December 2009

Turner Prize winner Richard Wright was sitting on a gold mine with his untitled, ornate gold fresco. Wright’s work  is actually one of the first winners whose work I really enjoyed, both in aesthetics and idea. The winning piece, which was transferred onto the gallery wall from paper, is intended to last only until the Turner artists’ exhibition ends on 3 Jan.  Wright is an interesting artist,  his art fleeting, which is in stark contrast to the business-approach of his many of his contemporaries such as Damien Hirst, who made £111m at the height of the recession. Hirst’s art is writ large by the success of popular works replicated from a handful of original ideas. Wright’s art is unusual in that it is removed from the art market, his site-specific work cannot be transferred, moved or bought. Seen from a distance, Wright’s work looks like an abstract image, but move closer and the gold radiates out from the canvas like fragments of sunlight, illuminating the gallery in a reassuring glow.  I always enjoy a happy ending and so, another reason to like this year’s winner is because it was Wright’s last year to be eligible for the prize, at 49 he will be too old for nominations in 2010.

People generally enjoy art that is accessible, I for one love the excitable feeling I get when I first stumbled across a Banksy in East London, with the knowledge that it is there for everyone, no-one is exempt, everyone can afford to enjoy it. That is one of the main reasons I enjoyed this work so much, the artist created something that exists for a short time, is not immortalised within the white, refined space of a gallery. It will disappear and fade like everything else, living on only in the minds of the people who stood in front of it.

My all-time favourite Turner prize winner is Anish Kapoor, who happens to be one of my favourite artists. I mentioned a few weeks ago that his latest exhibition at the Royal Academy of the Arts was well-worth a visit. It was also the Academy’s most successful exhibition of a living artist. There is so much to consider, reminders of other artists are apparent, such as Richard Serra’s own lead-slinging works,  and perhaps a nod to Ruskin’s famous expression that bad art throws paint in the face of the public. It is rare to witness such a mess within a gleaming white space and it makes a fun change in place of quiet appreciation. Kapoor takes you through his own art history, as you enter the exhibition you encounter his pigment mounds from the 80’s,  turn the corner and you are confronted with the force of Svayambh: a work that is as spectacular as it is gigantic. The huge petrolium-like block suspended on a slow-moving structure that cascades through five of the gallery rooms, edging ever closer but you can’t quite see it moving, the process develops so slowly. It is an incredible, not just as a vision but as a structural piece – this huge force pushing through each room like a big ship sailing through a little canal, leaving debris at each arch, all over the floor, the walls, people touching it and staining their hands and clothes; everywhere covered in the remnants.

In what can be (but probably doesn’t want to be) described as the art world’s alternative to The Apprentice, The School of Saatchi is another reality show, this time churning young artists hoping to get their big break with Charles Saatchi.  On the one hand, I do like that reality shows have branched out from the Big Brothers and The Apprentices to document more substance than the brushing of teeth or the obligatory knife in the back for that coveted sales job. But on the other hand, regardless of whether the show is based on art, family life or securing a job, they all promote and evoke much the same inherent feeling of pedalling shit.

Producing a contemporary art programme in the same vein as other reality shows does raise the question of how we view art. Initially, the judges ( including Tracy Emin, Kate Bush-curator, not singer. Now, if it was the latter that would be a show worth tuning in for) seemed to be genuinely searching for something new and modern within the work of the six shortlisted artists; questioning the ideas and morals of the art as well as the artists themselves. Some of the artists explanations of arranged chairs and printed out emails were pretty weak, so it was reassuring that they were dismissed.

In last weeks episode, Saad, one of the six hopefuls, created a piece made from 2000 chapatis arranged on an antique rug. The artist’s work reminded me of Kapoor’s early sculptures, not because of a similar cultural origin but because of the feeling evoked when I saw it was reminiscent of the first time I saw Kapoor’s work. The positivity that radiated from it, the idea that these works were a gift- to the viewer and to the space. I was also reminded of the Mighty Boosh crimp  ‘chapatis, chapatis, chapatis, basmatti’. It was a fun, thoughtful and a visually striking piece of work. You can appreciate time, care and attention had gone into the whole process, made stronger by the artist’s entire family’s involvement. The stacks of chapatis’ looked strangely unified, connected and together, which had a powerful impact on me.  Each one different, tactile and beautiful- I really never thought I would look at a chapatis in that way.  Saad was not the most artistically accomplished of the group but I liked him. I hoped this guy would win the show.

But he didn’t. I was taken aback by the choice of winner-Eugenie Scrase – not least because her work, including a structure of a conveyor belt gone wrong, which she then dismantled to give the viewer to imagine the possibility of movement, was in my view, pretty rubbish. But then that is the issue I have with some contemporary artists – the skill is often contained within the idea conveyed by the artist rather than in the work itself. When Kate Bush remarked ‘I could do better than that’ in response to the winner’s earlier work, I would have to agree my 11-year-old sister probably could as well.


Party Time

This time last year I was lying on a beach in Mozambique, bathed in lightness and friendly faces. I am getting itchy feet to travel again and I suppose seeking out interesting nights and events is an interim step to alleviate the itch. Even though that brightness isn’t exactly apparent right now in the grey and muted Manchester weather,  I am eagerly anticipating the month ahead. A few good outings, so there are excuses to crank out the oldies, a month of festivities to endure and surrealist experiences to consume (at the Manchester Art Gallery), culminating in a big family get together for Christmas and an even bigger get together with friends to see in the New Year in Berlin.

Initially I wasn’t sure I would get into Twitter but it has been useful for keeping up to date with forthcoming events, websites and news sources I normally read, such as AnOther Magazine, who launched AnOther Loves online shop recently. Some of the items they are promoting are incredible, both in design and in price. For example, the Leica M7 Hermes camera below featured on their site (for a jaw dropping, eye watering, headache inducing £8,500!).

On the other end of the visual scale, the view from the Christmas window display for Stella McCartney’s store in Mayfair looked really fun (and free!) as Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt were kitted out nose to tail in female attire  from McCartney’s current collection to turn on the Christmas lights earlier this week.

Party Crack

There is something really strange about private members clubs. Their exclusivity is aimed to make them appear more attractive, admired, wanted. But then you go somewhere like Shoreditch House and admittedly, it is a beautiful if slightly naff place, but you find you’re surrounded largely by people you would avoid at all costs in daily life, and music so rubbish it could make your ears bleed.  Even though people know this, there is a powerful attraction to members clubs that draw people in like a horrible crack habit, you know its bad, you know you shouldn’t bother, but you can’t help yourself.  My friend calls it party crack.

Yesterday I read about Jo Wood‘s ( jilted ex-wife of aging Rolling Stone Ronnie, organic supremo and resurgent party girl ) recent pop up restaurant- Mrs. Paisley’s Lashings- in her Regent’s Park home, where up to 40 guests can dine in Wood’s living room for a series of evenings over two weeks. According to her chef, keeping it within the Stone extended family, Mick Jagger’s nephew, Arthur Potts Dawson- half the fun for people is not getting in to the best restaurant in London. How did he work that one out? I certainly wouldn’t be thinking how amazing it is that I can’t have dinner with lots of randoms in Jo Wood’s sitting room. I quite like the idea of secret restaurants, spontaneous encounters with a mix of friends and complete strangers;  but half the fun is not paying through the nose, not knowing what to expect, and chatting to other people who are there for the same reason. I can’t imagine the atmosphere would be quite so informal at round at Jo’s place, and I’m not so sure I would be willing to spend £150-200 to find out.

I am however, very happy to immerse myself in other  good, sweaty and shocking events, starting with:

Liberty’s Luella Christmas Event

Until Thurs 3 Dec

Speaking of festive window displays, the Christmas window display at Liberty is very impressive and the 15% discount available next Thursday is a more inviting reason than usual to visit the store.  There is also something nice about window shopping in the evening with a drink to hand! A special Luella grotto features prominently,  (although many items are up to 50% off on the Luella website) so possibly the last Christmas to purchase gifts from the now defunct label.


Fri 4 Dec, Manchester

I don’t often go clubbing but Homoelectric is fun for a really good blowout, for ‘Homos, Lesbo’s, Don’t know’s and Experimentos’. Expecting to dance all night, bump into random friends, talking rubbish until my voice is completely hoarse and wander around the dark, cavernous space; perfect for sweaty posturing to electro-pop treats.

Manchester Art Gallery-Angels of Anarchy

Until 10 January

This might not be the easiest of viewing with a hangover, but I plan to visit this exhibition on Saturday, which explores feminist purpose and experiences of Surrealism through several generations of female artists, including Dora Marr and Freida Khalo. It is a rare opportunity to view surrealism through the female collective laid bare at this exhibition and I’m particularly happy this is showing in Manchester.

Islington Mill, Lightning Bolt

Wed 9 Dec, Manchester

There is always something interesting and unusual happening at Islington Mill ( I like this place even more due to the convenient proximity to my home, no waiting for a cab, free to leave at any time, my favourite kind of arrangement), from yoga in the basement boudoir to launch parties and live acts, Wednesday’s event showcases Lightning Bolt’s first UK appearance, promising to be a loud, brash, riot of a night.

Underground Live, Mutineers Xmas Party

Fri 11 Dec, Aston

These guys are supremely talented- the lead singer is quite a poptart-  full of dulcet tones and relentlessly catchy melodies, which will happily continue long into the night. I’m hoping they are going to break out into some cheesy Christmas tunes  at the end of the night, which will amuse me even if it doesn’t appeal to the largely scenester crowd who normally populate their gigs.

Stags Head, Weknowwhatyoudidlastxmas party

Sat 12 Dec, London

Nightlife photographer Christopher James’ s party should be as eclectic as his imagery, which ranges from London scenester snaps to magazine photography. Broken Heart Dj’s will be there too, a personal favourite so very excited.

Pam Ann’s Sunday FLight at the Palladium

Sun 13 Dec, London

I’m planning to end a hectic weekend with a good friend and camp/bitchy air hostess-comedienne Pam Ann. I’ve heard she is filthy (in manner rather than appearance) so I’m particularly intrigued to see if I will leave shocked and awed.

Party attire

Christmas is a-coming and since I’m of the one for you-one for me mentality when it comes to shopping I’m loving some of these beauties:

Lanvin loop pearl ring

Way out of my Babycham earning capacity but again I’m blaming AnOther Loves. It goes back to that exclusivity idea, The items torment me and I shouldn’t bother reading it but I just keep going back for more.  Why can’t they include something under £500 once in a while?

Mulberry 'alexa' bag

Sophie Calle Book

Calle’s book ‘Double Game’ has been around since 1999, published at the height of her notoriety, a sell out that was re-printed to coincide with the 2007 Venice Biennale.  The contents present the reader with Sophie’s ‘game’ with the writer Paul Auster, who created a character based on Calle in his novel ‘Leviathan’. The book is beautifully designed and a work of art in itself, elegant and well conceived, wrapped in a ribbon. I want it.

Miu Miu Bag

Pret-a-Portebello vintage ostrich feather cape

This is another example that I can, and will, consider spending money on practically anything.  At £100 it’s not much more expensive than a similar faux-fur cape at Topshop but as with many things before this cape; I’ve been there, bought it, realised the ridiculousness of it, only to sell it on ebay for half what I paid for it. But I never learn. It’s an irrational attraction I have with textural, tactile items like this, maybe its the costume element to it but it just looks really fun. It’s more fancy dress than night out in Bricklane but to be covered in a huge cape of big, black ostrich feathers just seems brilliant.