Private Eye

Harry Burke around Condo London 2020

Photograph by Jill Posener outside Auto Italia. All photos: Harry Burke.

“WE FOUND A CAFE with friendly staff and pleasant, inexpensive food,” recounts the unnamed, “flaneuring” narrator of Patrick Keiller’s 1994 film London, “but there was no sign of anyone writing poetry.” These words came to mind as I meandered around the preview for Condo London, a gallery-share initiative whose fifth iteration showcased seventeen local spaces and nineteen international counterparts. London elegizes a civic spirit vanquished by Thatcherism, and as the city buckles again under the intemperate cruelty of its former mayor’s prime ministership, its resonance endures—on Routemaster buses and in supermarkets, if not in art galleries.

“I rushed here to see the ostrich feather duster,” lilted a visitor at Mother’s Tankstation (hosting Los Angeles’s Château Shatto), as dealer Finola Jones graciously ushered viewers around Yuko Mohri’s assemblage of wires connecting a gleaming silver trumpet to a feather altar-cleaning brush, which twitched intermittently. Next door at Project Native Informant (hosting Jakarta’s ROH Projects) a spinning vinyl record played the amplified heartbeat of artist Bagus Pandega’s two-month-old son, in an eruption of intimacy and a beautiful decay of biopolitical borders that resonated with Flo Brooks’s sassy cartoons of urban blight.

Sculpture by Jonathan Penca.

At Kate MacGarry in Shoreditch, Galerie Barbara Weiss had installed paintings by Susanne Paesler; her smart, lacquer-on-aluminum tartan pattern—a meditation on the modernist reproducibility and patrilineal inheritance of high fashion—made me pause. Hamishi Farah’s velveteen picture of a moss-green parasite hummed near a Danica Barboza sculpture and a painting by Justin Caguiat at Arcadia Missa, in a collaboration with New York’s Lomex. At the Soho Sichuan restaurant Barshu, Rózsa Farkas handed me a menu and instructed me to order for two globose tables of artists, including Lewis Hammond, Reba Maybury, and Juliette Blightman. The seating plan then repeated itself around the DJ booth at the after party, at the nearby, members-only Union Club, where at some point I stopped taking notes.

Memories returned to me the following morning like emails on a Sunday. Cheered by an Americano and sfogliatella from Wedding House Patisserie, I headed to the Sunday Painter (enchanting paintings by Joshua Armitage, courtesy of Lulu, Mexico City), before a flashback to dancing with Torey Thornton guided me east to their solo exhibition at Modern Art, where I was impressed by their jokes without punchlines and punchlines without jokes. And, with dusk descending on Oxford Street’s January sales, I was moved by the young LA dealer Matthew Brown’s presentation of Sedrick Chisom in Pilar Corrias’s basement: an acidic vision of a conflict-ridden world singed by irreversible climatic degradation.

Artist Hamishi Farah and Château Shatto's Olivia Barrett.

Coinciding with Condo, Auto Italia presented “Hot Moment,” a thoughtful group exhibition curated by Radclyffe Hall of three lesbian photographers—Tessa Boffin, Ingrid Pollard, and Jill Posener—each of whom began working in Thatcher-era London. The gallery’s facade was obscured by a blown-up shot, by Posener, of a graffitied billboard in the 1980s. “We can improve your nightlife,” reads an ad for Rest Assured Beds, with the words “JOIN LESBIANS UNITED” sprayed below. Condo, quietly cosmopolitan, proved to be a deft rejoinder to an imminent and still-enclouded Brexit. But it occurred to me that this would be the one artwork seen from the upper deck of a bus, where Keiller’s melancholic hymn to a city “too thinly spread, too private for anyone to know” echoes true.

Artist Juliette Blightman.

Arcadia Missa's Justine Do Espirito Santo, artist Reba Maybury, and Arcadia Missa's Rózsa Farkas.

Artist Stephen Draycott and gallerist Sophie Tappeiner.

Work by Katy Moran.

Modern Art's Alexander Glover.

Curator Mohamed Almusibli.

Installation by Torey Thornton.

Carlos/Ishikawa's Vanessa Carlos and Koppe Astner's Kendall Koppe.

mother's tankstation's Finola Jones and curator Richard Birkett.

Auto Italia's Edward Gillman.

Drawing by Paul Anthony Harford

Writer Wong Bing Hao.