Slide Show

London
10.11.06

Left: Artist David Weiss and curator Daniel Birnbaum. (Photo: Rolf Marriott) Right: Artist Carsten Höller. (Photo: Nicolas Trembley)


Dear Diary, by the time these lines appear, I may no longer be walking among you, as I have promised myself I will overcome my fears and dare formidable slide number four at Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.

To understand my plight, let’s backtrack to Monday morning, when I climbed aboard the Paris-London Eurostar with British journalists Sean James Rose and Jonathan Wingfield (on their way to interview Demi Moore). I was looking forward to a week stuffed full with art.

From Waterloo station, we headed straight to Tate Modern for the preview of the latest ginormous work in “The Unilever Series,” Carsten Höller’s Test Site, 2006. The installation comprises five nearly vertical slides you enter from different floors and exit as much as 180 feet below. As journalists began popping out at the bottom like flailing rag dolls (the speed of descent is a bit of a surprise), queries tended to run toward safety issues; a German funny lady (and critic) pointed to a bruise on her arm and asked whether it should be considered art.

Höller, as charming—and perverse—as he is brilliant, tried to convince me that the slides were no more dangerous than walking down a flight of stairs, and that risk, in any event, is part of our human condition. “There are those who take risks, and such an experience can change their lives. And there are those who just watch, and all of this will look like a Brancusi sculpture.” Apparently Höller felt a bit of trepidation about taking on the commission, but he ultimately took the plunge: “Now I’m afraid I’m bound to be Mr. Slides for the rest of my life.”

Left: Dealer Eva Presenhuber. (Photo: Nicolas Trembley). Right: Peter Fischli and friend. (Photo: Rolf Marriott)


A life-changing experience sounded good—but maybe later. I was already running behind, so I skipped the slide—and lunch—and hopped on a Damien Hirst–decorated clipper boat headed for Tate Britain, where Turner Prize curators Gair Boase and Lizzie Carey-Thomas were to lead a little tour. Manning the fort, Phil Collins—a Turner nominee, alongside Tomma Abts, Mark Titchner, and Rebecca Warren—was hard at work on his office within the exhibition; he was interviewing “people who’ve appeared on talk shows, makeover shows, or reality shows who’ve had a negative experience or feel like it's ruined their life.” (For those it may concern, contact info@shadylaneproductions.co.uk.)

I made it back from Millbank just in time for the preview of “Flowers & Questions,” the Fischli & Weiss retrospective curated by Tate Modern’s Vincente Todolí with Bice Curiger of Kunsthaus Zürich. What can I say? The show has it all: humor, philosophy—and art. The much-loved duo had made the trip from Zurich with families and friends and friends’ families in tow. Tate director Nicholas Serota summed up the mood in his smooth-as-silk toast when he shared an anecdote about a flight full of Fischli & Weiss fans and UBS patrons, as if they were a football team. Even Eva Presenhuber, the artists’ Swiss dealer, declared, when I showed her the picture I’d just snapped, “Unbelievable! I actually look happy!”

At 9 PM, I slipped away quietly to join the sit-down dinner in honor of Höller at Delfina, the restaurant that until recently shared quarters with an artist-residency program. Held by Höller’s three galleries—Gagosian, Esther Schipper, and Air de Paris—it was clearly the place to be; more than one wag said that the fair itself couldn’t outdo this one! Good to know the best was behind us—and the circus hadn’t even begun.

Left: Artist Pierre Huyghe. (Photo: Nicolas Trembley) Right: Tate director Nicholas Serota (at right). (Photo: Rolf Marriott)


Flanked by Miuccia Prada, Germano Celant (whom I mistook for Fabrizio Bertelli), and a host of curators, Höller was enjoying the moment. And so was everyone else. Guests were even happy to suffer the interminable wait for the taxis that would ferry them to Volstead, the members-only club where Air de Paris, Matthew Marks, Larry Gagosian, Eva Presenhuber, and Esther Shipper hosted a joint after-party for the two Tate shows. The music was so-so, but the mood made up for it. Who knew the art world could be so happy? I forgot to ask Prada whether the slide Höller had made for her Milan office had changed her life. Now I have no choice: slide number four. I will do it . . . tomorrow.

Left: Installation view of Carsten Höller's project at the Tate Modern. (Photo: Tate) Right: Turner Prize curators Lizzie Carey-Thomas and Gair Boase. (Photo: Nicolas Trembley)


Left: Tate Modern curator Jessica Morgan. Right: Collector Maddalena King and artist Wade Guyton. (Photos: Nicolas Trembley)


Left: Artist Aleksandra Mir. Right: Artist Daria Martin. (Photos: Nicolas Trembley)


Left: Bonnier Konsthall director Sara Arrhenius. Right: Artist Shirana Shahbazi (middle), Laurent Brenner (right), and friend. (Photos: Nicolas Trembley)