Gareth Harris

  • diary June 12, 2010

    Royal Engagement


    A FRENZY OF FLASHBULBS greeted the ubiquitous UK television host and magazine cover girl Alexa Chung as she posed in front of a gargantuan sculpture of a rabbit, made by the late sculptor Barry Flanagan, in the courtyard of London’s Royal Academy. So began the Summer Exhibition Preview Party on Wednesday, the headline-hitting bash that kicked off the largest open submission contemporary art exhibition in the world––now in its 242nd year. A throng of wealthy, well-groomed attendees flooded the Academy rooms, which were adorned with over 1,200 works, most for sale.

    Paul Stewart, son of the legendary

  • diary January 28, 2010

    Touchy Ofili


    TWO ISSUES dominated the Chris Ofili private view at Tate Britain on Tuesday. The first involved headgear, or rather, the abundance of outlandish hats worn by art-world figures at the wintery Millbank bash––from Peter Doig’s brown and yellow bobbled creation to Jeremy Deller’s lurid green and pink combination. The other pressing concern was Ofili’s latest works, on view in the last two rooms of his midcareer survey, which prompted wildly diverse opinions from the party floor. The electric colors and expressive figurative forms of these denuded works, stripped of elephant dung and jewels, reflect

  • diary July 03, 2009

    Rock Lobster


    JEFF KOONS KNOWS HOW TO MAKE AN ENTRANCE. Filmmaker Mike Figgis, former Royal Academy supremo Norman Rosenthal, and designer Stella McCartney were among the hordes that descended on the dapper artist as he arrived at the Serpentine Gallery on Wednesday for the opening of his first major survey in an English public space. With four children, two nannies, his wife, and his mother in tow (what is this? The von Trapps?), the ever-amiable Koons stepped aside for a fleeting chat. The artist may be known for his über-kitsch oeuvre, but he has emerged as a major spender on old masters and nineteenth-century

  • picks June 01, 2009

    Adrian Ghenie

    In Adrian Ghenie’s paintings, drips and pours of paint, smeared surfaces, and indistinct masses make up his canvases, but figuration predominates in “Darkness for an Hour,” the Romanian painter’s first UK solo show. Depictions of Dada, and Duchamp in particular, appear like camouflaged figures rising out of wreckage. This layering involves a considerable degree of dexterity; Ghenie shifts elements into and out of focus, successively offsets darker hues with brighter colors, and subverts perspective, creating an impression of depth and fluidity. This approach prompts the viewer to nearly sink

  • picks October 06, 2008

    Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin

    Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin have turned photojournalism, a fraught genre of photography, on its head in their exhibition “The Day Nobody Died.” Earlier this year, the duo unrolled a 164-foot-long roll of photographic paper during both critical and mundane moments on the front line with British Army units in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province, exposing 23-foot-long sections to the sun for twenty seconds at a time. Wartime events, such as a press conference and suicide, are represented as abstract strips of stark color divested of any figurative detail. These works, removed from the

  • diary October 03, 2008

    Gang of Four


    Perched on a table bearing mountains of crisps and orange-stuffed olives (the foulest canapé ever consumed at a private view), artist Fiona Banner delivered her verdict on this year’s Turner Prize exhibition at Tate Britain: “This is the new, improved, unembarrassing Turner Prize. Every artist gets their own space, and there’s a real discussion going on between the four selected.” She wasn’t the only former nominee at Monday’s opening ruminating over this year’s intelligent selection of work by Runa Islam, Cathy Wilkes, Goshka Macuga, and Mark Leckey (the odd man out on the woman-friendly short

  • diary September 28, 2008

    The Young and the Restless


    “Where the hell is it?” screamed the Scouse taxi driver struggling to find the opening party the Friday before last for the Liverpool Biennial in the Old Port area of the city. Warehouse after warehouse passed by until I spotted a beacon in the dark: a stream of silver-haired men (eminent European curators, no doubt) and young artists with big beards and tweed jackets moving toward the A Foundation’s complex for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2008 show. The trickle of partygoers quickly grew into, if not a flood, at least a tributary, with London dealer Anthony Reynolds, Letter to Brezhnev

  • picks September 15, 2008

    Tony Oursler

    In this exhibition of mainly new work by Tony Oursler, the passing of time is astutely marked by the oblique video projections. A series of slowly burning cigarettes (few activities commemorate the minutes ticking away more effectively than smoking) are projected across several columns that mimic the architecture of an ancient Roman temple; the sound of an invisible inhaling smoker accompanies the footage of crackling ash and flame. The effect is double-edged; it’s alluring and repulsive at the same time, a trademark dichotomy in Oursler’s practice of fusing sculptural forms with freakish video

  • diary June 24, 2008

    Cy Unseen


    The early signs were not encouraging. A decidedly thin crowd had gathered at the start of the evening for the opening of Cy Twombly’s exhibition at Tate Modern, the artist’s first retrospective in fifteen years. A long row of keen black-shirted waiters greeted the few visitors filing into the upper echelons of the gallery. But where were the rest of the guests? Gradually, as the red wine flowed and the asparagus sticks (vegetables are all the rage at Tate) were devoured, a steady stream of stellar artists and dealers turned up to pay homage to the Rome-based superstar who, characteristically,

  • picks April 15, 2008

    Lee Ufan

    This exhibition of new paintings and works on paper along with sculptural works from the past twenty years by Lee Ufan, cofounder of the 1960s Mono Ha (object school) movement in Japan, demonstrates that the Korean artist is nothing if not meticulous. Each of Lee’s “Relatum” sculptures is site-specific, the artist having placed the stones and iron plates that compose them in certain spots because, he says, “sculpture is connected to place and becomes a connected and relational object. . . . It cannot be independent of the surrounding space.” Lee’s wide gray brushstrokes—one or two of which appear

  • diary April 06, 2008

    Ground Plan


    A swarm of Hedi Slimane look-alikes pressed shoulder to shoulder with a clutch of curators (what is the collective noun?) at the Wednesday-evening preview of Isa Genzken’s new exhibition at Hauser & Wirth. The place was jammed with baseball-capped boys sporting oversize glasses and freaky fringes. The fashionistas were obviously keen to see what they had missed out on last summer when hordes of Genzken groupies failed to get into the German pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Genzken’s Oil installation at the Italian event left me cold, but the most popular conversational opening salvo at the Hauser

  • picks March 20, 2008

    Armen Eloyan

    Armen Eloyan’s paintings make an impact. They’re not so much in-your-face as in-your-stomach, an engorgement of dirty colors and fantastic characters that hit the abdomen before the brain. But moving beyond this reaction to unravel the seething undercurrents of Eloyan’s art is an oddly satisfying experience.

    At first glance, the surfaces of Eloyan’s new suite of heavily impastoed, brutal larger paintings suggest oppression and aggression. In spite of their fluffy Disneyesque protagonists, there is nothing remotely humorous or even life-affirming about these works. Two Minnie and Mickey figures

  • picks January 28, 2008

    Pavel Büchler

    Pavel Büchler’s lightness of touch and conceptual rigor encourages viewers to unravel the Czech-born artist’s installations and paintings made of found materials (especially obsolete technology). Büchler may well insist that his own practice is all about “making nothing happen,” but his self-description as an “incompetent electrician” is either self-mocking or a modest affirmation of his ability to mark the discontinuity of time and make everyday detritus appealing.

    Nearly imperceptible elements of Büchler’s mainly new work on view at Max Wigram Gallery become slowly evident; piecing together

  • picks January 18, 2008

    Alberto di Fabio

    It is to Italian artist Alberto Di Fabio’s credit that he has forged his own abstract aesthetic from the many styles and influences that have undoubtedly contributed to his vision. His large-scale canvases, which depict dots and swirls akin to electric currents and planets in orbit, suggest the physicality of Abstract Expressionism. And then there are the Futurist overtones, with that school’s theory of simultaneity underpinning Di Fabio’s approach. As in Umberto Boccioni’s post-1910 paintings, an initial impression of chaos is kept in check by a more powerful sense of order. But the artist’s