Art Versus the Volcano


Left: Modern Institute director Toby Webster with artist Jimmie Durham. Right: Artist Jim Lambie. (All photos: Steven Cairns)

PREDICTING CLOUD OVER GLASGOW is easy enough, but no one could have anticipated that a cloud of volcanic ash would be the burden of this year’s Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art. With UK airspace on lockdown this past weekend it meant delays and disappointments, or, in some cases, a convenient excuse for respite for trapped and weary travelers. When I arrived at the festival’s opening reception last Thursday at the baroque Kelvingrove Art Gallery, the official speeches had already begun, and a small crowd was eagerly awaiting director Katrina Brown to kick things off so everyone could have their chance to take a cramped walk around the vitrines housing David Shrigley’s new drawings and sculptural works.

After a glass of prosecco and a quick look around, I made my way to the theater/visual art multiplex Tramway for the opening of Christoph Büchel’s latest immersive installation, Last Man Out Turn Off Lights. When I arrived, the space was packed with local artists, fresh-faced art students, and troupes of rather tired looking Glaswegians. I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t see Büchel’s makeshift prison that night—there was a growing queue and a ten-at-a-time restriction on getting inside—and I began to tour the other exhibitions. Hometown boy Douglas Gordon was showing his classic 24 Hour Psycho (again), while Keren Cytter’s Four Seasons video played nearby. I spotted Büchel amid the crowds, his head bandaged, a DIY eye patch on his face. By all accounts, the install had been a stressful one, so I was vaguely surprised to hear that the injury was self-inflicted. (I didn’t inquire further.) There was a free bar, but the growing audience quickly ran it dry. By 1 AM, Susan Philipsz and Büchel had repaired to the official party at hip bar Stereo, where many of the same faces danced off the excess alcohol right to the bitter end.

Left: Mary Mary gallery director Hannah Robinson with the Modern Institute's Lindsey Hanlon. Right: Artists Martin Boyce, Michael Wilkinson, and Richard Wright.

Friday morning I was on the trail, ferried around Glasgow in a taxi to various other hotspots. Highlights on the whistle-stop tour included David Noonan’s sculptural installation at an off-site venue with Washington Garcia, Claire Barclay at Glasgow Print Studio, and the redoubtable Linder at Sorcha Dallas. Later that night I hit the private view for “On Publications, Portraits, Public Art, and Performance” (featuring cameos by Warhol and Elizabeth Peyton) at the Modern Institute’s old Robertson Street space, curated by New Jerseyy’s Daniel Baumann, which kicked off a slew of gallery-associated events. From the after-show party, an even larger group of wearied revelers made their way to the second official party at the Glasgow School of Art, where local DJs Optimo played a gig. (This one I decided to hear about secondhand.)

Saturday the art crowd was again revivified, with help from some additions from London, and it seemed that just about everyone gathered for lunch-cum-supper to celebrate Jim Lambie’s exhibition and the launch of the Modern Institute’s new space on Osborne Street. By the time of the evening preview, a queue had begun to form as the gallery quickly filled to capacity. Inside, Lambie’s new work punctuated the walls with vibrant colors, echoing the lively mood, and gallery directors Toby Webster and Andrew Hamilton both seemed rightly proud of the airy, immaculate space. In the gallery’s library Connor Donlon of Donlon Books set up shop—his Cambridge Heath Road store in London being closed for the duration of the festival. After the opening, we made a pit stop at Mono, a local artist hangout, before heading on to yet another afterparty, this time back in the same, now reorganized, spot where we’d had lunch. Here, the same faces joined a whole raft of others to enjoy the last—and best—knees up of the weekend.

Steven Cairns

Left: Modern Institute directors Andrew Hamilton and Toby Webster with Glasgow International director Katrina Brown. Right: Artist Stephen Sutcliffe with Hotel gallery director Darren Flook.