Night Watch

Left: Collector Anita Zabludowicz. Right: Artist Christian Jankowski. (Photos: Joseph Popper)

THOUGH I WOKE UP rather early, last Thursday didn’t seem to start until noon, when I leaned into the folds of a soft gray sofa to watch Christian Marclay’s latest video masterpiece The Clock, projected onto a large screen at White Cube’s modernist box, the one plunked in the middle of Mason’s Yard. One clip led and bled into another: Trains were missed, Leonardo DiCaprio barely made the Titanic, cowboys with twitching handlebar mustaches and dusty chaps delicately fingered their pistols, and my habit of obsessively checking my watch was made redundant by the slew of clocks on-screen—each of which reflected the real-world time—culled from a cinematic century of nervous characters. The work offered an objective correlative to Frieze week, where running around and looking at art is attended by the not-so-gentle pressure to get the most for your experiential buck. You know you’ve always just missed the one thing that would have given shape and meaning to the blurring multitude of pictures.

Skipping Wednesday’s openings, I’d still managed to have a brief, delightful encounter with Marina Abramović, radiating a gothy charm in all black while running about her installation at Lisson. I had a random chat with dealer Graham Southern about the origins of obscure English phraseology, and came to the conclusion, after visiting his show at Pilar Corrias, that Rirkrit Tiravanija may be the laziest (and thus perhaps the smartest) artist in the world. Touring more of the shows, I stopped by the Turner Prize at Tate Britain (shrug), Adel Abdessemed at Parasol Unit (yawn), and Kelley Walker at Thomas Dane (cynical eye-roll), so the keen pang of having chosen poorly haunted me until I trundled down the stairs into White Cube’s basement and lost myself for over an hour in the vicissitudes of time.

Left: Design collective Europa with artist Ryan Gander. Right: Dealer Tanya Leighton. (Photos: Andrew Berardini)

Looking up and finally, reluctantly, leaving to try to catch the tail of another fleeting comet, I headed to the Sunday fair across from Madame Tussaud’s (and conveniently downwind from the main fare, Frieze). A flyer-wielding fellow pointed me to the nondescript red doors just beyond a broken telephone booth, and I headed down a flight of stairs, past mountains of construction supplies clothed in blue tarpaulin, and followed the white signs and arrows through a concrete walkway, with the sinking feeling that I was entering a rave instead of an art fair. Once I was inside the yawning concrete space, however, the literal underground gave way to the figurative underground. Here, the smallish coterie of galleries were hawking art, not brands (though there were some good names all around). Except for a wall dividing the two main spaces, Sunday had none of the boothy anticharm of a merchandise convention; though the format favored sculpture, it felt freer, with better views of the art.

London’s version of the Sunday fair, coming from a previous incarnation in Berlin, actually has nothing to do with the day Sunday. “It’s really an unfortunate misnomer. All my friends have been apologizing that they’re leaving Saturday,” said Tanya Leighton, the American/Brit in Berlin, who had one of the best booths there with inspiring work from Pavel Büchler and John Smith. As I wandered around the smallish fair (only twenty galleries on the list), works jumped out all over: a film by Aurélien Froment with Motive, sculptures from Jessica Jackson Hutchins at Laurel Gitlen, and a suite of works by Ryan Gander at both gb agency and Taro Nasu. I caught up with Gander at the bar that bore his name in the back of the fair, Ryan’s Bar, which featured a host of artist bartenders—including Fiona Banner, David Batchelor, Liam Gillick, Christian Jankowski, and Bob & Roberta Smith—mixing specially designed cocktails. Gander was staying close to his business: “I’ve got one eye on the bar and one eye on my sleeping daughter.”

Left: A visitor drinking from a Fiona Banner cocktail at Sunday. (Photo: Joseph Popper) Right: Tulips and Roses Gallery's Jonas Žakaitis (right). (Photo: Andrew Berardini)

After a quick espresso (I was saving the alcohol for later), then a not-so-quick dinner, I stopped by Michael Werner’s postprandial shindig at Hix for Aaron Curry. Passing through the crowd, I ran into the usual folks, Matthew Higgs, David Kordansky, and, of course, the artist himself. As the party continued to rage, I slipped out the door for one more look at The Clock, which was open twenty-four hours. I settled back into positions sometime after midnight and stayed until nearly 2 AM, watching men in bed look nervously at digital alarms, couples post-coitus, people coming home late from parties. As I walked out the door, Marcello Mastroianni was doing his long, meandering walk at the end of all nights while a chorus of sleepy voices called out, “Buonanotte. Buonanotte. Buananotte.”