromised visions. An illustration of shared spaces that should be read as being both physical and conceptual.

HUO: You use these multidimensional constructions with photography, putting them in a-perspective constellations. Where is the source of this material, because we see these entangled and disentangled bodies in fragmentary poses and oppositions. Are these coming from live performances? Do you have some kind of an archive?

MS: They are staged images, I regularly shoot in my studio and there’s a small group of people that I work with. I have an archive, and use the images at different times. I use the ones that stand out to me visually. I can’t make any claim to understand beauty other than when I see it. I think this is difficult for some people when they approach the work. If the images are beautiful, it’s in quite a traditional sense. I struggle at times with the pressure of beauty being contextualized.

HUO: So that might lead the next step then? What are your unrealised projects?

MS: I want to write an opera that describes the shamanic journey. The opera would describe and also engage the audience in the journeying process. It wouldn’t be an artwork that you engage with just by viewing or listening to; it’s something that the audience would interact with on a very personal level.

HUO: So its a collective decision. The engagement will produce reality in some ways…

MS: Or realities, collectively personal realities.

HUO: Talking about parallel realities, its kind of an issue which independent of generations seems more and more relevant. You are an artist, but you run a salon, numerous spaces that are parallel realities, you might want to enter into politics. So these ideas of identity or citizenship become a sort of “perceptive band”, as Stefano Boeri says.

MS: I think that this complexity you describe is the gift of post-modernity that will stay.

HUO: And you dont seem to be against that?

MS: I’m not. I think there is a danger that people are tempted to try to introduce a re-modernism of sorts. There is no Golden age. The artistic movements that have looked back only ever occupy footnotes in History. Whilst there was a period of what could be described as a “conceptual baroque”, the complexity of meaning and understanding is vital to promote diversity and tolerance thereof.

The true death of post-modernism will not be described in relation to it. Before post-modernism, there was this idea that if you knew the name of a god, you had power over him. Post-modernism became a god if you knew its name and it then had power over you. This was the imbalance that led to the collective power loss we see now. We need to talk about it now, because it’s a type of exorcism of old ideas. But it will seem absurd soon. Any idea applied in totality leads to absurdity, whether capitalism, socialism… Or postmodernism. So we must look head forth into the abyss and stare at the future. The future is the unknown, and all fear comes from a fear of the unknown. Artists must be fearless.

HUO: We haven’t spoken yet about your influences. We spoke about Joseph Beuys in connection to Andy Warhol, as if they were one, as two sides of a coin. But we havent really spoken about your English influences. John Latham was described in the 70s in Germany, as a kind of English Beuys, with his Artist Placement Group, and his political dimension which he ran in tandem with his art projects. He used to be your neighbour. I knew him very well. I was wondering about John Latham, who was also a hero in the early 90s because of his introduction of time…

MS: I am very interested in his work and considering I spent so much time in Peckham while he was alive, it’s sad I never met him. In terms of other English influences I can clearly identify Derek Jarman as a mentor. His extended practice, priestly nature and role as a facilitator of others has influenced me. His open and unashamed romanticism is also something I relate to very directly. I mentioned earlier Louwrien Wijers who in 1990 organised Art meets Science, and Spirituality in a Changing Economy. That project and accompanying book is heroic. She conducted the longest ever interview with Warhol. We are back to Warhol and Beuys again! She asked Beuys ten questions, who sent her to Warhol with the same questions. Warhol then suggested she take the questions onwards to the Dalaï Lama. Isn’t that incredible? This perfect triangle of Beuys, Warhol and the Dalaï-lama, three men working in different ways, on different continents and yet all suggesting the same things. Warhol sticks out, he’s like “um, well I mean, gosh, sure, uh…” But he also speaks very clearly about the future of religion, in which he talks about big rock concerts where everybody is singing the same song. He also says that anyone can be an artist, like Beuys.

I see that pyramid of interviews as Louwrien’s perfect artwork and social sculpture; she created and facilitated a wider vision. This vision is not only the people she gave a voice to, but the collective voice that she identified. Which brings us back to opera, the beauty of different people singing at the same time. This was an example that Norman Rosenthal gave and I thought: “Oh my God, that’s it!”

1Hans Ulrich Obrist,Interviews: volume 1, Milan, Charta, 2003


Hans Ulrich Obrist Issue (7)

To talk to the man who talks to everyone you want to talk to.

There was a surprising dearth in the history of art curation, until Hans Ulrich Obrist, specifically surrounding the curatorial pioneers perspective. It was because of this Hans began a series of relentless interviews to create an intimate documentation of this turning point in art history, collected in A Brief History of Curating (2008). Since his mid twenties he has been single-handedly documenting a first hand take on art history through conversations with some of the most interesting artists, writers, curators and thinkers of the 20th century.

This interview was a cold call, we didn’t get to sit before hand and compare the wear on each other’s shoes. However it was setup by a mutual friend, so the pressure was slightly off.

Adam O’Reilly: Have you ever been intimidated by anyone you’ve interviewed?

Hans Ulrich Obrist: It’s an interesting question because I don’t think that intimidation necessarily occurred, but I started to be in awe, you know, great artists or philosophers whom I had never met before. I would not meet someone and then immediately interview him or her. So you know very often the interview only happens when there is a relationship, a dialogue, and after many meetings there is a moment I start to record. There is a curiosity for me. The curiosity is kind of stronger than the intimidation, maybe?

A: I only asked that, because I was a bit intimidated to interview the interviewer. Interviews have always interested me, I like that they generally begin a little one sided, a linear prompt that triggers a non-linear response and then they have a life of their own. How do you go about preparing for an interview?

H: I usually read as much as I can on the work. In the case of a writer I read the novels, and I look at as many possible shows of an artist, and I read lots of interviews they have given in the past. Here to give you an example, with one of the greatest living artists, Gerhard Richter, at some point I realized he had never been interviewed about his relationship to architecture, so we did this interview and that was published in Domus, the architecture and design magazine about his relationships with architects like the late Oswald Mathias Ungers, an architect he was friendly with, the design of his own studio he built for himself, his architecture models he inserted in his early paintings, the unrealized projects that were meant to be unrealized, was a topic I mentioned. That became because I read so much, met him so many times, so I found this loophole that had never been done. Very often it’s that, so that the preparation leads to something, which maybe hasn’t been discussed. Also, for my influence to work I have to be very prepared in order for then in the interview to be free to improvise. And I very often have a pile with lot of notes, I have a lot of questions, I have researchers helping me to make research, obviously it’s changed a lot with the Internet, because now Google plays also a big role, so books and Google, and then at some point during the interview I very often throw overboard a lot of the preparations and go into freestyle, but I can do it because I’m prepared and if I don’t prepare I don’t have the confidence to do that, so I need to over prepare to then be free.

A: Actually, I am glad you brought up Gerhard Richter, I wanted to ask about your conversations with him, they are beautiful documents. It’s also interesting to see you both grow in your respected disciplines through them. How have your conversations with him progressed through the years?

H: It’s interesting to talk about the Richter conversations, because it was one of the first, he’s one of the first artists I met and when I was a teenager, I was 18, and that was definitely a great inspiration for me to realize that that was what I wanted to do in life is to work with artists. We then, after initial conversation, started to work on projects together, and I think the dialogue has always circled around the reality we produced together, so I invited Gerhard Richter to do a show at the Nietzsche House in Sils-Maria then I started to collaborate with Kasper König, out of that grew the painting exhibition, The Broken Mirror, which is my first large-scale exhibition I worked with, and König had invited me to do this with him. That was when I was 24. Then for the catalogue, we decided we wanted the artists’ own words, so we asked them for their own writings, and I realized how amazing that fragment of Richter was, so I became curious and I started to research and I saw that there were all these amazing writings he had done, and there was never a book, so the third project we did after the Nietzsche house and the group show in Vienna, The Broken Mirror, was I started to edit, over years, a book of his collected writings, which came out, and has now come out in an augmented edition, a second edition, co-edited together with Dietmar Elger, and is now double the size of the one from fifteen years ago, and then, so it’s always been approached in working on another exhibition together. Ever since we’ve always worked on books really, lots of artist books.

A: A cyclical relationship, the interviews become a by-product of working together?

H: Yeah, or the other way around. It’s either a by-product, or you could say the conversation produces the project, so it can be both ways, right? At the moment I am reading a long new interview with Gerhard Richter on his artists books.

A: The interview you did with Julian Assange, (e-flux journal 25, May 2011) was really revealing. With an interview like that, you’re changing a public perception of a person, in this case someone shrouded in a lot of controversy. Is it important to you to give them a candid place to talk?

H: Yeah, there has always been a situation with the interviews. My interviews are supposed to have a lot to do with empathy, creating an empathic situation.

A: Empathy is rare to find in the art world,

H: And, I think if you want to understand the forces which are effective in art it’s important to understand what’s happening in other disciplines.

A: Of course, and you have that attachment coming from the art world.

H: The art world is my home, and I am based in the art world, so why would I interview Julian Assange? I mean I’m very interested in how Wikileaks had an impact on events over the last twelve months. But the main reason, is that artists kept telling me how much they are interested in Julian Assange, they’ve got questions for Julian Assange. At a certain moment I felt, as in conversations with Anton Vidokle, Julieta Aranda and Brian Kuan Wood from e-Flux, you know it could be great to do this as a polyphonic interview, and get artists, through me, to ask him the questions they always wanted to ask him.

A: I thought that interview was very on point. Many artists that I talk to, are trying  to think of ways to use Wikileaks or just trying to figure out the impact it is having on everyone. Assange’s approach is so selfless and impressive. Documents like that have the power to challenge popular positions and perspectives. In A Brief History of Curating, you went about it retroactively, how did that change project start?

H: I think the book came out of the feeling that something is missing, it’s driven by curiosity, I mean, I came into the art world being very close to artists, I obviously realized when I started to curate that… at the very beginning I was very naïve and came out of a desire to do an exhibition in my kitchen and then on a mountain peak and then I realized, you know what, there has actually been a history of that and a lot of people have been doing that beforehand and then I realized this sort of history hasn’t really been written, why hasn’t it been written, and then you know, like always, when I see an exhibition that hasn’t been done and I want to see it, I do it, and when there is a book which hasn’t been written, and I want to read it, then I realize I have to do it. I just started to do this, not for a publisher, just out of my own interest and curiosity, and then at some point, I spoke to Jack Bankowsky, the then editor of Artforum, and he thought that was interesting, he said, “you know, why don’t we do a series for Art Forum so we can do it more systematically?” He commissioned me to do Walter Hopps, Harald Szeemann, and Pontus Hulten so that added three more to the mix, and then ever since I just continued to do them. I think now that many people know I’m doing these recordings, there is a lot of collective thinking about it in the sense that it’s no longer just me sitting in the office and thinking, “Whom could I interview next?” But there are lots of people who Email me and say, “Why have you never interviewed this person?” Every day I get an Email or a phone call and somebody says, “It’s very urgent that you interview this person. By the way, if you have any ideas for pioneers in Vancouver, I’m most curious.

A: I know pioneers in Nova Scotia, which is where I am right now, Gary Neil Kennedy is really fantastic, he gave a lot of early conceptual artists space and time to make new work.

H: Yes, Kasper König often talked about him. I saw a show of his at Portikus. Great, the next time I’m nearby I should interview Mr. Kennedy. That’s a great idea.

A: It is a pretty fascinating history, his push to start the NSCAD Press with König and Benjamin Buchloh. Those books are such great primary resources for early conceptual work.

H: Then obviously you know there is a link to Nova Scotia because I was very inspired by the NSCAD books. I mean the whole NSCAD book series was, for me, a great inspiration to start to make books with artists, and I’m a fan that the medium of the book as a medium, so that books aren’t a secondary reality. Michael Snow’s Nova Scotia book, and the great books by Gerhard Richter, Dan Graham or Dara Birnbaum. It’s interesting you mention Halifax, I was learning from Halifax, definitely. Also, I was always very inspired by David Askevold. He was a part of my “Do It” project, and sadly we had planned an interview with him, and then he died. But at least we could collaborate on Do It and he made marvelous texts for me for the Do It Books, and I think a lot of it has to do with his protests against forgetting and trying to remember, and I think the art world is quite good at this, and I think it’s a collective activity. You know, it’s not you or me, but it’s many, many people in the art world collectively trying to remember and I think that’s what is so interesting that this interview approach a very collective project, a lot of people thinking together whom we could remember, whom we could visit, and sometimes it’s like a lot of people are telling me that I should visit someone or interview someone. It gives a lot of people the idea to revisit your conversations and it has a very positive, hopefully, impact on the process of remembering, and that’s really what happened with these curators, because this curatorial history was partially forgotten or only very patchy and then at some point started. We thought we could bring all of these interviews I had with curators together and make the book. It wasn’t like a priori, it came a posteriori, no? After me having done so many interviews, obviously within the archives I’ve got a lot of potential books, or websites, or things I can now extract. It’s 2,200 hours, so someone could classify them according to geography, like all the China interviews we did with Phil Tinari or I could do all the London interviews, all the New York interviews according to the cities I have lived or spent time, all the Paris interviews. So one could do them according to disciplines like all the artist interviews, all the architect interviews, brief history of architecture, brief history of music, of sound, because we did lots of sonic inventors.

A: How do you go about putting together group exhibits?

H: I think it’s very much inspired by John Cage. Cage said that during a period of time he doesn’t just make music, but he also writes texts, he makes etchings, and a whole list of other things, and he does them in a different way so it’s not a linear situation, and I think with me it’s also overlapping a lot of layers. I’m not just a curator of exhibitions, but I write texts, I make interviews, I do films, I organize panels, and symposiums, and conferences, and research, so it’s a lot of parallel realities. It’s very non linear and then within these overlapping layers all of a sudden things emerge. And mostly it starts with a conversation with an artist. If there is an umbilical cord, it’s because I’ve got a very strong proximity to artists and that’s how ideas pop out.

A: I find it easy to get both optimistic and pessimistic when in conversation with artists about the role of art in a time when it is so easily absorbed into popular culture. It is a very exciting time to be making work because of unstable political climates, new technology, and a welcoming public. What sort of subversive role can art take in this?

H: Yeah, I think that’s a complex question, which I think is difficult to answer quickly, but I think when there is no more priests and philosophers says Gerhard Richter, the artists will be the most important people in the world. I have always felt it’s a very important moment where the art world is magnetic and there is a lot of other disciplines that are interested in the art world, I think it has a lot to do with the former. There is I think within the art world, a high degree of flexibility also of the formats and the possibility to invent new rules of the game, new formats. I very often think through the medium of exhibition we can show artists, architects, scientists, philosophers and all kinds of practitioners, it would be very difficult to do this in another field right now, so I think there is a great possibility right now to bring the different disciplines together in the art world as the formats are open. Obviously the art world has gained a lot of territory, and I think in this sense, it’s much broader than it used to be and much bigger. Maria Merz is always telling me that he loves this quote by General Giap who said, “When you gain territory, you lose concentration and when you gain concentration you lose territory”, and obviously the challenge right now is how the art world doesn’t lose the concentration, so for me it’s important to always not forget that, so every now and then, besides the big exhibitions I put on, I do very intimate, small exhibitions which are really concentrated moments with artists, they are focused shows a bit like the Kitchen. The Kitchen always stayed with me and it was the poet Cavafy who said, “the city you are born with, you always carry it with you wherever you go” and for me there is always the Kitchen in St. Gallen, Switzerland, where I grew up and studied and this kitchen is always with me, and so like besides all the very public shows in the big museums and biennales and stuff I always very regularly find a little exhibition like in the Barragan House in Mexico or now soon in Brazil or in the Sir John Soane’s Museum in London about ten years ago, these sort of house museum exhibitions in very intimate small houses concentrate and develop projects that are important, so I hope it’s both, it’s both trying to reach out and bridge the gap between other disciplines, but also remain concentrated.

A: Thanks Hans

H: Pleasure to talk to you.

A: Yes, you too.

Interview: Adam O’Reilly
Photos: Jonnie Craig



Interviewing the Interviewer: A Conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist

December 06, 2011 by Clo’e Floirat

Hans Ulrich Obrist © Yang Fudong, Shanghai (2009)

At the age of 23, Hans Ulrich Obrist curated his first exhibition in his kitchen; it included the work of artists including Christian Boltanski and Richard Wentworth. He is now Co-Director, Exhibitions and Programmes, and Director of International Projects at the Serpentine Gallery in London. Since the early 1990s, Obrist has mounted 150-plus exhibitions around the world, hosted The Brutally Early Club (a breakfast salon before the sun has risen), written catalogue essays and published numerous books. Obrist is the author of The Interview Project, an extensive ongoing anthology of more than 2,000 hours of interviews with artists, architects, scientists, writers and engineers.

Clo’e Floirat: I am interested in the form and the concept of the interview itself, rather than an isolated interview about an artist, a designer or an architect’s work. What is its role when it transcends the traditional answer and question structure? A form of art criticism? May it become an art form?

HUO: This is a very important question. Obviously interviews played an important role in art history, at least since Vasari. Vasari was a great influence for me, because I was always thinking: what will we know about the art of our time if we look back in some century? Warhol too was an influence, because to record everything at a certain moment is like creating a time capsule. I would say the third historic influence on me was David Sylvester. He did this wonderful book of interviews with Francis Bacon, which is one of my favourite interviews book ever. You have a very rare in-depth situation because Sylvester has interviewed Bacon again and again, and all over again, throughout his life. The other influential character was Jonas Mekas. I think without Jonas Mekas I would not have started to film my interviews.

CF: Did you initiate your first questions with the plan of making a collection of interviews? Was The Interview Project premeditated?

HUO: I have always done this as a curator; I talk to artists. Little by little the interviews were published and now there are artists holding seminars about The Interview Project. It was not premeditated, there was never a strategy behind it at all, it was never a conscious idea of ‘now I want to write the history of my time!’ That sort of grand gesture was not there. For me, it was to be in the middle of things and in the centre of nothing. There was no master plan and still there is not. It is more that, all of a sudden, there is an occasion or a desire to interview someone; little by little there a system develops. But the system comes a posteriori, not a priori.

CF: What does that system look like?

HUO: If this is the art world, [draws a square in the centre of white page, and illustrates artists with dots inside that ‘art-world square’], I have interviewed many great protagonists. First the artists I met when I was a student, Alighiero Boetti… I did not record these first conversations sadly. Everything between 1986 and 1991, the first five years are lost. From 1991, I started to record. Because I was a curator, I also wanted to know where curating comes from, so I started more systematically to interview curators, like Pontus Hultén. But if you want to understand the forces in art you need to understand what is happening in other fields. From art I went into science; from art I went into music; from art I went into literature; from art I went into architecture. And gradually it is like a concentric circle, it goes from the art world to all these other worlds, and then, from there, it goes into the multitude.

CF: In the first volume of your Interviews, what is the reason of listing the interviews in an alphabetic order? Not chronological? Is it to emphasize the manual aspect that the volume eventually provides?

HUO: There are lots of different books from The Interview Project, and, each time, there is a different rule. When you have a big archive of interviews, you can start to edit in different ways. One is according to cities, for example we have the ‘Beijing Marathon’ and the ‘London Marathon’. David Sylvester’s interviews were published according to geography: his London interviews, and his New York interviews. I can have them according to professions; I can have all the curators’ interviews, like in A Brief History of Curating. Or I can have them according to one artist, which is Sylvester’s model for Bacon: all the interviews I have ever done with Gerhard Richter or Olafur Eliasson, for example. Or there is the Conversations Series with Walther Koenig Books: 21 books of in-depth interviews.

In Volume 2, the editors – Karen Marta, Shumon Basar and Charles Arsène-Henry – wanted to show, as well the in-depth model, the broad spectrum of The Interview Project. In Volume 1, the order is according to the alphabet, and then for Volume 2 the three editors decided to do it according to birthdays so highlighting the five generations occupied by the interviewees. But who knows? We have to find out our own rules of the game, how to classify the material. It is a very big body of texts. A great-unrealized project is to do something online with it; that will be the next step.

CF: Do you consider yourself as an art historian?

HUO: I never studied art history; I studied social science and politics. I am curator foremost, I am curator of science, a curator of music, a curator of literature, a curator of architecture, but also I work as a critic.

CF: Of the different roles you play which one of them do you assume when you interview someone?

HUO: When I am interviewing, I am just learning.

CF: A listener?

HUO: Yes and I am like a student, I want to be a student all my life. I think the best thing in life is to be a student. When one stops learning it is terrible, particularly when you develop a trajectory, then you start to become more and more busy, and stop reading. And for me The Interview Project is to be an eternal student. I still function like a student, with hundred of books at home. When I do an interview I need to read all night long to prepare it, so it is the same intensity as when I had seminar as a student. And usually that goes away in life, but The Interview Project keeps me alive like a student.

CF: Robert Storr has said that you are an animator, but an interesting one. At first I found it rather derogative, perhaps too connected to talk-show culture. But then I appreciated that it was, in fact, a very accurate portrayal of your purpose if one reflects on the word ‘animator’ in terms of the one who animates situations, conversations and his ability to generate attention, just like a motivator or a generator even.

HUO: Animator is one of my many roles, I am a researcher, I am a fundraiser, I am a museum director, and I am definitely an interviewer. These are just aspects of a generalist profession. I think in the idea of ‘animating’, there is obviously a little bit of a negative connotation, because it has so much to do with events culture and all that, so I preferred the definition of the ‘junction maker’. What J.G. Ballard taught me is to make junctions and build bridges. I think we live in a world where we have objects, quasi-objects, non-objects. It is important also to have inter-subjective situations. I think my role of curator is not just in the exhibitions I install in spaces like in the Serpentine, or the exhibitions I install in time like ‘Il Tempo del Postino’ and the ‘Marathons’. But it is also in the projects that bring people together, and I see this as a very important part of my curation. I want my work to be useful for the world; I want it to be a toolbox. I do not want things that close down. I was never interested in occupying territories. I want to liberate.

CF: You question artists about their references, their influences, who from the past have inspired them. By stimulating the past, and the forgotten practitioners, it generates a mise en abîme in producing art history. It generates some kind of family tree. Is it a way to keep the past present?

HUO: It is clearly an aspect of what I often call ‘the protest about forgetting’. Obviously, I have a lot of questions; I learn from an interview what it is very interesting to ask the next person about. As Philippe Parreno says la chaîne est belle; it’s a kind of chain reaction. I observed, for example, that if on Monday I interview a film director, on Tuesday I interview an artist, on Wednesday I interview an architect – which is very often my week – then, by the end of the week, what the architect told me connects to what the artist told me, connects to what the film director told me. There is a kind of strange morphogenetic field, as Rupert Sheldrake calls it, different disciplines are interested in similar things. So then I started to think, I have a quite extreme schedule, if I push it even further then I could do the ‘Marathon’: 50 interviews in one day. We did the ‘Marathon’ for the first time in 2005, in Stuttgart, and then in London with Rem Koolhaas, and since then we have done it many times. I have lots of papers like this, thousand of these papers, and if I do an interview I take some of them. I do not script it in a linear way, for me it never works if I have a list with all the questions. While people talk to me – and actually sometimes people become confused because they think I am not listening to them – I am actually looking what could be a great link to the next question. Suddenly it is like a card game.

CF: You frequently question the existence of unrealized projects. Is this a method to stimulate lost, forgotten or misunderstood projects from the past? From that they are too often unreported propositions and solutions for the art world and its future?

HUO: It is actually my most frequent question. The second most frequent is: what advice to a young artist? And, finally, the question about the epiphany. How did Benoit Mandelbrot discover fractal geometry? How did Gerhard Richter discover over-painted photographs? But there is a reason that the most recurrent question is on unrealized projects. I believe that we know very little about them.

CF: They could still play a valuable purpose for the future? Like in architecture, models and projects submitted for competition remain unrealized, yet when they are not published they stands on every architect’s website as visions.

HUO: That is right, but, for example, we do not know about the unrealised projects of filmmakers, of scientists, and of artists, even less.

CF: If the California artist Amy Alexander would invited you to ‘self-interview’, what would be the answer to your own question about the unrealized project?

HUO: In 1986, when I was 18 years old, Alighiero Boetti told me this could be my life. I really did think artists were the most important people on the planet, and I wanted to be helpful and useful for artists. He said I could get all of these unrealized projects and try to make them happen, to produce them as realities. And so the irony is that I have been gathering thousand of unrealized projects, but whenever I want to do my big exhibition on unrealized projects it fails. So my unrealized project is to do a big exhibition on unrealized projects. And maybe even more to build a palace of unrealized project.

CF: Today is it still you chasing artists for interviews, or is your prey lying in wait to be captured in their interview by Hans Ulrich Obrist? To be part of his oral history?

HUO: Very often the desire has to come from me in the first place. Because it is my way of questioning the world so it has to come from my desire to understand the world. As much as it is a personal system within which it is about this desire, there is also a certain degree of objectivity and also collectively. The Interview Project now is a more collective project, it is more known that it used to be. People know that I have done many interviews so they say: ‘have you ever interviewed this great 80-year-old composer? Or this wonderful scientist? It could be nice to add it to your project’. It is very generous, and very wonderful that is has become a feedback loop. And the Marathon obviously is a very new form of producing interviews. Each time it produces a micro-archive in itself, and these interviews can then be published again in magazines. But what is very important, what I said in the beginning, there is not a master plan. It is very ‘rhizomatic’, it is a very Deleuzian thing.

What is also very important is that The Interview Project was always almost like a broke heaven, it’s a zero-sum calculation; I never made any money with it. But the money I make from publishing in magazines, catalogues and books pays for the editing, the PhD students from different countries that work on those transcriptions. But what I always did from the beginning and what is very important is that I can keep the rights with the artist so that later I can publish it again in any anthologies. There is always the thought about the archives.

CF: Your interviews are by-products of other events. You use every occasion to conduct them. In the most unexpected situation, you always take out your video camera to record any exchange of ideas. Is it also the case when you are being interviewed? Do you record and collect those conversations too?

HUO: When I was a student I travelled in night trains and had my ‘grand tour’, and after that I was really prepared. At 23, I did my first kitchen exhibition; from then everything went pretty fast. I got a grant from Cartier Fondation in Paris, I was invited to the Museum d’Art Modern de Paris to do ‘Migrateurs’, I was invited to work with Kaspar König. So between 1992 and 1993 my activity went from this strange obscure Swiss student travelling around in night trains to see artists, to the most public voice of new curating. But because it was like this that I had to go out in public, I think The Interview Project was very important, otherwise one would burn out very quickly.

CF: I met Markus Miessen two weeks ago in Berlin. He mentioned The Archive as a Productive Space of Conflict project in which you are involved. How is this project connected to your Interview Archive project?

HUO: With Markus Miessen I have been discussing how we use the archives digitally. There is obviously the whole tagging technology, so we worked together with Armin Linke and the Institute for the 21st Century, founded by Karen Marta and Bettina Korek. And the Institute tries to help The Interview Project, we get support to try to archive and keep it together. With Miessen, Linke and the Institute we developed this tagging site for Cedric Price. The beautiful thing about the tagging system – we showed at the Venice Biennale – is that you can just click in ‘Fun Palace’ and there everything that has ever been said about the Fun Palace comes. So you could imagine once my all archives are there, you could type colour red or colour blue, and then everything an artist or an architect who ever mentioned something about the colour red would start to speak. So you can actually make the living and the dead speak to each other.

About the author

  • Clo’e Floirat's photoClo’e Floirat is a critic and cartoonist, based in Berlin and currently a student on the Critical Writing in Art and Design MA programme at the Royal College of Art, London.



Hans Ulrich Obrist: Interview

A new role at the Serpentine Gallery is the latest chapter in Hans Ulrich Obrist‘s love-affair with London. Time Out finds out why he keeps coming back for more

  • As guest curator at the Serpentine Gallery in 1995, Swiss-born Hans Ulrich Obrist mounted ‘Take Me I’m Yours’, a show that was more like a jumble sale than an exhibition. Gilbert and George gave away badges and Christian Boltanski invited people to fill a carrier bag with second-hand clothes for a pound. The following year he presented ‘Life/Live’, a survey of artist-run spaces in Britain, at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. In 1999 he stayed at the John Soane Museum while curating ‘Retrace Your Steps: Remember Tomorrow’, for which he invited artists like Steve McQueen and Cerith Wyn Evans to respond to the collection. Now, after being involved in curating some 90 major exhibitions, including ‘Cities on the Move’ that came to the Hayward in 1999, he takes up a post created specially for him: Co-director of Exhibitions and Programmes and Director of International Projects at the Serpentine Gallery.‘For ten years I was working freelance and travelling non-stop’, he tells me.‘But since 2000 I’ve been based in Paris at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville, curating the programme there. Internationally, it’s a very open situation that goes beyond national boundaries; directors and curators move from one country to another, which has opened up the museum landscape.’ Isn’t there a danger, though, with curators moving from one country to another, that museum programmes become the same the world over? ‘It’s essential that there’s a strong local ingredient,’ he argues. ‘You have to have a mixture of protagonists from inside and outside to create a dialogue – a negotiation between the local and the global – otherwise institutions become homogenised.’ Hasn’t he chosen the wrong time to move here, just when the London art scene has lost its creative edge? ‘It’s very exciting to be here again,’ he insists, ‘because London keeps reinventing itself. There’s a new generation of artists’ spaces and galleries and London is an amazing laboratory for new architecture and design.’With Tate Modern dominating the scene, how does he see the role of public galleries like the Serpentine? ‘The question is more about relevance and vision. This has nothing to do with scale; it would be much simpler if it did. For the last year Julia [Peyton-Jones] and I have been discussing what an institution of the twenty-first century should be. It’s not about filling spaces, but intuiting what’s necessary and urgent.At a time when other museums are building new wings, we are building a new image; our extension will be through programming in concentric circles: the Serpentine, the park, the world. The gallery offers a very specific experience, because it’s a world within a world – a lofty space, which you walk to through the park. The change of momentum from slow to fast, and from noisy to as silent as a chapel is important; it works especially well for monographic exhibitions.’ I’m told that persuading artists to show in smaller public galleries can be difficult, because they are hoping to exhibit at Tate Modern. ‘You have to propose something that is context-specific,’ he explains. ‘At a certain time an artist needs a big retrospective, at other times they need a more focused exhibition. It’s a different story each time; it’s about establishing a dialogue. Flexibility is essential, otherwise everything becomes predictable; planning too far in advance is potentially deadly: it can make the programme very stiff.’He won’t divulge details, because the programme will be announced in the summer, but the first project is a pavilion with an inflatable canopy by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond which will stay on the lawn through the autumn. ‘There’ll be debates, performances, screenings and 24-hour interview marathons as well as a café,’ says Obrist, ‘to build bridges between art, architecture and design.’A Royal College graduate compared curating to writing an essay with artworks. How does he preceive the role? ‘I see a curator as a catalyst, generator and motivator – a sparring partner, accompanying the artist while they build a show, and a bridge builder, creating a bridge to the public. Jacques Derrida and Julia Kristeva proved that essay shows can be successful, but they have to be brilliant, otherwise they are in danger of using art to illustrate a text. You have to avoid a pre-written scenario. Great group shows are journeys that get written along the way; you don’t know the end point. ’How does the London art world compare with that of, say, Berlin? ‘The scene is no longer centred in one place, as it was in the past,’ says Obrist. ‘There’s a polyphony of centres and London plays a crucial role. Most cities have a centre surrounded by suburbs, but London has numerous centres: it’s the model of a twenty-first century metropolis.’
  • ===

    Hans Ulrich ObristIn November Art Review magazine named Hans Ulrich Obrist the number-one most influential person in the art world. But according to Obrist, the excitement hasn’t interrupted activities at London’s Serpentine Gallery, where he is co-director of exhibitions and programmes and director of international projects. For decades, Obrist has authored analytical commentaries on contemporary art, while simultaneously redefining its presentation at renowned institutions such as the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

    Obrist also conducts interviews. In the past few years he has released two 1,000-page volumes of his collected conversations with the most talented artists, architects, scientists, engineers and thinkers living today. Most recently he interviewed Jeff Koons for the artist’s new book “Hulk Elvis“, which features works from the series of the same name.

    It could be intimidating to interview someone with a C.V. like Obrist’s, but the man at the other end of the telephone line is disarming and reassuringly self-possessed. He draws his interlocutor into a cocoon of seemingly all-encompassing knowledge about everything involving aesthetics. Obrist speaks incredibly fast, and crams in so many snippets of insight that it would be impossible to relay them all in one pass. Here we present the highlights, including his thoughts on the trouble with meetings, the world’s most exciting new art scene and why it is vital to consider posterity.

    More Intelligent Life: What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

    Hans Ulrich Obrist: I always have coffee and porridge for breakfast. My breakfast happens very early, at 6.30am, because I wake up early. I founded a club, which is called the Brutally Early Club. It’s basically a breakfast salon for the 21st century where art meets science meets architecture meets literature. The reason why I decided to do my club at 6.30am in different cafés, which are open so early, is because in 21st-century cities it’s become very difficult to improvise. Everybody has a schedule and it becomes really difficult to decide from one day to the next to gather for a meeting. You have to plan it weeks and weeks in advance. It’s so important to have improvisation in cities. Most people are free at 6.30, so that’s the idea of the Brutally Early Club and I have done it ever since I moved to London.

    MIL: At this point in your career it seems that you could curate at any museum or gallery of your choosing, but you’ve been with Serpentine for quite a bit. What’s special to you about working there?

    HUO: It’s a very exciting collaboration with Julia Peyton-Jones, the director [of the gallery]. I am the co-director and we began working together in 2006. That collaboration is one aspect, and another is obviously the park. It’s the gallery, the park, the world, and it’s in Kensington Gardens. Artists really love the location because it’s completely a world in its own. There’s nothing else there. When they have an exhibition it is really their world with art in the park. Another thing that is special is that admission is free, so it’s art for all.

    MIL: And it’s in London, which is a city that you love and a perfect place for your open-ended model of curation that doesn’t rely on a city or a locale. You seem to have settled down from your constant travels in the ’90s. It’s like you’ve reversed the process and are making the work you want to see come to you now.

    HUO: From 1991 to 2000 I was totally nomadic. I was travelling 300 days a year and building out my research. These were a bit like my learning and migrating years, so to say. Goethe called it lehr und wanderjahre, this sort of idea of having these years where one would learn and migrate.

    In 2000 a new decade started, and it was sort of my second professional decade. I felt that it would be important to somehow have a place that was more grounded and with regular exhibition activity. It would also allow feedback. Otherwise you just book the show and you are already at the next one, and you never hear or feel what happens with the show. When I began this work the art world was still limited to art centres mostly in the West, but today the art world is totally global, particularly in the non-Western world like China, India, and so on. For me, the most exciting experience the last couple of years has been the Brazilian art scene. Brazil is completely exploding with an extraordinary optimism and an extraordinary energy. One cannot just sit in one place because you miss out on the extraordinary historical circumstances with so many new centres.

    MIL: You’re also a big proponent of research and ensuring art from different cultures is documented for history’s sake. 

    HUO: As Larry Halprin says, it’s a protest against forgetting. That means not only looking at younger and emerging artists, which is obviously a main focus of my work, but also to look into positions from the past and pioneers and artists who are maybe forgotten but need to be remembered. It’s key to see that there are not all of a sudden all these great artists, but there have been very interesting artists throughout the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. It’s important to make this archaeological investigation.

    MIL: You seem to be embracing a sort of globalisation of the art world.

    HUO: It’s interesting because in some way the forces of globalisation, so to say, have always been a part of every society, and it’s not the first time that we have experienced globalisation. But in our time we’re being exposed to a particularly strong or extreme form of globalisation and I think that these forces are not only effective in society at large but also effective in the world of art. To some extent the question is always how to work within globalisation.

    MIL: I’d like to switch gears for my last question. You’ve interviewed Jeff Koons many times and one of the interviews is included in the new “Hulk Elvis” book, which was just released. He is primarily an object-based artist, which seems to be far away from the non-object-based art you’re so interested in at the moment. But I have a feeling you can easily connect these two types of work. How do you reconcile these different mediums? 

    HUO: As you say I’ve interviewed Jeff Koons many times, and we are actually working on a book right now where all these interviews I’ve done with him are going to be gathered together. I’ve done about eight interviews with him and then two interviews with him and Rem Koolhaas about architecture and art. Mr Koons’s work has always inspired architects, which I think is very interesting. I think he is an artist who has reinvented himself so many times and reinvented so many different series. Earlier this year we had a big exhibition that Julia Peyton-Jones and I organised at the Serpentine Gallery—the Popeye exhibition. He is clearly an artist who inspires a younger generation of artists. For example, [he has influenced] Tino Sehgal, the German artist who is going to do a big solo project at the Guggenheim Museum in New York [opening on January 29th]. He is one of the youngest artists ever to get the whole Guggenheim to himself. He’s also an artist that never works with objects. He basically works with situations. It’s a non-mediated experience and so in this sense it’s completely and totally different from Jeff Koons. Therefore it’s very interesting that Mr Sehgal has what he calls the “Koons test”.

    MIL: I’ve heard of this. He says if they someone dislikes Koons then he doesn’t want to work with him or her.

    HUO: Exactly. And he’s an artist in his early 30s. So it all shows how Koons’s work resonates with a young generation of artists and I think that’s always very important—how art travels and if a new generation artists connects to a practice. That is super relevant.


    Image credit: Hans Ulrich Obrist on Myspace

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Hauser & Wirth’s Mega Gallery Expands to Los Angeles – Major Space Announced


Hauser & Wirth Developing L.A. Art Space with Paul Schimmel – BWWVisual ArtsWorld by 5.24.13

“As partner in Hauser &S Wirth, Mr. Schimmel will help the gallery develop and will run a new Los Angeles arts space called Hauser Wirth & Schimmel. Envisioned as a museum-like destination for experiencing art in context, the new venue is expected to open in 2015 and will offer three to five major exhibitions per year. Hauser Wirth & Schimmel will place significant emphasis upon education and public programs, offering an array of on-going events and activities inspired both by its exhibitions and the local culture.”

“Hauser Wirth & Schimmel will be shaped as a cultural center. It will provide a platform for the substantial group of exceptional Los Angeles artists represented by the gallery; introduce Los Angeles to the work of artists from around the world through solo exhibitions and rigorously organised historical shows; invite leading scholars, curators and writers to participate in programs seeking new and compelling connections between history and the present day; and prioritize can be no dount ommunity engagement and lingering visits.”


The spectacular cultural program announced by the Hauser Wirth & Schimmel gallery is nothing less than astounding. It seems that it is a response to every criticism of MoCA Los Angeles. That it will do what the Jeffrey Deitch led MoCA has claimed it cannot do – as it had to become a Populist institution that allowed street art to overwhelm true high culture. There can be no doubt that this new gallery in formation will become the space that lifts Los Angeles’ cultural scene to untold new heights. Over the years many LA arts institutions have had dreams they could not realize, from building a major new museum building, to having the level of cultural programming that draws an international audience. It would seem that the gallery will also be providing the kind of public intellectual life that MoCA claimed was impossible to exist in Los Angeles. LA’s artworld thought that it was major error in having a former gallerist run a major contemporary art museum. It seems that the correct formula is to have a world class curator as the tastemaker, and the high minded deep pockets business end will make it all possible.

Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles


Previous reporting:

The Hollywood Reporter has offered the news that former MoCA Los Angeles Chief curator Paul Schimmel has accepted a offer and position with Hauser & Wirth, one of the most powerful galleries in the world. This is the first world-class international gallery to expand to Los Angeles from Europe. The gallery would be the only one in Los Angeles with a contemporary art curator of the highest rank on its team. There are a few others internationally with major curators on its staff, such as Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in Paris. Schimmel would be quickly moving beyond his departure from MoCA, which was fighting for its financial life, to one a commercial gallery with vast resources. I am anticipating that he will create thematic group shows with exhibition catalogs that will be as potent as the best shows ever curated at MoCA. His curatorial eye and vision will give the works he selects a double power – that of immediate curatorial validation from the highest of cultural authorities, yet within the context of a hugely commercial enterprise. Hauser & Wirth’s Los Angeles gallery space could become the dominant player in the LA artworld.

It has only been a few months since the gallery expanded into the Chelsea gallery district in New York City, opening a spectacular 23,000 sq. ft. space with an exhibition of the work of Dieter Roth. The gallery was also already operating on New York’s Upper East Side. Now with spaces in London, Zurich and New York City, the gallery will be expanding into Los Angeles. When this happens and the actual location and scale of the space is announced, it would join a small number of the super elite galleries that have recently expanded west into LA, including L&M Arts and Matthew Marks (2 separate new spaces). This new tier of LA gallery, which includes massive spaces at Blum & Poe, Regen Projects, Perry Rubenstein, LA Louver, Gagosian, are offering a platform for many international artists, many whom have never before exhibited in Los Angeles, or at least not in recent or even distant memory. Add to this Laura Owens 12,000 sq. ft. studio space, east of downtown LA, that is currently showing several of her recent large scale paintings. The space is already being used for readings, screenings, and possibly a show by the legendary New York City painter Alex Katz. Many LA artists are quite surprised to see the continued growth of the LA art market at the uppermost elevation. Yet it is also quite rewarding to go to openings at these new venues, as several are defacto LA kunsthalles that are also commercial galleries, bringing in the best of international art to Los Angeles as never seen till today. Perhaps this also means that more of LA’s own top art stars today, from Paul McCarthy to Thomas Houseago to Sterling Ruby, will be exhibiting some of their works here, created in airplane hanger sized studios, (McCarthy, 150,000 sq. ft. LA studio), Ruby, 90,000 sq. ft. LA studio) instead of shipping everything to NYC or out of the country.

Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles



Hauser & Wirth take on Paul Schimmel for Los Angeles gallery

Friday, 24th May 2013

Press release: Hauser & Wirth is pleased to announce that internationally acclaimed curator and scholar Paul Schimmel has been named a partner of the gallery. Schimmel joins Iwan Wirth, Manuela Wirth and Marc Payot in leading an enterprise founded over 20 years ago.

Described by The Financial Times as ‘a marketplace of ideas’, Hauser & Wirth has locations in Zurich, London and New York. Its program focuses upon significant contemporary artists and includes historical surveys and thematic group exhibitions that advance new dialogues about art.

The gallery represents over 50 established and emerging contemporary artists, as well as the estates of Eva Hesse, Allan Kaprow, Josephsohn, Lee Lozano, Jason Rhoades, Dieter Roth, Philippe Vandenberg and the Henry Moore Family Collection.

Click here for more: After 20 years, why is Hauser & Wirth setting up a gallery in Somerset?

Over the course of the past three decades, Paul Schimmel has become known as one of the most influential curators of his generation. Formerly chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), and recently a co-director of the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, Schimmel is credited with playing a pivotal role in establishing southern California’s unique contemporary art scene as a potent force on the global cultural stage.

Pictured above: Legs of a Walking Ball by Eva Hesse

He is a scholar of the art of the 1950s; has created ambitious thematic exhibitions that have shaped recent art history; and has organized defining retrospectives for significant artists ranging from Willem de Kooning to Charles Ray, among many others.

As partner in Hauser & Wirth, Mr. Schimmel will help the gallery develop and will run a new Los Angeles arts space called Hauser Wirth & Schimmel. Envisioned as a museum-like destination for experiencing art in context, the new venue is expected to open in 2015 and will offer three to five major exhibitions per year.

Read more on Hauser & Wirth

Hauser Wirth & Schimmel will place significant emphasis upon education and public programs, offering an array of on-going events and activities inspired both by its exhibitions and the local culture.

Like Hauser & Wirth Somerset, the exhibition and outdoor art facility scheduled to open in 2014 on the historic 100-acre Durslade Farm at the edge of the ancient town of Bruton in southwest England, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel will be shaped as a cultural center.

It will provide a platform for the substantial group of exceptional Los Angeles artists represented by the gallery; introduce Los Angeles to the work of artists from around the world through solo exhibitions and rigorously organised historical shows; invite leading scholars, curators and writers to participate in programs seeking new and compelling connections between history and the present day; and prioritize community engagement and lingering visits.

Pictured above: Plans for Hauser & Wirth’s Somerset gallery

Hauser & Wirth will announce additional details about the location, design and programs of Hauser Wirth & Schimmel in early 2014.

‘Los Angeles has been an essential part of Hauser & Wirth’s history from the very beginning,’ Iwan Wirth commented. ‘In 1992, our first year in business, I saw Paul Schimmel’s MOCA exhibition ‘Helter Skelter’, and for me it was a revelation. Los Angeles is a place of breakthroughs. Dieter Roth’s first exhibition in the United States took place in Los Angeles.

‘The work of pivotal figures we represent – Allan Kaprow, Richard Jackson, Paul McCarthy and Jason Rhoades – would be unimaginable without the impact of Los Angeles upon their thinking and practices. And now younger generation artists like Diana Thater, Thomas Houseago, Sterling Ruby and Rachel Khedoori are extending our relationship with this amazing city.

‘We have long dreamt of opening a space in Los Angeles and making a contribution to the community that means so much to our artists and to us personally. We are honored and delighted to have Paul Schimmel as our partner in realizing that dream’.

‘Each of Hauser & Wirth’s locations reflects the distinct character of its city,’ said Marc Payot. ‘The buildings we occupy in Zurich, London and New York all have colorful histories, the local communities have very specific cultures, and these things influence our thinking about our program.

‘With Paul Schimmel leading our Los Angeles initiative, the gallery’s West Coast destination is guaranteed to have a fantastic sense of place, a great complement and counterpoint to our presence on the East Coast and in Europe’.

‘It is a great honor to join Hauser & Wirth,’ said Paul Schimmel. ‘The gallery has a profound dedication to artists, a consistent commitment to scholarship and a strong sense of community in an increasingly globalized world. The partners, directors, staff and artists of the gallery are an extraordinary extended family’.

About Paul Schimmel

Born and raised in New York and educated at Syracuse University and the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, Paul Schimmel has resided in Los Angeles for thirty years. He has spent much of his career examining the artists who have defined that city. Schimmel began his career at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston TX, where he was a curator from 1975 to 1977 and senior curator from 1977 to 1978.

He served as the chief curator of the Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach CA from 1981 to 1989. In 1990, he became chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), a position he held until 2012. At MOCA, Schimmel mounted many of the institution’s most ambitious and effecting exhibitions.

In addition to ‘Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990s’, these included ‘Hand-Painted Pop: American Art in Transition, 1955 – 1962′; ‘Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949 – 1979′; ‘Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949 – 1962′; and ‘Under the Big Black Sun: California Art, 1974 – 1981′, the most comprehensive survey ever organized to examine the fertility and diversity of art practice in California during a unique period in American history when artists’ and institutions’ societal roles were re-examined dramatically.

Schimmel’s monographic exhibitions included shows devoted to Chris Burden, Willem de Kooning, Takashi Murakami, Sigmar Polke, Robert Rauschenberg and Charles Ray. He has won numerous honors and awards, including two awards from the Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC), seven awards from the International Association of Art Critics (AICA), and the Award for Curatorial Excellence given by The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College (2001).

Mr. Schimmel has recently served on the Committee for the Preservation of the White House and the La Caixa Contemporary Art Collection Acquisition Committee. He has been co-chairman of the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. In spring 2013 he received an honorary doctorate from the San Francisco Art Institute.

About Hauser & Wirth

Hauser & Wirth is a global enterprise representing over 50 established and emerging contemporary artists, including Rita Ackermann, Ida Applebroog, Phyllida Barlow, Louise Bourgeois, Christoph Büchel, David Claerbout, Martin Creed, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Martin Eder, Ellen Gallagher, Isa Genzken, Dan Graham, Rodney Graham, Subodh Gupta, Mary Heilmann, Andy Hope 1930, Roni Horn, Thomas Houseago, Matthew Day Jackson, Richard Jackson, Rashid Johnson, Rachel Khedoori, Bharti Kher, Guillermo Kuitca, Maria Lassnig, Paul McCarthy, Joan Mitchell, Ron Mueck, Caro Niederer, Christopher Orr, Djordje Ozbolt, Michael Raedecker, Pipilotti Rist, Sterling Ruby, Anri Sala, Wilhelm Sasnal, Christoph Schlingensief, Roman Signer, Anj Smith, Monika Sosnowska, Diana Thater, André Thomkins, Ian Wallace, Zhang Enli, David Zink Yi, and Jakub Julian Ziolkowski. Hauser & Wirth also represents the estates of Eva Hesse, Allan Kaprow, Josephsohn, Lee Lozano, Jason Rhoades, Dieter Roth and Philippe Vandenberg, as well as the Henry Moore Family Collection.

Click here for more


The following is a collection of articles, interviews, recent reviews and gallery installation shots concerning Hauser  Wirth.


Chelsea’s Newest Mega-Gallery Embraces Its Gritty, Industrial Past

A view of Hauser & Wirth's cavernous new space, with one of Dieter Roth's "Floors" in the back leftA view of Hauser & Wirth’s cavernous new space, with one of Dieter Roth’s “Floors” in the back left (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

Yesterday afternoon, Hauser & Wirth opened the doors to its new space in Chelsea for a preview. The gallery’s only home until now in New York has been a townhouse on the Upper East Side, which, like all buildings of its sort, makes for a narrow, multilevel (and sometimes fragmented) art-viewing experience. The new gallery, the site of the former Roxy nightclub and roller rink on West 18th Street, is pretty much the opposite — a cavernous warehouse that, although it’s technically only one floor, seems to expand and spread in every direction.

Another view of the spaceAnother view of the space

The space, first and foremost, is huge: 23,000 square feet, bested probably only by David Zwirner’s 30,000 square feet a block north and Gagosian’s 25,000 square feet of space nearby on West 24th Street. Compared to those two, both of them quite pristine white cubes, Hauser & Wirth’s new gallery has a much grungier, more industrial feel. Co-owner Marc Payot touched on that in his remarks yesterday, saying the gallery “didn’t want to create another white cube. We wanted to respect the architecture.” Not that huge, industrial spaces are anything new, mind you, but it’s just as well: the place is pretty jaw-dropping as is, and though there’s no doubt I’d prefer Chelsea still sport a roller disco rather than yet another massive gallery, at least the shell of the Roxy — its vaulted ceilings and skylights, a small plate on the floor where the roller rink used to start — remains. (As an amusing side note, I discovered that the Roxy’s former website is now a Japanese site about dogs.)

Björn Roth explaining his father's "Landscape with Tower" (1976–94)Björn Roth explaining his father’s “Landscape with Tower” (1976–94)

The gallery is opening with a show devoted to Swiss artist Dieter Roth and his collaborations with his son, Björn Roth. A somewhat abbreviated visit left me with the impression that this is a fantastic exhibition, and a great choice to inaugurate the space. Whether it’s “Large Table Ruin,” a sprawling installation made from the accumulated tools and miscellaneous studio detritus that seems to have a mind of its own; an assemblage made partly from junk and paint cans and toys; or a painting that includes plastic tubes and is activated by pouring liquid into them, Roth’s work is rough to its core. His aesthetic is one of controlled chaos, an embodiment of the provisional, and his palette full of browns and tans and earthy colors.

Dieter Roth's "Floors"Dieter Roth’s “Floors” (click to enlarge)

All of this fits well with the feeling and architecture of the former nightclub — in addition to things that just fit, quite literally, in there, like Roth’s “The Floor” pieces, which are composed of two floors from his studio in Iceland. On a brief walkthrough of the show, which unfortunately was largely drowned out by noise from non-listeners and the echo of the space, Björn explained that his father had originally upended and installed the floors as artworks in 1992, when he was having an exhibition in Switzerland and didn’t have enough work to fill the giant space. I can’t help but take this as confirmation that by continually creating and opening huge spaces, the art world is encouraging artists to basically go big or go home — but that’s another story for a different day.

The second generation Roth and one of his sons, Oddur, also created a beautiful site-specific bar for the gallery, a permanent installation located in a little nook in the southeast corner of the space. To get to it, you traverse another permanent installation, Mary Heilmann’s “Two-Lane Highway” painted on the floor, while one of the bar’s windows overlooks the third permanent installation, a gleeful striped tape piece by Martin Creed that decks the entrance hallway and stairs.

Videos by Dieter Roth on the wall, Mary Heilmann's "Two-Lane Highway" on the floorVideos by Dieter Roth on the wall, Mary Heilmann’s “Two-Lane Highway” on the floor
A view of Martin Creed's permanent installation from inside the Roths' barA view of Martin Creed’s permanent installation from inside the Roths’ bar

The bar was the subject of much conversation among the assembled writers, artists, and others — I suspect because its dark wood, jumbled candles, coziness, and slightly underfinished feeling make it exactly the kind of place you’d want to hang out in (if only it were in Brooklyn …). Also because most of us will never actually get to hang out there: like so much of the art world, the bar won’t be open to the public, only accessible for special occasions.

Bjorn and Oddur Roth's "Roth New York Bar"Björn and Oddur Roth’s “Roth New York Bar”

Hauser & Wirth’s new space at 511 West 18th Street (Chelsea, Manhattan) opens to the public tomorrow, Wednesday, January 23, with the exhibition Dieter Roth. Björn Roth.

STERLING RUBY’S “EXHM” EXHIBITION at Hauser & Wirth, London Photo Aurora Aspen

Hauser & Wirth

20 Years

€ 58.00

Hauser & Wirth
20 Years

Edited by Michaela Unterdörfer, Hauser & Wirth, texts by Susanne Hillman, Michaela Unterdörfer, Iwan Wirth, Maria de Lamerens, graphic design by studio achermann, Zürich


2013. 1082 pp., more than 1500 ills.

21.90 x 29.30 cm
hardcover in slipcase


ISBN 978-3-7757-3512-4

| History of the gallery’s past twenty years in a comprehensive reference work

| An example of an influential contemporary art gallery with branches in Zurich, London, and New York

When Iwan Wirth, Manuela, and Ursula Hauser founded the Hauser & Wirth Gallery in 1992, there was no art market in the current sense. The numerous fairs, auctions, biennials, and festivals were not initiated until later. Philanthropic entrepreneurs professionalized, public cultural institutions privatized, and collectors opened their own museums. Art become a status symbol and an investment; hence, the mediation of content, protected by the new profession of curator, also became more important. Parallel to its gallery platform and its over fifty artists, including Louise Bourgeois, Isa Genzken, and Paul McCarthy, Hauser & Wirth regularly shows historical stances in elaborate museum-like presentations of artists such as Egon Schiele, Francis Picabia, and Hans Arp. This publication devotes itself to the gallery’s artists in more than fifty generously illustrated chapters and includes an extensive chronology, archival material, and personal photographs of over two hundred exhibitions, shedding light on the gallery’s lively history.


THOMAS HOUSEAGO’S “SPECIAL BREW” EXHIBITION at Hauser & Wirth London, London Photo Aurora Aspen



Eva Hesse 1965 at Hauser & Wirth, London

In 1964, Eva Hesse and her husband Tom Doyle were invited by the industrialist Friedrich Arnhard Scheidt to a residency in Kettwig an der Ruhr, Germany. The following fifteen months marked a significant transformation in Hesse’s practice. ‘Eva Hesse 1965‘ running from 30 January to 9 March at Hauser & Wirth, brings together key drawings, paintings and reliefs from this short, yet pivotal period where the artist was able to re-think her approach to colour, materials and her two-dimensional practice, and begin moving towards sculpture, preparing herself for the momentous strides she would take upon her return to New York.

Hesse’s studio space was located in an abandoned textile factory in Kettwig an der Ruhr. The building still contained machine parts, tools and materials from its previous use and the angular forms of these disused machines and tools served as inspiration for Hesse’s mechanical drawings and paintings. Sharp lines come together in these works to create complex and futuristic, yet nonsensical forms, which Hesse described in her writings as ‘…clean and clear – but crazy like machines…’.

Seeking a continuation of her mechanical drawings, in March of 1965, Hesse began a period of feverish work in which she made fourteen reliefs, which venture into three-dimensional space. Works such as H + H (1965) and Oomamaboomba (1965) are the material embodiment of her precisely linear mechanical drawings. Vibrant colours of gouache, varnish and tempera are built up using papier maché and objects Hesse found in the abandoned factory: wood, metal and most importantly, cord, which was often left to hang, protruding from the picture plane. This motif would reappear in the now iconic sculptures Hesse would make in New York.

The time Hesse spent in Germany amounted to much more than a period of artistic experimentation. In Germany, Hesse was afforded the freedom to exercise her unique ability to manipulate materials, creating captivating, enigmatic works which would form the foundation of her emerging sculptural practice.

Eva Hessse 1965, 30 January until 9 March, Hauser & Wirth London, Savile Row, London, W1S 2ET.


1. Oomamaboomba, 1965, Ursula Hauser Collection, Switzerland. Photo: Abby Robinson, New York
2. Eva Hesse at work in her studio in Kettwig an der Ruhr, Germany, ca. 1964 / 1965 © The Estate of Eva Hesse. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Nathan Kernan
3. No title, 1965, © The Estate of Eva Hesse. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth



Contemporary Art Daily

A Daily Journal of International Exhibitions

“A Visual Essay on Gutai” at Hauser & Wirth

October 21st, 2012

Artists: Norio Imai, Akira Kanayama, Takesada Matsutani, Sadamasa Motonaga, Shuji Mukai, Saburo Murakami, Shozo Shimamoto, Kazuo Shiraga, Yasuo Sumi, Atsuko Tanaka, Tsuruko Yamazaki, Jiro Yoshihara

Venue: Hauser & Wirth, New York

Exhibition Title: A Visual Essay on Gutai

Date: September 12 – October 27, 2012


Full gallery of images, press release and link available after the jump.


"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
Tsuruko Yamazaki
Tsuruko Yamazaki
"A Virtual Essay on Gutai" at Hauser & Wirth
Kazuo Shiraga
Kazuo Shiraga
Norio Imai
Norio Imai
Norio Imai
Norio Imai
Norio Imai
Norio Imai
Akira Kanayama
Akira Kanayama
Takesada Matsutani
Takesada Matsutani
Takesada Matsutani
Takesada Matsutani
Sadamasa Motonaga
Sadamasa Motonaga
Sadamasa Motonaga
Sadamasa Motonaga
Shuji Mukai
Shuji Mukai
Saburo Mirakami
Saburo Mirakami
Saburo Murakami
Saburo Murakami
Shozo Shimamoto
Shozo Shimamoto
Shozo Shimamoto
Shozo Shimamoto
Shozo Shimamoto
Shozo Shimamoto
Shozo Shimamoto
Shozo Shimamoto
Kazuo Shiraga
Kazuo Shiraga
Yasuo Sumi
Yasuo Sumi
Atsuko Tanaka
Atsuko Tanaka
Atsuko Tanaka
Atsuko Tanaka
Atsuko Tanaka
Atsuko Tanaka
Tsuroko Yamazaki
Tsuroko Yamazaki
Tsuroko Yamazaki
Tsuroko Yamazaki
Tsuroko Yamazaki
Tsuroko Yamazaki
Jiro Yoshihara
Jiro Yoshihara
Jiro Yoshihara
Jiro Yoshihara

Images courtesy of Hauser & Wirth, New York

Press Release:

New York, NY… After World War II, a devastated Japan processed the impact of the atomic bomb and faced a cultural void. It was in this atmosphere of existential alienation that the Gutai Art Association (Gutai Bijutsu Kyokai) – a group of about twenty young artists, rallying around the charismatic painter Jiro Yoshihara – emerged in the mid-1950s to challenge convention. Although keenly aware of Japan’s artistic traditions, the Gutai artists attempted to distance themselves from the sense of defeat and impotence that pervaded their country, and to overcome the past completely with ‘art that has never existed before’. They burst out of the expected confines of painting with daring works that demonstrated a freewheeling relationship between art, body, space and time. Dismissed by Japanese critics as spectacle makers, the Gutai artists nevertheless produced a profound legacy of aesthetic experimentation, influencing Western critics and anticipating Abstract Expressionism, Arte Povera, Fluxus, and Conceptual Art.

‘A Visual Essay on Gutai’ traces efforts by these artists to resolve the inherent contradictions between traditions of painting – the making of images on a flat, framed plane – and the core tenets of a movement that called for experimentation, individuality, unexpected materials, and, perhaps above all, physical action and psychological freedom. On view at Hauser & Wirth New York will be more than 30 works spanning twenty years, all of them exciting responses to the constraints of painting and the limits of time itself.

Curated by Midori Nishizawa and organized with Olivier Renaud-Clément, ‘A Visual Essay on Gutai’ also marks the half-century anniversary of Gutai’s first U.S. exhibition, which was organized by the French critic Michel Tapié, noted champion of Art Informel. His ‘6th Gutai Art Exhibition’ was presented in New York City in September 1958 at the Martha Jackson Gallery at 32 East 69th Street – in the townhouse now occupied by Hauser & Wirth New York.

‘A Visual Essay on Gutai’ will remain on view at the gallery through 27 October and will be accompanied by a new publication based, both in concept and design, upon the twelve Gutai journals that the group published and disseminated internationally in the decade between 1955 and 1965.

The Gutai Art Association was formed by Jiro Yoshihara in July 1954, in the Ashiya region of Japan. Exhorting younger artists with such slogans as, ‘Don’t imitate others!’ and ‘Engage in the newness!’. Yoshihara challenged Gutai’s members to discard traditional artistic practices and to seek not only fresh means of expression but the origins of artistic creation itself. The Gutai artists responded with performance, installation, flower arrangement, and music, often in public places. In seeking to define this constantly changing body of work, Yoshihara penned The Gutai Art Manifesto in 1956, proclaiming ‘the novel beauty to be found in works of art and architecture of the past which have changed their appearance due to the damage of time or destruction by disasters in the course of the centuries…that beauty which material assumes when it is freed from artificial make-up and reveals its original characteristics.’ Yoshihara concluded the Manifesto by stating, ‘Our work is the result of investigating the possibilities of calling the material to life. We shall hope that there is always a fresh spirit in our Gutai exhibitions and that the discovery of new life will call forth a tremendous scream in the material itself’.

In working toward the goals outlined by Yoshihara, the Gutai group realized that the elements needed to make unprecedented art were in fact to be found in unexpectedly familiar places. Kazuo Shiraga wallowed in mud; Saburo Murakami leapt through expanses of paper; and Atsuko Tanaka employed bells and lightbulbs in theatrical performances. In tandem with such efforts, however, Gutai artists continued to struggle with the expected materials and physical parameters of classic painting techniques, and to explore abstraction as a means to escape its intellectual and creative confines. In ‘A Visual Essay on Gutai’, visitors to Hauser & Wirth will encounter works in which stretched canvas is married to acrylic, plastic, cloth, vinyl, resin, plaster, tin and even projected light – works that occupy a liminal realm between painting and sculpture. Works by Tsuruko Yamazaki, Norio Imai and Takesada Matsutani in particular ambush the pictorial plane with, respectively, cloudlike tin projections, white molded apertures, and glossy vinyl and resin blobs.

Kazuo Shiraga is perhaps the best known Gutai artist internationally. Among the works in ‘A Visual Essay on Gutai’ are two of his powerful ‘Performance Paintings’ – aggressive abstractions from the early 1960s in crimson and green. ‘I want to paint as though rushing around a battle field’, he wrote in 1955. He even used his feet to create these works in the heat of the moment.

The exhibition also includes two important paintings by Atsuko Tanaka, the most internationally recognized female figure within the Gutai group who is best known for creating the ‘Electric Dress’ (1955). This garment made of incandescent bulbs was painted in primary colors and worn by the artist during a Gutai performance. The physical dress with its tangled wires and brightly lit bulbs morphed into Tanaka’s two-dimensional paintings, which are seemingly whimsical works exploring the circles and circuits in which she was ‘sensing eternity’.

‘A Visual Essay on Gutai’ also includes two of Jiro Yoshihara’s famed ‘circle’ series of about 25 paintings, one of the most important bodies of work to emerge from the Gutai movement. ‘Work’ from 1967 is an important example from this series, which was influenced by the Zen artist-monk Nantembo Toju (1839 – 1926), an artist who worked in calligraphy and ink painting. In Zen tradition, the circle represents void and substance, emptiness and completion, and the union of painting, calligraphy, and meditation.

At a time when a majority of Japanese artists had adopted a Western approach to creating and criticizing art, Gutai’s ideas and works were repeatedly met with the question, ‘Is this art?’. What established Gutai as entirely unique was the fact that no one, often including the movement’s own members, could predict the group’s course and the manifestations its work would take. Gutai’s imperative to continually create something surprising took its artists in new directions, leading Yoshihara to ask himself, ‘whether or not the production process was stamped with the instant of creation as proof of the fierce desire to affirm a vivid sense of adventure and a free spirit’.

Link: “A Visual Essay on Gutai” at Hauser & Wirth


bruce nauman: mindfuck exhibition at hauser and wirth, london

bruce nauman: mindfuck exhibition at hauser and wirth, london

original content
bruce nauman: mindfuck exhibition at hauser and wirth, london
Jan 30, 2013

first image
‘run from fear, fun from rear’, 1972 by bruce nauman
neon tubing with clear glass tubing suspension frame
two parts:
20.3 x 116.8 x 5.7 cm  / 8  x 46  x 2 1/4 in
18.4 x 113 x 5.7 cm  / 7 1/4 x 44 1/2 x 2 1/4 in
image © 2012 bruce nauman / artists rights society (ARS), new york / DACS london
private collection

bruce nauman: mindfuck
hauser and wirth london, savile row
on from the 30th of january through to the 9th of march, 2013

from the 30th of january, 2013 hauser and wirth will present the work of renowned artist bruce nauman with an exhibition titled ‘mindfuck’
in the north gallery, savile row. the show, featuring an eclectic selection of works from throughout nauman’s career, will focus particularly
on his iconic neon sculptures and installations. the work triggers a critical dialogue surrounding a body of work whose central themes
explore the human condition, language, sex, and death. the experience of works by nauman speaks of a certain state of trauma,
a nod to the hysteric, and ode to the psychotic – to the consequences of the superego and to the logic of dreams.

weaved throughout the compositions is nauman’s bizarre ability to build visual and experiential manifestations that tap into the
complexity of the human unconscious. ‘mindfuck’ calls attention to the enduring weight of the mind-body split in the artist’s work -
neon sculptures such as ‘sex and death / double ’69’ (1985) and ‘good boy / bad boy’ (1986 – 1987) could be said to represent the
conscious and cerebral side of his art, whereas installations such as ‘carousel (stainless steel version)’ (1988) and
‘untitled (helman gallery parallelogram)’ (1971) focus on the phenomenological aspect of his exploration of perception, space, and the body.
nauman’s artistic approach enters the worlds of psychology, anthropology, sociology, and behavioural science.
the artist once stated that he wanted to make ‘art that was just there all at once…like getting hit in the back of the neck with a baseball bat’.

‘sex and death/double ’69”, 1985
neon tubing on aluminium monolith
227 x 134.8 x 34 cm / 89 3/8 x 53 1/8 x 13 3/8 in
image © 2012 bruce nauman / artists rights society (ARS), new york / DACS london
private collection. courtesy hauser & wirth
photo: stefan altenburger photography zürich

‘untitled’ (helman gallery parallelogram) (detail), 1971
wallboard, green fluorescent lights
458 x 552 x 691 cm / 180 3/8 x 217 x 3/8 x 272 in
image © 2012 bruce nauman / artists rights society (ARS), new york / DACS london

‘carousel (stainless steel version)’, 1988
stainless steel, cast aluminum, polyurethane foam, electric motor
height: 183 cm / 72 in
diameter: 612.1 cm / 241 in
image © 2012 bruce nauman / artists rights society (ARS), new york / DACS london
courtesy of the ydessa hendeles art foundation
photo: robert keziere

‘sex and death’, 1985
pencil, charcoal and watercolour on paper
approx. 200 x 228 cm  / c. 78 3/4 x 89 3/4 in
image © 2012 bruce nauman / artists rights society (ARS), new york / DACS london
private collection. courtesy hauser & wirth

lara db

Former MOCA Chief Curator Paul Schimmel Inks New Gallery Deal

12:12 PM PDT 4/11/2013 by Degen Pener, Maxwell Williams
Paul Schimmel - P 2013
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Paul Schimmel

The deal with Hauser & Wirth could bring plans for the gallery to open a space in Los Angeles.

Paul Schimmel has landed.

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According to art world insiders close to the former chief curator of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Schimmel has inked a deal with the Zurich-based gallery Hauser & Wirth, which also has branches in London and New York. According to the sources, the deal will bring Schimmel to the gallery, and that plans for the gallery to open a space in Los Angeles are likely.

If this is the case, the gallery, which represents dozens of major artists including Paul McCarthy, Christoph Büchel, Pipilotti Rist and Rita Ackermann, would immediately become one of the biggest players in town.

The terms of the deal are not known.

Schimmel was fired from his position at MOCA amidst an imbroglio that included the resignations of the museum’s four remaining artist trustees, John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Catherine Opie and Ed Ruscha. Since Schimmel’s departure from MOCA, he has worked as the co-director of the Mike Kelley Foundation in Los Angeles. It is unclear whether the gallery — which handles the estates of many artists including Eva Hesse, Jason Rhodes, Allan Kaprow and Dieter Roth — will take Kelley’s estate aboard.

On March 19th, Hauser & Wirth hosted a conversation between Schimmel and Los Angeles-based artist Sterling Ruby at its London branch, in conjunction with an exhibition of Ruby’s work. This talk sparked rumors about the curator’s involvement with the gallery, and soon whispers turned to full-blown speculation.

Schimmel is one of the most highly respected curators in the field, having organized upwards of 350 exhibitions, most notably retrospectives of the artists Charles Ray, Paul McCarthy, and Takashi Murakami, as well as a host of thematic group shows. His swan song at MOCA, “Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962” about artists who physically damaged their canvases was hailed by the LA Times as “boldly thoughtful” and “illuminat[ing] a big — but overlooked — idea.”

A rep from the gallery did not reply to a request for comment.


Michael Hall Leaves Armory Show for Hauser & Wirth

by Brian Boucher 11/28/12

Armory Show creative director Michael Hall has resigned effective Friday. He confirmed his departure to A.i.A. by phone today.

Hall will take up a new job at Hauser & Wirth Gallery next week after almost seven years with the Armory Show. Hauser & Wirth opened an Upper East Side location in 2009, and will inaugurate a new venue in Chelsea in January.

Hall started at the fair in 2005 as operations manager but became managing director when Katelijne De Backer left her post as director in 2011. He became creative director this fall. He was involved in developing the talks and film series (Open Forum and Armory Film) and the regional “Focus” section, and selected and worked with commissioned artists.

Cofounding director Paul Morris resigned in September after 18 years. On Sept. 27 A.i.A. broke the news that the Armory Show, the Volta Show and Art Platform Los Angeles were up for sale by Chicago-based Merchandise Mart Properties.

The Armory Show’s centennial edition will take place March 7-10, 2013, at piers 92 and 94 on the Hudson River.

PHOTO: Michael Hall and Jacob Fabritius. Photo by Catarina Lundgren Åström via Flickr.

House of Wirth: The Gallery World’s Power Couple

by Dodie Kazanjian

Hauser & WirthIwan and Manuela Wirth with Thomas Houseago’s Hermaphrodite, 2011
Photographed by Norman Jean Roy

On the heels of a major New York expansion, the gallery world’s Swiss power couple is set to open a cultural center in the English countryside.

New York’s Chelsea art district is fighting its way back from the devastating floodwaters of Hurricane Sandy. Countless works of art have been lost, and some of the smaller galleries may not survive, but the art community as a whole seems amazingly buoyant. At David Zwirner on West Nineteenth Street, where the water level hit five feet, Diana Thater’s video installation Chernobyl is up and running in the only operable space a week and a half after Sandy, while construction crews labor around the clock nearby. One block south, work is continuing full tilt on Hauser & Wirth’s huge new gallery, whose opening date is scheduled for January 22. Marc Payot, the Hauser & Wirth partner who is in charge here, tells me he hadn’t wanted to look at this space originally, because it wasn’t on the ground floor—but he did so, and it’s turned out to be a very smart decision. Confidence in the future, which has helped to make Hauser & Wirth one of the world’s most powerful contemporary-art galleries, is what drives the art world these days.

Iwan Wirth, a 42-year-old Swiss who started the business 20 years ago in Zurich, has never been afraid to think big. Exuberant, curly-haired, bursting with enthusiasm for his artists and their projects, he has transformed the London art scene during the past decade with his three galleries in Mayfair. Now, at 24,700 square feet, his emerging New York behemoth—formerly known as the Roxy, the famous eighties disco and roller rink—will be one of the largest column-free art spaces in town. Hauser & Wirth has had a smaller gallery on East Sixty-ninth Street since 2009, but now that it represents Paul McCarthy, Roni Horn, and several other important American artists exclusively, Iwan has decided that they need “a bigger playground.” He adds, “The artists will want this, and it’s important that we feel it before they do.” Martin Creed, the British Turner Prize–winner, is re-creating the grand stairway of the new gallery as an artwork. Because Dieter Roth, the late Swiss artist whose work will also inaugurate it, insisted on having a bar in all his exhibitions, Hauser & Wirth is installing one (permanently) in what used to be the Roxy’s VIP area, over the stairs. The exhibitions will stay up much longer than they do in other New York galleries: There will be only four a year. Unlike the globe-girdling Gagosian empire, Hauser & Wirth has no plans to establish outposts in other cities. “The artists lead the way,” Iwan tells me. “We’re located in exactly the right places, and now we have the ideal space in New York.”

Hauser & WirthLouise Bourgeois, Spider, 1994
Photographed by Norman Jean Roy

I spent some time with Iwan and Manuela, his wife and business partner, in England last summer. Theirs is very much a family business. Iwan, who has been buying and selling art since he was sixteen, went to see Ursula Hauser in 1990 because he had an opportunity to buy a Picasso and a Chagall, but only half the money needed to pay for them. Ursula, a self-made retail and department-store magnate who became one of Switzerland’s greatest art collectors, found him charming, and agreed to put up the money. They celebrated the joint venture with a bottle of cognac, three snifters of which so unhinged nineteen-year-old Iwan that he became inarticulate when Ursula introduced him to her daughter Manuela, and then drove his car into their fence as he was leaving. Manuela overcame her dubious first impressions of him (“arrogant, young”); she joined the new firm of Hauser & Wirth as his secretary and agreed to marry him four years later. Their offices are side by side now, in their big, suavely modern gallery on Savile Row, and they have an equal share in all decisions—except those regarding sales. “Like Ursula, Manuela is useless as a salesperson,” Iwan tells me, “because she doesn’t like to let go of things, and she’s too polite to nag people. It’s much easier for me because I have to pay the bills.” All three of them are passionate collectors, and the personal family collection, most of which is in a warehouse in Switzerland, covers a very wide range of art in addition to the core holdings in modern and contemporary.

“Being Swiss,” he says, “you have to be a bit of a pirate—go out and find the treasure, because it won’t find you. We’re a small country surrounded by big players, and you have to find your niche. When we started our gallery in 1992, most of the important painters were taken, and local collectors already had strong relationships with galleries. So the niche for us was artists who were making more complicated work, work that needed support, that was highly important but not commercially successful. A lot of the artists we take on don’t have a market—our job is to build it.”Their first artist was Pipilotti Rist, a young Swiss whose uproarious video Ever Is Over All, produced by Hauser & Wirth, would soon take the art world by storm and be acquired by the Museum of Modern Art. Jason Rhoades and Paul McCarthy, two Americans whose unruly, in-your-face sculptural installations had cult status but scared off dealers and collectors, joined the gallery soon afterward, as did Louise Bourgeois, a legendary older artist whose market fell far short of her reputation. Others followed—Roni Horn, Ellen Gallagher, Rashid Johnson, Sterling Ruby, the estates of Eva Hesse and Henry Moore—50-plus artists and estates, more than a third of whom are women. “I’m a feminist,” Iwan explains. “I’ve always felt that women artists in the twentieth century are dramatically underrated, underrepresented, and underpriced.” (Manuela teases him because his family comes from the Appenzell region of Switzerland, where women couldn’t vote until 22 years ago.)

Hauser & Wirth artists check in, but they don’t check out; not one has ever left this artist-centric gallery. Iwan estimates that he spends 95 percent of his time working with and for his artists, and the other 5 percent on art sales in the secondary market, which, because he’s so good at it, keeps the gallery afloat. “The best thing about the art market,” he says, “is that it’s unstructured and unregulatable. That’s the nature of the beast. Sharing knowledge and information is the backbone of our business. Things that would put you in jail in another industry are not bad in this wonderful world. This suits me very well because that’s the way I think and function. I’m a fish in water. People confuse prices with quality, but if you’re knowledgeable and have a feeling for art, even in this crazy market, you can find great art that’s affordable.”

In 2000, Iwan joined forces with David Zwirner and opened Zwirner & Wirth in New York on East Sixty-ninth Street. They did a lot of great shows together over the next nine years but decided to go their separate ways because of what Zwirner describes as “brand confusion”—they still share artists, inventory, and clients, and continue to work together. “It’s a lot of fun to have a real friend in this industry,” says Zwirner. “Somebody I can trust a hundred percent.” Meanwhile, with the Zurich operation thriving, Iwan and Manuela established themselves in London—first in Piccadilly, then Savile Row. They moved their family over in 2005, put their four young children in English schools, and then, in 2007, they discovered Somerset.

On a typically English day—cloudy with periods of rain—Iwan, Manuela, and I are driving southwest in their sturdy Land Rover. It’s two hours to Bruton, the town where they went looking for a country place of their own and fell in love with the ancient, historic, and spiritual landscape of Somerset. (This is King Arthur territory, and its history goes back to Neolithic times: We pass Stonehenge on the way.) They bought a fifteenth-century farmhouse and set to work renovating it, a five-year project that involved extensive landscaping of the 500-acre property—restoring an apple orchard, putting in wildflower meadows, a walled vegetable garden, and 40,000 trees and bushes with the help of New York–based landscape designer Miranda Brooks. They moved in a few months ago, and the children now live there full time; Manuela and Iwan commute from London on weekends. “It’s the epicenter of everything we do now,” says Iwan. “It was in horrible condition when we first saw it. But within half an hour, Manuela looked at me, I looked at her, and we knew this was destiny. The place found us.”

The rain is coming down harder as we get closer, driving on a narrow lane that keeps turning into green tunnels between the thick high hedges on each side. “They’re ancient and full of birds and berries and small animals,” says Iwan. “I’m actually planning a book about Somerset hedges.” We enter the property, passing flocks of sheep, a monumental Thomas Houseago sculpture, and an allée of stone heads by Hans Josephsohn, which have just been delivered. Inside the front door, where two long rows of dark-green wellies are lined up, in various sizes, the two youngest children fling themselves into their parents’ arms. A deep immersion in English country life is the keynote here, coexisting with the challenging works of art on view throughout the marvelous old house.

The next morning, the sun keeps trying to come out as Iwan and Manuela offer an overland tour of Durslade Farm, the adjoining, 200-acre property that the gallery bought three years ago, and which they are turning into a local cultural center. The farm buildings here, which date from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, haven’t been inhabited for 20 years, and the place is a picturesque ruin—it was the setting for some scenes in the film Chocolat. Scheduled for completion in the spring of 2014, the renovation will provide art-exhibition and education spaces, film screenings, a two-acre landscaped park (with 24,785 plants) designed by Piet Oudolf, who did the plantings for New York’s wildly popular High Line, and a world-class restaurant and bar. The heart of the project is an ambitious artist-in-residence program, which has already started with a year-long visit from Pipilotti Rist, along with her ten-year-old son. As Iwan says, there’s a tradition of writers, music and theater here, but it’s a desert when it comes to visual art. “This is where art can go to work and change people.

“This place is a slowing-down facility,” adds Iwan, whose cornucopia of ambitious projects might overwhelm a fainter spirit, but who himself never seems rushed about anything. That night, sitting at the long dining table in the barn, with his four children, their nanny, and Phyllida Barlow, a 68-year-old, little-known English artist who’s recently joined the gallery, Iwan is indefatigable. He carves and serves the steaks he’s just grilled—from an animal on the next-door farm—passes around a huge wedge of Cheddar from the artisanal cheesemaker we visited this afternoon, and urges us to have another glass of his excellent Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He banters with Phyllida about the sculpture he’s asked her to make for the ancient well in their garden.“He’s forever young,” Mary Heilmann, another artist he represents, told me, “and he’s forever old.”

This month Hauser & Wirth is giving a dinner party in the entrance hall of the New York Public Library to celebrate the opening of its Chelsea gallery. All its artists are invited, and the gallery is flying them in from around the world. Both the setting and the scale are momentous, yet somehow appropriate. Anthony d’Offay, London’s most important art dealer from the late sixties until he closed his gallery in 2001, told me recently that he has known three great contemporary dealers. “There was Leo Castelli, Xavier Fourcade, and now, Hauser & Wirth. These three have had the old-fashioned idea that encouraging the artist and being truthful and doing great shows has an important role in the world. It’s not about making a trillion dollars. It’s about enthusiasm for great works of art. Iwan goes to sleep at night, and dreams about art.”

January 10, 2013 2:59p.m.

The New Hauser & Wirth Makes Room for an Entire Army of Loyal Artists


Iwan Wirth is standing at the top of the stairs in the former Roxy dance club and roller rink, which he recently had renovated into the largest of the outposts of his global art enterprise, Hauser & Wirth. It is the week of the opening of the big-box gallery’s first show, a survey of the rather intimidating work of Dieter Roth and his son Björn Roth, and he’s introducing his artists to each other: Zany British conceptualist Martin Creed, styled a bit like Willy Wonka (and who enlivened the entry stairway with strips of colored tape), meet world-weary Indian Subodh Gupta, draped in a scarf and looking desperate for a tea. Thirty-three of Wirth’s artists made the pilgrimage altogether, and many are still jet-lagged after being called from all over the world. “Everybody knows me, but not everybody knows each other,” he says with Swiss bonhomie. “It’s like a class reunion, only they’ve never met before.”

The grand opening of this converted disco is the biggest thing to hit West Chelsea since Hurricane Sandy. Fortunately, the exhibition space is up a flight. What was once a sweaty, shirtless dance floor is now, thanks to architect Annabelle Selldorf, a vast, tidy exhibition hall, the largest column-free space in Chelsea. Later this month, the dealer David Zwirner, Wirth’s former partner in New York, whose own gallery already takes up most of 19th Street, is opening a five-story expansion on 20th Street, which Selldorf also designed. As the art gets supersized along with the profits, these new galleries look and feel like museums. Gagosian was a pioneer of this model, but, as one curator who has worked with both attests, “Iwan’s no Gagosian. He’s so warm,” and “unusually focused on art which is difficult to understand.”

And on naughtiness: Ten years ago, when Hauser & Wirth opened a gallery in a former bank in London, Paul McCarthy created a bawdy, messy food-fight video work featuring people wearing oversize heads portraying Osama bin Laden, President George W. Bush, and the Queen Mother. “These spaces are about education, of course,” says Wirth, a burgherish but still boyish 42.

Wirth’s journey began in 1990 outside Zurich, when he was a teenage entrepreneur looking for seed money to help buy a Picasso and a Chagall to then resell. He persuaded a department-store owner, Ursula Hauser, to invest, and after they started Hauser & Wirth together, he married her daughter Manuela. At first, the gallery worked in the “secondary market,” matching old works with new owners, before beginning to represent contemporary artists — which wasn’t easy, since, as Wirth has admitted, “No artist really needs to show in Switzerland.” They overcame their place on “the periphery” of the art world — though very much at an epicenter of European money — by punctilious customer service. (Wirth once cited good bookkeeping as a major reason for his success.) And by having good taste in what they bought for themselves: “They were my best collectors,” says Rita Ackermann, an abstract painter born in Hungary who now lives in New York and joined last summer. “A dealer must collect the art themselves.” The gallery brags that it’s never lost an artist.

In Zurich, Hauser & Wirth is part of a hybrid commercial and noncommercial arts complex in a former brewery; outside London, it is building a local cultural center with an artists-in-residence program. But in New York, the gallery that represents ­museum-approved artists like Pipilotti Rist, Roni Horn, Louise Bourgeois, and Dan ­Graham was tucked away from the ­contemporary-art spotlight in a townhouse on the Upper East Side, shared with Zwirner until 2009. (The Zwirner & Wirth partnership ended around the time Wirth started looking for spaces downtown; Zwirner has cited a need to avoid “brand confusion.”) The gallery’s arrival in Chelsea — in this New York dream palace, a Ziegfeld for art — is a sign that art globalism goes both ways. It’s not just Gagosian in Hong Kong, it’s also foreigners planting their flags in the New York market.

With, of course, their own values. “I think with Iwan it’s not a commercial venture. It’s very much about the artists and what they need and what they want,” says Paul McCarthy, who is seated with his wife in a bar designed by Oddur Roth, Dieter’s grandson, a cozy tangle of industrial junk. “For me, the pieces have gotten bigger, almost to the point where I can’t show them. They’d have no place to go; who would own them? Instead of saying ‘Scale down, this is better for your art’ — which means better for sales — Iwan just follows.” Which sounds awfully indulgent, but when I ask Wirth about it, he says, “It’s not carte blanche — well, of course, it is carte blanche, but in a very controlled way.”

“You can be a great artist but still make really horrible decisions,” says Ackermann, who felt that, when she met Marc Payot, the also-Swiss head of Hauser & Wirth in New York, “it was the first time in my life when I had spoken honestly and completely with a dealer.” Payot tells her, she says, “This is a better one, that is a worse one, that is a piece of shit.”

Traditionally, Wirth explains, the secondary market has paid for the fun part: the creating of new art. Now, as more young artists are successful in their own right, he’s taken to looking for “who is overlooked,” he says, pointing around to the Roth exhibition as an example. “This is why we do historic shows — we’re creating a context,” he says. Actually selling art is another matter — the transactions increasingly take place at art fairs. “The problem you have with galleries is that there is no trigger point,” he says. “People just come and come again and then come again.”

*This article originally appeared in the February 11, 2013 issue of New York Magazine.


Hauser & Wirth to open new art gallery in Somerset

Derelict farm will be converted into gallery and arts centre and is expected to attract 40,000 visitors a year

Hauser and Wirth Somerset artists impression, aerial view

An artist’s impression of Hauser & Wirth Somerset in Bruton. Photograph: Hayes Davidson

London! Zurich! New York! And now eight miles south of Shepton Mallet, convenient for the A303 and Bristol-Weymouth railway line. One of the world’s leading commercial galleries has revealed plans to expand its operations into what were derelict farm buildings in Somerset.

When galleries such as Hauser & Wirth announce expansion, it normally means a new space in Mayfair or Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, not what was, for centuries, a working farm in the middle of the English countryside.

The gallery said it would open its latest outpost on the edge of Bruton in the summer of 2014. “This is a beautiful part of the world and also a very creative part of the world,” said Alice Workman, who will be in charge of Hauser & Wirth Somerset. It will consist of a gallery and arts centre which “will serve the local community and town but also act on a national and international level”.

The gallery is expecting about 40,000 visitors a year and is an interesting development. While the public appetite for contemporary art seems to grow and grow, the chances of any publicly funded galleries being planned soon is remote. It could provide a model for other galleries to follow.

Somerset does not have any significant contemporary art galleries, said Workman. “We’ve got a great arts scene in Bath and Bristol but they are a good hour away.”

Planning permission was granted last week for a gallery and arts centre on what was originally built as a “model farm” dating back to 1760. There is a cowshed, a piggery, stables, barns, a farmhouse and land – but most of it is in a terrible state of disrepair with some buildings not safe to enter.

It could become something of a country retreat for Hauser & Wirth’s artists and the farm has already been visited by names such as Pipilotti Rist, Roni Horn, Phyllida Barlow and Paul McCarthy.

“Our artists are finding this a really exciting and inspiring project,” said Workman. “It is something really different.”

Hauser & Wirth was founded in Zurich in 1992 by Iwan and Manuela Wirth and Ursula Hauser, opening on Piccadilly in London in 2003 and the Upper East Side of Manhattan in 2009. It expanded again in 2010 when it opened a new London space on Savile Row.

Workman said there was no real template or model to follow, and the enterprise was something “completely new”.

The site, Durslade farm, lies on the edge of Bruton – about 30 minutes from Glastonbury – and is not far from the railway station so it will not only attract visitors in cars.

Piet Oudolf has designed the landscaping including a one-and-a-half-acre meadow garden.

Workman said the local support had been striking. One resident is the Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud, who said: “I’m excited that this magical town is being given such a shot in the arm in a way which is full of interesting promise. Art, architecture and cultural activity are not always the most common form of regeneration that small market towns see and it’s going to be interesting to chart how the wider pull of Hauser & Wirth Somerset will colour the atmosphere of Bruton. This project will bring culture from our cities into the rural world – one which I inhabit and love – and I’m particularly looking forward to the mix that it will generate.”


Don’t Miss: Dieter Roth at Hauser & Wirth

blog-dieter-rother-bjorn-roth-exhibition-01.jpg Installation view, ‘Dieter Roth. Björn Roth’, Hauser & Wirth New York NY, 2013“You like some Jägermeister?” asks Björn Roth, a Marlboro Red burning in an ashtray next to his coffee at half past noon on a recent afternoon. “It’s healthy.”Roth, the son and sometime collaborator of the late German-born Swiss art polymath Dieter Roth, is standing behind the bar he built — with the help of his sons, Oddur and Einar, and a retinue of assistants — for “Dieter Roth. Björn Roth,” the inaugural exhibition at Hauser & Wirth’s new mega-gallery in New York’s Chelsea, in the former Roxy roller rink-cum-nightclub on West 18th Street.  A majestic survey of the Roths’ three-decade meditation on the art-making process through accumulation, decadence, and decay, the show opens tomorrow though Björn Roth and company have been working since mid-December to install it. They have been filling Hauser & Wirth’s massive 25,000 square foot space with a suite of Dieter’s Clothes Pictures— paintings made with the late artist’s hand-tailored suits (he lost 75 pounds in the early 90s)— and two abstract murals painted on the white siding of portable classrooms in Aesche, Switzerland. “All the other buildings were sprayed with graffiti, but they had so much respect for Dieter they didn’t touch ours,” says Björn, who lives in Iceland, where he is working on some new pieces with his own son Oddur.But Dieter is never far from this thinking. Shortly before Dieter Roth died in 1998 at the age of 68, he asked Björn to imagine they were on a train ride.“If I get off on the next station, will you continue with the train?” he asked his son.He was not pressing me at all,” Björn says. “It was a question, and I said, ‘Of course’ because the only thing I know is to ride this train.”blog-dieter-rother-bjorn-roth-exhibition-03.jpgBjörn RothFor the New York show, Björn, in an homage to the Manhattan skyline,  is reprising Dieter’s chocolate and sugar factory with two ceiling-high towers, one of Guittard chocolate, the other of rainbow-hued sugar crystal busts of Dieter with human, lion and sphinx heads. “The funny thing is that you can’t use cheap chocolate, or it will break,” says Björn, grabbing a handful of wafers. “There’s not enough oil.”Anchoring the exhibition are two floors extracted in 1992 and 1998 from Roth’s Mosfellsbaer, Iceland studio and the ever-expanding process piece “Large Table Ruin” —made from three-decades worth of drills, hammers, work tables, film, projectors,paints, beer bottles, and lamps and various installation tools. “It doesn’t look like it, but it’s a very chronological piece,” says Björn, laughing. “This table is in high danger of getting glued. Though that would be sad because these are the spare bulbs for the projectors.” And while the 128-screen video installation “Solo Scenes,” a document of the last year of Dieter’s life, speaks —like so many Rothian pieces — to impermanence, the bar, made of bits of machinery (and a harpoon) from and old Icelandic whaling factory, candle sculptures, and relics of the old Roxy,  is intended to stay open for the life of the blog-dieter-rother-bjorn-roth-exhibition-05.jpgFrom top: Dieter Roth/ Björn Roth. Tischtuch mit Palmenbildern, 1986-1994; Installation view, ‘Dieter Roth. Björn Roth’, Hauser & Wirth New York NY, 2013“I’ve had carte blanche,” says Björn of installing the show, conceding that this latest exhibition is rather spare compared to his first show with Hauser & Wirth in Zurich in 1998, a week before his father died. “It became a hangout for artists and all the guests were filmed,” he recalls. “I remember Paul McCarthy and Jason Rhoades having fun there. Christopher Wool came with his father. Urs Fischer worked there as a bartender. At that time he a young artist and probably needed the money and possibly he liked to [bartend].”The original bar — and subsequent iterations — were meant to function as a cosmos in itself. But just because it’s a work of art doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to grab a drink. “Maybe we’ll fly in a braumeister from Germany for the opening, but it has to be done in the right way,” says Björn, pouring a second round of Jägermeister.  “A lot of people try to make their own beer and it tastes like vomit.”blog-dieter-rother-bjorn-roth-exhibition-06.jpgThe bar at Hauser & WirthBut imbibers beware: the Hauser & Wirth saloon (and all its patrons) will be filmed. As will the opening: guests will be invited todrive remote controlled cars outfitted with cameras to make short, ankle-level videos. Adds Roth. “They make really great films.”

Installation shots: © Dieter Roth Estate, courtesy Hauser & Wirth, photos: Bjarni Grímsson; Hauser & Wirth saloon: Diane Solway

January 22, 2013

How To Spend It

A website of worldly pleasures from the Financial Times

Iwan Wirth talks personal style

Iwan Wirth set up Hauser & Wirth in 1992, and now has contemporary galleries in London, New York and Zurich.

February 16 2011
Emma Crichton-Miller

My personal style signifier is, apparently, my scarves. My wife, Manuela, was a great help here; she said I am “a scarf person”. I wear scarves because I fly so much and it is always warm, then cold, and I get a sore throat. I have them in all colours, fabrics, shapes; and I lose them quite regularly so I have to buy more. There is one from my friend Andi Stutz [owner of Fabric Frontline Zurich]; and whenever I go to visit Subodh Gupta, we seek out shops in New Delhi.

The last thing I bought and loved was a Swedish wood-splitting axe from the amazing German catalogue Manufactum. I love wood-chopping and I have a collection of axes. This one, called the Graensfors cleaving hammer (£111), is an art work. 0800-096 0938;

And the thing I am eyeing next is a “bella macchina” Berkel antique meat slicer, a high-quality industrial machine that slices your salami very thinly, safely. It’s very erotic. It really affects the quality of your food, and I am a food person.

The best souvenir I’ve brought home is an 18lb salmon from my first fishing trip to Iceland. I went with my friend Björn Roth, the son of Dieter Roth. It was late-season fishing and it was the only salmon I caught in four days. Bjorn told me to stuff it, so we did, and now it hangs in our kitchen.

The last item I added to my wardrobe was a bespoke suit from my neighbour in Savile Row, Kilgour. It’s dark-navy, single-breasted and made in light wool serge. I have walked up and down Savile Row 10,000 times over the past few months, as our new gallery took shape, and have been impressed by the construction of these suits. 8 Savile Row, London W1 (020-7283 8941;

My favourite room is the kitchen in our London house. The world stops at 6pm for our family dinner. When I am in town that is an iron rule, and so it is the most important room.

A recent find is a restaurant in Somerset called At The Chapel, run by Catherine Butler and Ahmed Sidki. It is a unique place – a bakery, a cultural centre, a pizza place and a grill. And also ­– completely different – the Duty Free Paul Smith shop at Heathrow’s Terminal 5. The older I get, the earlier I find I want to get to the airport, so I often have 30 minutes to kill. At The Chapel, High Street, Bruton, Somerset BA10 0AE (01749-814 070; Paul Smith Globe, Departure Lounge, Heathrow Terminal 5 (020-8283 7066;

The last music I downloaded was actually amassed by my staff – I got an iPod for my 40th birthday this year. They all downloaded their favourite tracks, from 1970s punk to classical; my own musical taste is embarrassingly ill-educated. I can listen as I drive to Somerset.

If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in is Los Angeles. Firstly, because it would be the ultimate challenge to live a completely different life; LA is the absolute opposite side of the coin to London. Secondly, many of our artists live there, and it would be extraordinary to be closer to them. And there is no other place where nature and the urban are so interlinked – sea, desert and city.

An indulgence I’d never forego is St Galler bratwurst, which you can get in the Kronenhalle in Zurich – the role model for all other artists’ restaurants. Ramistrasse 4, Zurich, CH-8001 (+4144-262 9900;

The books on my bedside table are Marcel Duchamp and the Forestay Waterfall, an extraordinary history of Marcel Duchamp and his final masterpiece, Étant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau, 2° le gaz d’éclairage. This was edited by a guy who worked for me once, and it has texts by every Duchamp specialist. And another that’s completely different: The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich by Daniel Ammann, a present from my Zurich director. Rich is an interesting character and a great art collector.

My favourite website is Education City, a website for my children to do revision. It keeps me up to date with their curriculum.


February 27, 2010 12:22 am

Hauser & Wirth’s latest expansion

By Georgina Adam

Iwan Wirth in his newest London gallery spaceIwan Wirth in his newest London gallery space

With his round glasses and curly dark hair, Iwan Wirth looks a bit like a grown-up Harry Potter. Highly focused and energetic, the Swiss art dealer, at just 39 years old, is one of the most influential and successful players in the market. His gallery, Hauser & Wirth, has outlets in Zurich, New York and London, with an artist roster that includes such established names as Roni Horn, Louise Bourgeois, Joan Mitchell, the estates of Lee Lozano, Eva Hesse, Dieter Roth and the Henry Moore family collection, alongside emerging artists such as David Zink Yi or Zhang Enli. A recent coup has been the acquisition, with New York dealer David Zwirner, of a large part of the Lauffs collection of minimal and conceptual art, some of which will be exhibited at Hauser & Wirth’s stand at the Maastricht fair next month.

Wirth opened his first art gallery at 16, at a time when he was still using the school telephone to make calls. A significant moment was meeting Manuela, daughter of the wealthy collector Ursula Hauser, in his 20s; he married Manuela and the three founded Hauser & Wirth in Zurich in 1992. By 2000 Wirth was forging ahead – a joint partnership in New York with David Zwirner was followed by the opening of a London gallery in a Lutyens-designed former bank at 196 Piccadilly in 2003. He then expanded into Shoreditch in the east end of London with a project space, Coppermill, which hosted keynote shows by Paul McCarthy, Martin Creed and Christoph Büchel; he moved out of Coppermill in 2007. The joint gallery with David Zwirner has ended, although the two dealers continue to collaborate, and H&W has its own space in New York.

Now H&W is opening its biggest space yet, in the heart of London’s West End. The 15,000 square foot, column-free gallery with six metre ceilings, divided into two parts, will be inaugurated this autumn with a major show devoted to Louise Bourgeois, who celebrates her 100th birthday next year. It is currently being refitted by architect Annabelle Selldorf.

We meet in the upstairs floor in Old Bond Street above the famed Red Room of the Old Master dealer Colnaghi, which H&W uses for contemporary shows once or twice a year. Piled high on the table are artists’ books – supporting the gallery artists through publishing catalogues and books is an important but lesser-known aspect of the gallery’s work.

Does the decision to open another space in London say something about the position of the British capital at the heart of the art market? I ask. “London had expanded so rapidly in the previous few years, and it was specialised in younger material which was worst hit,” he answers. “But now the London market is back on track, and the Giacometti price is a sign of this. Also, my experience is that non-American collectors now hesitate travelling to the US, they just don’t want to go through that hassle, they prefer to come to London.”

“For us, London is close to Switzerland where we have a strong collector base, a strong artist base. And then we are European, in the sense of doing business in an old-fashioned way.” He laughs: “When we went to New York I said we were the Aga of galleries,” referring to his traditional, methodical Swiss approach, “but they totally failed to understand, they don’t have Agas [old-fashioned range-style cookers] there … ”

We are speaking the day after Giacometti’s “L’Homme qui Marche I” (1961) achieved over £65m just up the road, at Sotheby’s. What does that price mean? I ask. “It is one of the rarest and most iconic trophies that you can have, I was never offered a Walking Man,” he says, “And at last sculpture has also found its rightful place – I always thought it was under-valued, but no more.” En passant, he gives credit to the auction houses for their managing of the art market downturn. “I’m quite impressed how they steered through the storm,” he says. “They did a very good job of re-instilling confidence. Of course they were also partly responsible for the excesses of the boom as well!”

During the downturn, art galleries were getting the upper hand as vendors became more hesitant to risk their works of art at auction and were more likely to sell them through dealers. I ask Wirth if the recent huge prices change this. “I’m afraid the Giacometti price will tip the balance back again in favour of the auction houses,” he says. “We had a buyer’s market, but it didn’t feel like a buyer’s market any more at Sotheby’s sale,” he says.

Whether or not the pendulum will swing back, Wirth is convinced that his position on both on the primary and secondary markets is the most successful business model for a gallery. “It is a balance, but operating on the secondary market makes very long-term investments in the careers of certain artists possible. The cycles are far more extreme if you just do primary,” he says.

We walk over to the new space in Saville Row, of which he is obviously proud. One side consists of a vast raw space, with no columns; Wirth stands obediently in the centre, admiring the bare breezeblock walls while being photographed. Is it true that he always shows a new space to his artists before making a final decision? “Absolutely! I see them very much as part of the family, I love building galleries!” he says. “It’s great to create these spaces for art, with artists. Sometimes an artist might show for 15 years in the same gallery, and a new space stimulates them.”

Wirth is known to be very close to his artists, who range in age from 30-year-old Polish artist Jakub Julian Ziolkowski to Louise Bourgeois at 98. I ask him if this is easy. “I started out so young, everyone was older than me!” he says. “30 or 60 were the same to me then, and actually it never occurs to me to think about the age of the artists, I just look at the art.”

“The art market is at its most interesting moment for a very long time because for the first time it is truly global,” he says. He has another appointment and with Swiss punctuality is anxious not to be late. In conclusion I ask if he has any more expansion plans. “No” he says, waving good-bye. “But then I always say that – until I find another space.”——–

GQ Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois

The rise of Swiss gallery Hauser & Wirth has been characterised by a quiet modesty some might interpret as stealth. “For those who’ve been watching, we’ve achieved a great deal,” says the gallery’s London director, Gregor Muir. “Hauser & Wirth may appear to some as an emerging gallery, but in fact it is one of the largest operations in the world.”

On 14 October, Hauser & Wirth opens the doors of its newest London space in the middle of Mayfair, on what was once the site of the English Heritage HQ. Designed by architect Eric Parry, it was recommended by its agent David Rosen at Pilcher Hershman, for its “New York factory” appeal. “This is the joy of London,” says Muir. “Finding this space was so unexpected.”

Opening night is scheduled during Frieze Art Fair, to be witnessed by everyone who is anyone on the global art scene, and the inaugural show will be Louise Bourgeois: The Fabric Works (“Untitled” 2007, pictured), a museum exhibition that comes straight from the Vedova Foundation in Venice. Many of the works are being shown for the first time, some of which have been lent by the Hauser family. Meanwhile, at Hauser & Wirth’s flagship gallery in Piccadilly, a Jason Rhoades show runs in tandem. For his 2005 exhibition, Black Pussy… And The Pagan Idol Workshop, Rhoades filled the former bank with flea-market junk and hung the place with 427 neon words, all euphemisms for vagina. He said he drew his inspiration from Mecca. So we can believe Muir when he says, “October will be an all-singing, all-dancing month for Hauser & Wirth.”

Now may seem like an odd time to be expanding an international art business, but this family-run outfit has always launched new galleries in dire circumstances. Iwan Wirth teamed up with his wife, Manuela Hauser and her mother, Ursula, to form their eponymous gallery, launching in Zurich in 1992, during the last recession and accompanying art-world slump. They opened their first London space in 2003, in a cultural and economic climate still reeling from 9/11, and at a moment when London’s top gallerist, Anthony d’Offay, had created shockwaves
by closing his space to become an “armchair dealer”. While the Establishment played it safe with bestsellers or retired to the sofa with its pipe and slippers, Hauser & Wirth moved into the grandiose ramparts of an Edward Lutyens-designed building opposite the Royal Academy and showed big, difficult, non-commercial, art.

It was all very impressive and smacked of authenticity, a rare commodity on the contemporary art scene, but who were these Swiss people with their good taste and bottomless funds? Such questions ricocheted around the velvet upholstery of antiquated London nightspot Tramp, during Hauser & Wirth’s discreet launch party. “Eight years on, people still don’t quite know,” says Muir. “I sit here and wonder when the penny will drop and they’ll realise Iwan isn’t just one of the biggest gallerists in London, but in the world.” Wirth has been placed in the top 20 of Art Review‘s Power 100 list every year since 2003, so I think they may have an inkling; he was No.11 in 2009, compared to Larry Gagosian’s No.5. What people really want to know is if Wirth’s muted yet meteoric rise is a threat to Gagosian, the man we all take to be the most powerful art dealer in the world.

In 2009, just as this recession got under way, Hauser & Wirth continued its expansion, this time to New York. Iwan Wirth already inhabited the building as half of the secondary market dealer, Zwirner & Wirth; but its new incarnation, as a large-scale, high-performance primary market gallery, was described by art commentator Robert Ayers as “an act of inspired art historical chutzpah”. They opened with legendary Sixties artist Allan Kaprow, inventor of the “happening”, who first produced his installation “Yard” in the same building, in 1961. Was this a red rag to New York-based Gagosian, or are comparisons missing the point? After all, Kaprow is no Jeff Koons, Gagosian’s bestselling, porn-star loving, figurehead artist. This is earnest stuff with no eye for fashion or sales. The closest Wirth gets to “the great male artist” is Paul McCarthy, known for his gigantic Disneyesque figures including “Gnome Buttplug” (Santa holding a sex aid), made for the City of Rotterdam, 2001. But McCarthy’s work is also rooted in the non-commercial “happening”: he performed psychosexual acts such as “Class Fool” (1976), in which he hurled himself about in a classroom splattered with ketchup until he was bruised and confused. He threw up, put a Barbie doll up his rectum and only stopped when the audience could take no more.

“Hauser & Wirth is a different type of model, unlike any other gallery,” says Muir. “We’re not just selling a product. Our focus is artists and they are unusual, distinctive people.” The right kind of space is intrinsic to the Hauser & Wirth vision, Muir tells me. Its acquisition of the cavernous Coppermill depot off Brick Lane in London led to shows such as Cristoph Büchel’s Simply Botiful exhibition (2006), for which the artist built sets of a sweatshop, recycling camp, a hotel/brothel and an import-export shop; visitors clambered up ladders and through dirt tunnels. In Turner Prize-winner Martin Creed’s 2007 show at the Coppermill, viewers were plunged into blackness save for a screen showing a penis sliding in and out of a woman’s anus to a slow, rhythmic beat; for the opening, this was accompanied by a live orchestra. The Labour government called Coppermill an outstanding rejuvenation project but was unable to halt the eventual destruction of the building, hence the three-year-search for a comparable space, ending with Savile Row.

The money for all this, one assumes, comes from the secondary market, buying and selling Modern Masters at auction and at art fairs such as the European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF). This is not the glossy, social world of contemporary art galleries such as White Cube and Gagosian; it is the domain of some of the highest net-worth individuals on the planet, “people who don’t make a noise,” says Muir. “Iwan isn’t social, he has another agenda.” It is a world familiar to the Hauser family, however, whose private art collection is housed in a railway-shed museum outside Zurich, which also contains studios, a library and archives. They collected Louise Bourgeois for more than 20 years before her death last year. Not born to collecting like his wife, Iwan Wirth had nevertheless started his first gallery by the age of 16. The opening hours were Wednesday afternoons and weekends, to fit in with his school timetable. Who knows where his love of art came from, but his father climbs mountains and there is a sense that Wirth’s phenomenal drive, steady climb and expansive vision form a sort of conceptual mountaineering. He is hands-on with his artists, loves travelling with them and displays an energy that would put most 20-year-olds to shame. Then again, he is only 40, quarter of a century younger than Gagosian and younger, too, than Jay Jopling and his YBAs.

Hauser & Wirth

14 October

Louise Bourgeois, Paul McCarthy, Martin Creed

23 Savile Row, London W1


Originally published in the October 2010 issue of British GQ.


Anj Smith at Hauser & Wirth

by New American Paintings

February 12, 2013, 8:30 am
Filed under: Review | Tags: , , ,

Portraits by the British artist Anj Smith appear at first glance to be those of young women. But careful viewing reveals elements that throw their portrayal of femininity into question—a few strands of facial hair, an Adam’s apple. Smith says the ambiguity is intentional, and that she was inspired to investigate issues of gender in her work by a close friend who recently underwent gender reassignment surgery. Her paintings are at once radical explorations of identity and sexuality, fused with a painting practice that has its roots in a fifteenth-century aesthetic and technique, a striking contrast that invigorates her work.

All of the eleven paintings on view at Hauser & Wirth in New York are small, but painted in intricate detail. At times Smith’s brushstrokes are scarcely detectable as hairline traces across her canvases. In other instances her brushstrokes are not detectable at all, as she has seamlessly created porcelain complexions and diaphanous textiles using an oil technique only achieved by true painting masters. It takes the artist six to nine months to create each painting, but the complexity of each piece succeeds in creating scenes that are surreal and alluring, well worth her time-consuming efforts. - Nadiah Fellah, NYC Contributor

High Blue Country
Anj Smith | High Blue Country, 2012, Oil on linen, 14 1/4 x 11 in
Girl in Glass
Anj Smith | Portrait of a Girl in Glass, 2012, Oil on linen, 18 1/2 x 15 3/4 x 1 in

The Moon Like A Flower

Anj Smith | The moon, like a flower, 2012, Oil on linen, 14 1/8 x 11 1/4 in

Among the many tediously-depicted details in each painting—common elements of which are insects, reptiles, monkeys, jewelry, flowers, cigarette butts—is Smith’s portrayal of each figure’s hair, richly highlighted, and which is intricately woven into braids and knots, adorned with feathers and fabric. That the tendrils seem to take on a life of their own is contrasted by the figures’ sullen or lifeless expressions, many shown in a three-quarter profile, another motif tying the artist’s work to a Flemish or Dutch painting tradition.

Fruits of Forest
Anj Smith | Fruits of the Forest, 2012, Oil on linen, 19 5/8 x 16 7/8 x 1 in
Fruits of Forest (detail)
Anj Smith | Fruits of the Forest (detail), 2012, Oil on linen, 19 5/8 x 16 7/8 x 1 in

Further conjuring Northern Renaissance masters like Jan Van Eyck is Smith’s use of symbolism, like the skulls so often seen in devotional paintings as momento mori, or reminders of the viewer’s mortality. However, she has written that, “symbols no longer stand for fixed intentions and a skull can mean pretty much anything…I feel those old defunct symbols retain a kind of ‘half-life’ meaning, a vestige of their purpose. As their original content decays in the present, they still suggest something to us, even if that ‘something’ is less clear and is morphing into something else.” The artist’s reimagined context for these symbols can be seen in her placement of an Alexander McQueen knuckleduster ring in the painting Fruits of the Forest, which features skulls in its design. The traditional symbol of mortality thus becomes one associated with consumerism and luxury, blurring the line between its traditional use in painting and the popular currency its gained as a fashionable icon. In another painting, New Blooms at the Ossuary, a crevice below ground and the decaying side of ghostly sea vessel reveal caches of skulls, each precisely rendered in detail. The artist’s myriad use of the motif in this instance borders on the absurd, taking the singular use of something meant to convey religious reflection, and repeating it until it becomes virtually meaningless.

New Blooms
Anj Smith | New Blooms At The Ossuary, 2012, Oil on linen, 22 x 27 1/2 x 7/8 in
New Blooms (detail)
Anj Smith | New Blooms At The Ossuary (detail), 2012, Oil on linen, 22 x 27 1/2 x 7/8 in

Although Smith’s paint handling is generally uniform and smooth, she departs from this method in her depiction of uneven terrain. By building up the oil on the canvas, parts of her paintings become almost sculptural, projecting off the surface of the work in high impasto to suggest a rocky texture. This technique is used in The Sentry, a picture of an androgynous reclining nude, whose gender is kept mysterious by a swatch of red fabric extending from the groin. Although the figure wears dark lip rouge and a flapper-style headband, closer observation reveals a barely-detectable layer of hair that covers the figure’s arms and legs, each strand rendered in painstaking detail. Despite the painting’s title, it is unclear what this figure guards, leaving one to contemplate its literal or allegorical meaning.

The Sentry
Anj Smith | The Sentry, 2012, Oil on linen, 18 1/8 x 15 3/8 x 7/8 in

The dark and whimsical nature of these works creates an aesthetic that is distinct, while displaying the artist’s ongoing engagement with the history and tradition of painting. In their careful rendering and rich, saturated colors, Smith’s paintings in themselves become like the priceless objects that are depicted within them. It is telling that the paintings in this show were sold almost immediately. Each tiny scene is an endless expanse of visual imagery and symbolism, and one could spend several moments tracing the minute details in her landscapes and portraits. Within each work are also remnants of popular culture and contemporary fashion that reward a meticulous eye. For this reason, Smith’s paintings are best experienced in person, where their sumptuousness and complexity can be fully appreciated.

Anj Smith | Ziggy, 2012, Oil on linen, 16 7/8 x 15 3/8 x 7/8 in

Anj Smith: The Flowering of Phantoms is on view at Hauser & Wirth in New York through February 23rd.

Anj Smith was born in Kent, England in 1978 and studied painting at the Slade School of Fine Art and Goldsmith College, both in London. Since 2003 she has had multiple international shows, in Europe, India, Thailand, and the US. Smith currently lives and works in London.

Nadiah Fellah is a graduate student of Art History at The Graduate Center, CUNY in New York.


Fair Players

The Dealer

Published: December 3, 2006

Imagine that you’rean art dealer, and when you ask one of your artists for a work to sell at the Frieze Art Fair, he presents you with a thousand copies of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” in Arabic. What do you do? If you’re Iwan Wirth, you place those books smack in the middle of your booth, just as the artist, the Swiss sculptor Christoph Büchel, wanted. Did he ever consider just saying no? “Absolutely not!” Wirth insists. “But after the piece sold, we removed it. People were stealing the books. Why would anyone want to walk around an art fair with a copy of ‘Mein Kampf?’ ”

Julian Broad for The New York Times

Irwin Wirth, above the fray, in his booth at the Frieze Art Fair.

Readers’ Opinions

Looking like a grown-up Harry Potter with unruly curls and a hearty laugh, Wirth, 36, has become one of the most powerful players in contemporary art since founding the gallery Hauser & Wirth with his wife, Manuela, and mother-in-law, Ursula Hauser, in their native Switzerland in 1992. They now have outposts in Zurich and New York, as well as three gallery spaces in London, where he and Manuela live with their four children. Frieze, now in its fourth year, is Britain’s biggest art fair, drawing 152 galleries and some 63,000 visitors. It is also a highlight of Wirth’s business year. “It’s the center of gravity of the London art scene,” he says in his singsong Swiss accent, “thrilling, exciting and completely exhausting.”

Juggling the roles of curator, construction mogul, psychologist, entrepreneur and nanny, Wirth had a frenzied Frieze week in October. After presiding over the opening of a palatial new gallery on Old Bond Street, he gave a beer-and-sausage party to celebrate an installation by Büchel at his cavernous East London project space. Then there was the premiere of “Sick Film,” by the British artist Martin Creed. Wirth also had to buy for collectors at the London auctions that week, where he hoped to bag a Peter Doig painting for Hauser & Wirth’s own collection. After all of that, in addition to taking his children to school each morning, he still had several million dollars’ worth of art to sell at the fair.

Born in eastern Switzerland to an architect father and schoolteacher mother, Wirth got the art bug at 7, when he staged his first show — copies of Giacometti and Henry Moore sculptures he made himself. “I sold them for 75 francs,” he remembers proudly. Wirth opened a commercial gallery in their village at 16 and set up as a private dealer in Zurich in 1990. There he met Manuela, the daughter of a wealthy Swiss family. Together they acquired an ambitious contemporary-art collection for her mother and established Hauser & Wirth. Their artists include Europeans like Isa Genzken, Andreas Hofer and Pipilotti Rist, although Wirth has a penchant for “big boy” U.S. sculptors like Paul McCarthy and the late Jason Rhoades. He is equally excited about Büchel, whose East London show included a replica of an illegal industrial recycling plant. “When you meet a great artist like Paul, Jason or Christoph, you just know,” Wirth says. “There’s a particular type of energy — and they need a big gallery like ours to support them.”

That support comes from his secondary market, which generates most of Hauser & Wirth’s turnover. Like his rivals, Larry Gagosian and Jay Jopling, Wirth is an ace salesman. Having set new records at each of the first three Frieze fairs, he had high expectations for 2006. Wirth says that the frenzy of the fairs has transformed the art market, by replicating the buzz of the auction room and spurring even veteran collectors into making impulse purchases. “If people have time to decide, they’ll take it,” he observes. “The miracle of the art fair is that they don’t.”

By the second day of Frieze, almost all of the art in Hauser & Wirth’s booth has been sold, including a $480,000 McCarthy sculpture. The Old Bond Street gallery had opened smoothly, as had Creed’s film, although Büchel’s factory installation proved trickier. Local officials panicked at possible safety risks, and then a truck crashed into a sign outside. But his only disappointment was being outbid for the Doig painting at auction. “It was a beauty,” Wirth lamented. “My limit was £600,000, but I went up to £800,000, and someone bid £820,000. I tell collectors to set a limit and stick to it, but that’s what happens. It’s like a doctor telling his patients not to smoke and being a terrible smoker himself.”

Alice Rawsthorn is the design critic for The International Herald Tribune.–Wirth-to-open-in-New-York/17434

Hauser & Wirth to open in New York

Gallery hopes to buck the downturn with transatlantic expansion

By Charmaine Picard. Market, Issue 203, June 2009
Published online: 27 May 2009

NEW YORK. Hauser & Wirth is opening a gallery space in New York in September as part of its long-term strategy to increase US market share. The gallery will expand its Zurich- and London-based operations at a time when shrinking demand for contemporary art has led several galleries to close international branches and others to cut staff.

“Everybody is looking at costs, and so are we,” said gallery owner Iwan Wirth. He added: “The art market has shrunk, but we made a decision one year ago that if there’s one place we want to be, and need to be, for the next 20 years it’s New York.”

The space will be located on the first four floors of the Upper East Side townhouse currently occupied by Zwirner & Wirth gallery. The six-story building, which was purchased by Ursula Hauser in 1997, is the site of the former Martha Jackson Gallery where Allan Kaprow installed his famed work Yard in 1961. The gallery, which represents the artist’s estate, will recreate the installation for its inaugural exhibition. Mr Wirth told The Art Newspaper: “Many of our artists, like Allan Kaprow, Paul McCarthy, Eva Hesse and Roni Horn, have no gallery representation in New York. We have great relationships in America and we want to shorten the distances.” Hauser & Wirth partner Marc Payot will run day-to-day operations at the New York outpost.

Although Mr Wirth will no longer share a space with New York dealer David Zwirner, the pair will continue their collaboration in the secondary market. Meanwhile, Mr Zwirner will also open a new space on 19th Street in Chelsea this September, in a building designed by Shigeru Ban, whose new Centre Pompidou-Metz opens next year.

According to Mr Wirth: “The good thing about the moment is there are lots of opportunities—you get great staff and great works of art with more realistic prices. It’s a buyer’s market.”

Hauser and Wirth Opens Giant New Gallery in Chelsea

by Brian Boucher 01/23/13

International powerhouse gallery Hauser and Wirth makes a dramatic addition to its list of locations (Zurich, London, New York’s Upper East Side) this week, when its mammoth new space opens at 511 West 18th St. in Chelsea. A.i.A. attended a press preview Monday.

The new space’s debut comes less than two weeks after the row of small galleries on West 27th Street finally re-opened after Super-storm Sandy. Situated on the second floor, the new facility was unaffected.

View Slideshow Installation view, ‘Dieter Roth. Björn Roth’, Hauser & Wirth New York NY, 2013 © Dieter Roth Estate Courtesy Hauser & Wirth Photo: Bjarni Grímsson; Dieter Roth Grosse Tischruine (Large Table Ruin) (with Björn Roth & Eggert Einarsson) Begun 1978 Mixed media installation Dimensions variable Installation view, ‘Dieter Roth. Björn Roth’, Hauser & Wirth New York, 18th Street, New York NY, 2013 © Dieter Roth Estate Courtesy Hauser & Wirth Photo: Bjarni Grímsson;

“Dieter Roth. Björn Roth” (Jan. 23–Apr. 13) is the first exhibition on West 18th Street, and it includes installations, sculpture, video and prints by the father-and-son team, about half the works on loan from the Dieter Roth Foundation, Hamburg. Featured are more than 100 objects, created since the 1970s, some never before shown in the States.

As Hauser and Wirth’s Marc Payot told A.i.A. during a preview visit this fall, “Roth represents a kind of father figure for many of the artists we represent, in that his work is process-oriented and often collaborative, as well as highly complex and multilayered.” A gallery press release points out that Roth’s work sprung from a central concept of the indivisibility of art and life.

Visitors are greeted in the entryway by a site-specific, permanent work by Martin Creed, in which vertical stripes of colorful duct tape of various designs adorn the wall of the stairway that leads up to the second-floor space to the reception desk.

There, visitors turn a corner into a nearly 25,000-square-foot, column-free, sky-lit space under wood ceilings supported by black steel trusses. New York architect Annabelle Selldorf oversaw the design of the new facility, which is in the former home of the Roxy discotheque. It neighbors the High Line elevated park and Frank Gehry’s building for the IAC headquarters.

Large parts of the space are perfumed with the scent of chocolate, from Selbstturm (Self Tower), 1994/2013, a giant column of busts made out of chocolate, stacked on glass shelves in a metal frame, whose production continued in the gallery, with two young men cooking up the chocolate and carving the busts. “There are two-men teams working in 12-hour shifts,” the gallery’s Michael Hall told A.i.A.

Björn Roth led a walkthrough of the show Monday, explaining the genesis of two gigantic works, The Floor I (1973-1992) and The Floor II (1977-1998), that are actual floors from studios Roth occupied, displayed upright in the manner of a painting.

“The idea of the floor paintings came in 1992,” he said, when they had a large wall to fill in an exhibition. He pointed out where a section of the floor had been cut out to accommodate a door in that wall, saying with a smile, “we had to cut a door in the floor.”

Standing in front of some paintings made from tablecloths, he noted that “most works in the show are made from materials that had some other life.” The paintings are dated with huge spans of time, like Tischtuch mit Gechirrbildern (1987-94). “His philosophy was that you don’t do much at any one time,” he said, speaking of his father. “When I look at these paintings, every line brings memories from different times.”

Memorabilia from the Roxy adorns a café/bar created by Björn, who often collaborated with his father to create bars, and Björn’s son Oddur, whose name, he explained to A.i.A., is Icelandic for the point of a spear. “The business end,” he added with a mischievous smile.

“Some staffers had birthdays during the installation, which we celebrated here,” Hall pointed out, “and you can still see leftover cake in the glass-fronted filing cabinets above the bar.”

“Those are American-made cabinets,” Oddur told A.i.A., “which were exported to Iceland maybe 50 years ago, and which we found as scrap and brought back to the States. Scrap always has a history. And we live off of it. Or,” he asked philosophically, taking another drag on his cigarette, “does it live off of us?”

Oddur was standing in the bar, near a large glass cabinet in which scraps of paper were whirling around. “That’s a shredder for tearing up bad reviews,” he said with a meaningful glance at an art critic standing nearby.

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