Supply and Demand


Left: Artists Mark Wallinger and David Batchelor. Right: Dealer Philomene Magers and publicist Karla Otto. (All photos: Lynne Gentle)

WHEN LONDON does public-transportation chaos, boy does she pull out all the stops. My Tuesday-evening tour of a handful of London’s top galleries was an obstacle course of stumbling blocks and banana skins. But such is life in the city.

Surmounting transport challenges at last, my first stop was Saint James’s, where Hurvin Anderson’s new exhibition at Thomas Dane was enjoying a mellow and respectable attendance. The wainscoted entrance to the gallery is accessible via a narrow staircase that is passable only by one very thin human being at a time. Once inside, I was pleased to discover that I didn’t need to use elbows or a swinging handbag to view the work. While gallery director François Chantala was effusive, Anderson wore the amiable patina of opening-night shell shock. There were rumors of an appearance by the elusive Peter Doig, but by the time my chariot beckoned, he was still nowhere to be seen.

Next on the map was Fitzrovia, where I dropped by a group show at Modern Art organized by French curator Alexis Vaillant, before taking in Miquel Barceló’s strangely beautiful paintings of cephalopods at Pilar Corrias. Again, the turnout was on the quiet side. There was so much to be seen on one night that art enthusiasts were spread like a thin film of butter across the length and breadth of central London. It seemed no gallery was getting a body more than its fair share of the people pie.

Left: Elena Eustafiera, Wallpaper editor Tony Chambers, 032c editor Jörg Koch, and artist Thomas Demand. Right: Artists Louise Wilson and Deklan Kilfeather.

Over at Sadie Coles, Glasgow’s Modern Institute was opening Richard Hughes’s “One Man’s Struggle to Take It Easy,” while London’s eastern quadrant offered an exhibition of John Křrner’s haunting abstract paintings of Danish soldiers at Victoria Miro. Due west, Lisson proffered exhibitions by Giulio Paolini and Fernando Ortega. Reports confirmed a certain unexplained lassitude. Was it Frieze Fatigue’s stubborn grip on the capital or British winter hibernation?

My final destination was Sprüth Magers for arguably the evening’s timeliest and most eagerly anticipated opening: Thomas Demand’s “Presidency,” featuring documentation of a replica of the White House Oval Office he made at the invitation of the New York Times. Fabricated from cardboard, paper, and a carpet made of confetti, Demand produced five photographs of the US president’s “mock office” before, as is his habit, destroying the model. The opening was one of the busiest of the evening, and Demand was duly entertained afterward with dinner around the corner at the discreetly tucked-away 17 Berkeley Street. (It’s so good, apparently, that they didn’t have to name it at all.) The guest list was laden with Tate heavyweights, including curators Mark Godfrey, Stuart Comer, and Jessica Morgan.

Left: Artist Durvin Anderson and Thomas Dane Gallery's François Chantala. Right: Sprüth Magers director Andreas Gegner, Sotheby Institute's Anthony Downey, and filmmaker Ben Lewis.

Artists Mark Wallinger and Jane Wilson were there, as was filmmaker Ben Lewis, who happily (and shamelessly) plugged his own endeavors. According to Lewis, his upcoming film Brave New Art World, which “examines the burst in the speculative art-world bubble,” is being thwarted at every turn. “I was banned from the Frieze Fair and Sotheby’s Hirst auction! Can you believe it?” Maybe someone should tell him that vociferous harbingers of doom are about as welcome these days as Sarah Palin in hunting regalia.

After a brief champagne reception, we sat down for dinner, where I found myself at the center of a trinity of amusing dinner companions. Sitting opposite Tate Modern’s Comer, I was flanked by über-cheerful collector Bayard Ficht on the right and Anthony Downey of Sotheby’s Institute on the left. Conversations ranged from the finer points of “Sophisticated Lowbrow” and the Irish Dr. Downey’s personal model for success. Well, it was the table at the back, after all, and we weren’t claiming to find a cure for cancer. When mouths weren’t full of the succulent roast lamb with creamy piped potatoes or the rich and gooey chocolate dessert, guests sang the praises of both Demand and the Sprüth Magers gang. Blessedly, there were no formal speeches or other nap-inducing nonsense—just an elegantly thrown dinner party for a gang of friends and well-wishers that did what it said on the tin.