Master Minds

Left: Serpentine co-director Julia Peyton-Jones. Right: Labour Party leader Edward Milibrand, artist Anish Kapoor, and dealer Nicholas Logsdail. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

IS THE ART WORLD suffering from collective horror vacui? So it seems every time another big art fair rolls around. No sooner do planes begin to land than the VIP program kicks in, the meetings convene, and the fun begins. This week in London, for example, even before Frieze proper got underway, the social calendar started filling with openings, breakfasts, lunches, and dinners as well as alternate art fairs. (The art world is not a good place for a cleanse.)

Lisson Gallery was first out of the gate with a very VIP preview of Anish Kapoor’s new monochromatic accretions and extrusions in both of the gallery’s exhibition spaces. The presence of Labour Party leader Edward Miliband, whom many here see as the next-generation liberal messiah, generated a frisson of excitement among Britons in attendance, some of whom wasted no time pleading for his attention to various issues. Was he an art collector? “No,” he admitted. “Anish is a friend.” Other friends included BBC creative director Alan Yentob, curator Sir Norman Rosenthal, Serpentine Gallery codirector Julia Peyton-Jones, Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota, and architect David Adjaye and the woman to whom he became recently affianced, fashion model Ashley Shaw-Scott—the most attractive couple on the scene.

Left: Artist Rob Pruitt. Right: Dealers Shaun Caley Regen and Thomas Dane.

The show included explicitly suggestive tabletop Earthworks and paintings, of all things, as well as a sound work, installed in what dealer Nicholas Logsdail called “a haunted room.” Visitors entered the empty space and stood in silence around a lighted circle in the center. After a moment, a slight tremor shook the room as if an earthquake were approaching. Then it stopped.

Steady on their pins, the elegant company proceeded to dinner at Café Anglais, where collectors like Devi Art Foundation cofounder Lekha Poddar and appreciative American Dylan Cohen could rub shoulders with Miliband, Zaha Hadid (seated to Logsdail’s left), and, as Logsdail put it, “at least one Rothschild and one or two princesses.” The event celebrated Logsdail’s thirty-year relationship with Kapoor—an unusually long association for a dealer and artist these days. “We bicker all the time,” Kapoor told me. “Because it’s not just a business relationship. It’s a father-son relationship. Sometimes I wish Nicholas would be less fatherly and go away. Other times I know he’s right and I should listen.”

Monday morning, Tim Noble and Sue Webster were doing the dog-and-pony act for reporters previewing “Nihilistic Optimistic,” their show inaugurating Harry Blain and Graham Southern’s new space on Hanover Square. As usual, the artists’ shadow sculptures are all about them, but this time they made a giant leap forward, creatively speaking, with sculptures made of bits of wood and old stepladders that stand very well on their own, without the magical-mystery silhouettes they form once the artists set a light behind them. “The best part is they cost nothing to produce,” Webster said. No doubt that will be a comfort to collectors.

Left: Dealer Maureen Paley. Right: Ashley Shaw-Scott and architect David Adjaye.

Around the corner, the Pavilion of Art and Design was holding its upper VIP preview, where there was an unexpected amount of art mixed in with all the furniture and lamps. “I’m surprised to see my own work here,” said Glenn Ligon, browsing with Studio Museum director Thelma Golden and her British hubby, designer Duro Olowu. Stellan Holm had it, under glass. Mitchell-Innes and Nash showed a stunning Rosemarie Trockel textile painting and a couple of 1960s Kenneth Nolands that Lucy Mitchell-Innes said she found lying around on the late artist’s studio floor. L&M Arts had some surprising and beautiful Yves Klein sculptures, and at Richard Nagy’s booth I found a showstopping 1908 drawing by Oskar Kokoschka that, several hours into the preview, was still available.

The pace here was leisurely, the atmosphere genteel, the lighting romantic, and the general tenor of the work on offer geared to bourgeois tastes. A clear acrylic coffee table by Hadid won the fair’s best design award for dealer David Gill. Yet there was Rob Pruitt holding court in Luxembourg and Dayan’s temple—sorry, booth—its walls covered in hand-painted, red de Gournay Chinoiserie. Pruitt’s glitter-encrusted panda paintings hung on top, accented by ancient Chinese figures all around. That great glitter connoisseur, Martha Stewart, stopped by, much to Pruitt’s pop pleasure, while I wondered why a number of art dealers chose to do this fair over Frieze Masters, which was getting all the buzz. Just at that moment, Frieze cofounder Amanda Sharp walked in with Frieze Masters director Victoria Siddall, doing their best to avoid notice. But in London, during the monster of a week that Sharp helped to create, everyone goes to everything, lest any empty space or solitary moment creep in.

That night, amid news of a vandalized Rothko at Tate Modern, Lari Pittman withstood the crowds surging into his first show with Thomas Dane, an explosion of peak painting in both Duke Street galleries. It won him praise from fellow Angeleno Marc Selwyn as well as collectors like the natty Prince Mohammed Al-Turki. It would be fascinating to hear Pittman speak of the visual vocabulary he employed in these clearly metaphysical paintings, if only a quiet moment arrived. It also would have been illuminating to hear Liam Gillick explicate his deeply conceptual “Margin Time” pinboard works at Maureen Paley, where many at his opening actually took time from schmoozing to watch his new film, also titled Margin Time, from seats on a brilliantly designed, multipurpose wood structure installed upstairs.

Left: Whitechapel Gallery director Iwona Blazwick. Right: Architects Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher.

What Gillick did talk about was his new life as a movie actor. The filmmaker Joanna Hogg, whom Gillick characterized as “a cross between Bresson and Tarkovsky,” has cast him in the principal role of an as-yet-untitled film opposite former Slits guitarist Viv Albertine. As if that were not enough to win him post-punk, real-world cred, he gets to appear naked in a bath. Nonetheless, he said, exposure will be limited.

Dinner at St. John’s attracted a host of East Enders, including the Approach’s Jake Miller, Herald Street’s Nicky Verber, Whitechapel Gallery director Iwona Blazwick, and Hollybush Gardens mates Lisa Panting and Malin Stahl. “One of the best galleries in London right now,” Artists Space director Stefan Kalmár approved. “Maureen is the godmother of the East End,” said Stahl. Frieze Projects curator Sarah McCrory huddled with White Columns director Matthew Higgs, getting tips for her future appointment as director of the 2014 Glasgow International. “I think of this as the unofficial welcome party for Frieze,” Paley said, with no small degree of pride, noting the presence of Sharp and Matthew Slotover. “They are the masters and we are the servants,” Kalmár observed, slipping into Depeche Mode. I don’t know if he was drawing a line between us and them or between the two Frieze fairs. In England, I guess, class divides are inescapable. Still, whether you hire a car or take the tube, everyone ends up in the same place, wallet empty and bladder full, little sugarplums of art dancing in your head.

Left: Dealer Andrew Kreps. Right: Collector Maja Hoffmann and Stanley Buchthal.

Left: Dealer Dominique Levy. Right: Artist Roy Dowell with artist Lari Pittman and dealer Marc Selwyn.

Left: Dealer Amalia Dayan with consultant Cary Leitzes. Right: Frieze Projects curator Sarah McCrory.

Left: Artist Tim Noble with dealer Graham Southern and artist Sue Webster. Right: Dealer David Gill.

Left: Interview editor Christopher Bollen with Nowness editor Zoe Wolff. Right: Curator Andrew Bonacina.

Left: Collector Lekha Poddar. Right: Collectors Lietta and Dakis Joannou.

Left: ICA London curator Matt Williams. Right: Studio Museum director Thelma Golden, designer Duro Olowu, and artist Glenn Ligon.

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