My week kicks off with a double date: I committed to a private charity dinner, way before even thinking about Frieze Art Fair.
My week kicks off with a double date: I committed to a private charity dinner, way before even thinking about Frieze Art Fair. That same night is the opening of White Cube’s Doris Salcedo, showing her work at the Tate Modern, followed by an after-party at Bungalow 8. Since the charity dinner is for a very good cause, I attend it and squeeze in a bit of art frenzy after the serious, meeting the White Cube crowd at Bungalow directly. I’m on the run and tonight will set the pace for my entire week.
I’m quite excited about finally checking out Bungalow 8. This club is something of an institution in New York. It’s famous for having an impossible door policy and the best pizzas in town. The crowd tends to be regulars only, which gives it a familiar vibe, although you do wonder what the fuss is about once you’re inside.
London’s version, located in the St Martin’s Lane Hotel, is quite different. Upon entering you face a dilemma. Either you turn left and walk down the stairs or you turn right and follow the corridor. I opt for the first and follow the stripey wallpaper all the way into a dimly lit room, with pretty girls in Issa dresses carrying trays of chicken satay, spicy lamb balls and fruity cosmopolitans. After ten minutes, I’m bored.
Architecturally, this location seems a bit awkward. In New York’s Bungalow 8 you see at a glance who’s there; here it’s a constant riddle. Whenever you’re upstairs you’re wondering whether you might be missing out on something downstairs and vice-versa. Not much else can be said about the party.
The next day I head to Phillips de Pury for the contemporary sales pre-view. There are a few pieces worth mentioning. Matthias Weischer is one of the highly acclaimed artists to emerge from what has become known as the new Leipziger School of Painters.
His figurative architectural image towers over the threatening edges of nature, in one of his pieces on view. His paintings are both powerful and playful at the same time, juxtaposing clean outlined buildings against jagged edges and fiercely growing flowers penetrating the space.
Another favourite this time by Jake and Dino Chapman, are 83 hand-coloured etchings with water colour on paper, entitled Disasters of War III. The small paintings are both deeply disturbing and beautiful, at the same time as being amusing. Reminiscent of Goya’s masterpiece but liberated enough to write next to a man (presumably Jesus) hanging on the cross, ‘Oi Peter I can see your house from here’, on one of the many small paintings.
Mr Hirst also manages to catch my eye. On display is a piece from the series Cancer Chronicles, and titled Tuberculosis. Remission. (The death of St. John). The 50-inch x 40-inch piece is made up of millions of dead flies glued onto canvas with resin. Obviously it stinks and so does the price estimated between £400,000 and £600,000, but it didn’t sell. Christie’s contracted Hirst’s Leprorisi, by the way.
I manage to get a lift to Phillips’s other building on Bloomsbury Square with Simon de Pury, who I bump into at the entrance. He is being followed by a camera team from ARTE, who are making a film on Phillips. The black chauffeur-driven Mercedes makes my ordinary means of transport, the hectic up-and down and jumbled steambath of a Tube ride, seem like hell.
I’m therefore very grateful for the effortless ride, which leads to the exhibit of the Marino Golinelli collection. I don’t have a lot of time, so I just whizz through. My favorite is a turntable system with Run DMC tunes pumping out of it and an inbuilt fridge filled with six tall-boy Budweiser cans, protected safely by two padlocks. It says SACHS on the tape player – Tom Sachs that is.
Since transportation is not taking up most of my night, I manage to squeeze in yet another quick view. This time it’s the Saatchi opening at the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane. On display are the prize-winning works of 20 emerging artists. The most interesting part, though, is our arrival.
The black Mercedes catches the attention of most of the grungie East End bunch, standing along the roadside and sipping from beer-bottles. Our short procession to the entrance is what really makes heads turn. Imagine Simon being filmed by a camera team and flanked by two tall blondes (his partner Michaela Neumeister and myself).
Back in Mayfair, it’s time for Gagosian’s dinner party at Nobu Berkeley. Any excuse is good enough for a meal at Nobu. They serve delicious mini-portions of their classics, such as black cod, slices of yellowtail with jalapenos, soft shell crab tempura, and sushi in all its variety. Drinks are being dished out endlessly ranging from sake in chilled bamboo cups to icy mojitos.
The crowd is as diverse as the food. The whacky art dealer Javier Perez, the enfant terrible of the gallerists (Peres Projects) tells me his golden boy Terence Koh recently converted his gallery space in Berlin into a bar during the Berlin Art Fair. Terence Koh’s most recent installation Blame Canada, which had pornstars, Diane von Fürstenberg and Mike Kelley serving drinks from the counter at its opening night.
There is also a bit of a New York crowd there, led by gallerist Tony Shafrazi and Dennis Hopper. And what would a Gagosian party be without the obligatory starlets? Tonight, it’s Heather Graham and Meredith Ostrom. This dinner definitely makes White Cube’s Bungalow 8 bash seem like an office party – rather dull.
By the time Frieze opens the next day, I feel as if I need a holiday already. The fair is all about people eagerly punching numbers into their Blackberries and schmoozing this person and that person. I get so distracted either saying hello left and right, or trying to avoid doing so that I find it hard to take in any of the works.
One thing I do enjoy is seeing the Chapman brothers sitting side by side, rather like naughty schoolboys, in White Cube’s booth. They are drawing on people’s pound notes. Of course, by the time I get there, a long queue has formed. I debate whether or not to join but quickly abandon the thought. ‘We’ll ask them next time we see them out,’ my friend says.
Peres Project (Berlin/LA) is showing an interesting piece by an American painter named Matt Greene. He cross-dresses and has an incredible wardrobe of vintage couture and thrift-shop jewels. He also makes his wife dress up and uses these pictures as guidelines for his painting. A large collage-style painting of a crowded dance floor is on display here. There is also a beautiful work, an image of the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos in Lisbon, by German photographer Candida Höfer at Johnen Galerie (Berlin/Cologne).
On Thursday, I’m on my way back to Frieze but get dragged along by some friends to Zoo Art Fair. This seems like Frieze’s little sister, although it is an entirely independent showcasing of younger galleries and project spaces at the Royal Academy of Arts. Although as busy as the London Zoo on a Sunday afternoon, I’m able to discover some interesting galleries such as Kuttner Siebert in Berlin. One of their artists, the painter Olaf Quantius, is showing a striking painting of a seemingly abandoned shack in a restless landscape. His works are also still affordable, not only to billionaires, which is somewhat refreshing.
That night I head east to the Barbican Gallery’s opening of Seduced: Art and Sex from Antiquity to Now. Of course the show is extremely crowded. I overhear a typical City banker asking the newspaper lady for directions. ‘What’s happening at the Barbican tonight, luv? I’ve been asked for directions all evening,’ she replies. He blushes and before rushing off mumbles ‘Er, erotic art, or something’.
And erotic it is, exploring 2,000 years of sex in art, ranging from Francois Boucher, JMW Turner to Rodin, Bacon and Warhol. Also on view the large and grainy photographs of Thomas Ruff’s half-naked girls and the huge photographs of Jeff Coons and his porn-star wife of the time, in action.
My prize for best party of the week goes to Quintessentially’s and Phillips’s The Box night, in the Wilton’s Theatre in the East on Friday. The dinner is intended for the board members of Phillips and their entourage, while the larger crowd is invited to the party a bit later. It turns out to be a mess, because far too many uninvited people arrive early and steal the seats of the invited, who arrive late.
I find myself next to Lapo Elkann, who places his two Blackberries on the table, incase of an emergency phone call and speaks non-stop about how busy he is. Luckily, the dinner is informal so I take the liberty to wander around. By now the party guests are swarming in and are sent upstairs onto the balcony, which runs right around the room. The food is inedible, the drinks much better, and the music is quite decent electro at times.
The show, the highlight of the night, is a mad bunch from New York’s The Box, a kinky cabaret/freak-show in the East Village. Ben Eliott tells me it’s his favorite joint. The show ranges from hilarious, to sexy, to outright disgusting. The funniest moment is when the Begum Aga Khan’s jaw drops as an extremely large-chested transvestite comfortably takes a seat on a whisky bottle – no further description required.
The end of my hectic week is supposed to be crowned by another highlight, a performance by Chic, featuring Nile Rogers. Of course, I am not really sure who they are, its clearly not my generation, but ‘le freak, c’est chic’ rings a bell. Again our host is Phillips, this time at their main venue on Howick Place. The party is supposed to celebrate the end of the sales and indeed the money they have made.
We arrive almost an hour late, but the auction is still not finished, hence they are not letting anyone into the building. Health and Safety seems to think there are already too many chic freaks inside. From afar it seems to be the entrance to a very happening club. On a closer look, however, the crowd is a little too old and conservative for a happening place. Moreover, they seem very unfamiliar with the concept of having to queue – so do I for that matter.
I push through to the front only to overhear a man next to me shout, ‘This is unheard of, I’m going to cancel my purchases. I want to speak to Mr de Pury immediately’. My friends and I take off to have a drink at China Tang’s bar in the Dorchester Hotel, the idea being to go back to Phillips later. But I have my spies strategically placed inside the party to keep me posted on the situation.
One of them reports that the crowd consists of hedge-fund millionaires plus trophy wives getting on down to ‘We are Family’. I think I can pass on that one.