You can rely on certain seasons to bring out a string of parties: the start of summer for Pimms and floaty dresses; the long Christmas run-up, after which you never want to see another glass of mulled anything again. But did you know that March is the season for the art-world gala?
In the next week, there are three high-profile fundraisers for three excellent causes: tonight, the Contemporary Art Society’s Wanderlust party; tomorrow, the Swarovski Whitechapel Gallery’s Art Plus Fashion Gala; and next Tuesday, the Royal Academy Schools dinner.
I presume that by this point all three organisations thought Spring would be in the air and our hands would be in our pockets. Even if Spring is a distant dream, obscured by a snowy shower, art-lovers and patrons will be out in force, waving their chequebooks for charity, for three quite different events.
The Contemporary Art Society, which donates art to museums and persuades philanthropists to do the same, is having their event in the most atmospheric venue: the Old Vic Tunnels, dark and moody brick-built caverns. (It is also the last event there, as they’re due to close afterwards.)
The winding layout will be perfect for the Wanderlust theme, which explores how artists move to every point from the beginning of the past and the end of the future, in this universe and others, in their work. The event is heavy on mystery and mystique.
Pictured above: Humble Complaints by Clare Woods, in the live auction at the Contemporary Art Society’s Wanderlust gala
The Whitechapel Gala is a joyous carnival quite unlike most other parties. The art world actually turns up and relaxes, for one: last year I chatted to David Batchelor and Jeremy Deller (my hero). (Tracey Emin was way too Tracey to talk to.) Its flexible theme, Art Plus, leads to interesting collaborations: this year there will be a fashion show from young designers with moving-image backdrops by visual artists.
The Royal Academy Schools, which have Europe’s only three-year post-graduate fine art course, is a grander affair – a large seated dinner. This dinner makes an important contribution to the running of the Schools, which have fifty pupils across their three years, including current golden boy Eddie Peake. Come along to see if he makes one of his sexually-charged performative interventions…
As always, there will be an art auction featuring original works at each gala. Here’s a rundown of the highlights:
Contemporary Art Society: Fiona Banner, Edward Burtynsky, Conrad Shawcross, Jennifer Steinkamp, Saskia Olde Wolbers, Clare Woods and Toby Ziegler. Hipness rating: Trend-setting. (Catalogue here.)
Whitechapel Gallery: Bridget Riley (One Small Step, pictured left), Gerard Byrne, Minerva Cuevas, Sam Durant, Zarina Bhimji, Andrea Büttner, Corinne Day, Cornelia Parker, Bob and Roberta Smith, Francesco Vezzoli, Vivienne Westwood and Catherine Yass. Hipness rating: Icy cool. (Auction lots here.)
Royal Academy: Norman Ackroyd RA, Eileen Cooper RA, Tracey Emin RA, Terry Frost RA, Ken Howard RA, Philip King PPRA, Grayson Perry RA, Richard Wilson RA and Humphrey Ocean RA. Hipness rating: Dignified. (Check out the works here and at Sotheby’s this week – Lianne Lang’s photo/etching, pictured below, was my favourite.)
Pictured top: The three co-chairs of the Swarovski Whitechapel Gallery Gala, Nadja Swarovski, Iwona Blazwick, Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst