Gilt by Association

Lynne Gentle around openings during Frieze


Left: Dealer Alison Jacques with artist Thomas Zipp. Right: Keanu Reeves. (Photos: Ryan McNamara)

I would be lying if I said the words credit and crunch weren’t informing my safari through the art world as it swarmed into London last week for Frieze. But despite gloomy headlines, and in fine British fashion, London brushed itself off, blew away the clouds, and offered up some glorious autumnal weather.

Bypassing Wednesday’s VIP preview, I draped myself over a piece of overstuffed chintz at Aspinalls in Mayfair while anticipating Lehmann Maupin’s soiree for honored guests artist Teresita Fernández and architect David Adjaye. The “swellegance” of the venue thumbed its gilt nose at budget cuts and plummeting pensions as guests began filtering in, offering their first impressions of the fair.

Grabbing a champagne flute from the first available tray, thirsty consultant Raphael Castoriano confirmed speculation that this year was a bit quieter, then added, “Thank God the fakers are finally gone.” Later, jovial curator Jan Debbaut predicted a “return to family values”–style shift in the art market. With a mischievous glint in his eye, he remarked that his own financial future might best be secured by launching an industry-wide solicitation of bribes to remove people from his memoirs: “Maybe I will be the first person to unwrite a book!”

Left: Artists Isaac Julien and Teresita Fernández. Right: Artist Tracey Emin with dealer David Maupin. (Photos: Lynne Gentle)

Former journalist and Art Basel codirector Marc Spiegler was one of my dining companions, but, rather ironically, he seemed averse to mixing with the press. Vowing to “say nothing interesting” within my earshot, he was true to his word, seizing the opportunity to talk up Art Basel, perhaps reassuring himself and others that the capitalist world as we know it won’t end before his turn in December. It must be a white-knuckle ride at the moment, being in charge of one of the world’s biggest art fairs.

Call it giddy nihilism or whistling in the dark, but the atmosphere was more buoyant than one might have expected under the circumstances. The magnanimity of our hosts, the beatific Rachel Lehmann and the dapper David Maupin, was very welcome indeed, as was the delectable Italian-style feast. Despite the opulent surroundings, the night had a relaxed, shoes-off, hair-down feel.

Next was a Thursday-night whistle-stop gallery tour as Frieze week ramped up a notch. It seemed every decent restaurant and venue in central London was on reserve for Frieze dinners, Frieze cocktails, and Frieze power brokering.

I headed to art upstart Fitrovia, where its glamorous new tenant Pilar Corrias was hosting her inaugural exhibition by Philippe Parreno. Weary but upbeat, Corrias described the show and the new space as “a labor of love.” Given the location and its share of wow factor, the Rem Koolhaas–designed space no doubt set her back a few gilders.

Left: The Approach's Jake Miller with artist Edward Lipski. (Photo: Ryan McNamara) Right: Ije Ndukwe and architect David Adjaye. (Photo: Lynne Gentle)

The Fitzrovia throngs conjoined amorphously in the streets, making it difficult to tell where the Corrias crowd stopped and the Stuart Shave one began. While the Edward Lipski exhibition at the Approach might have been a tad quieter (being tucked around the corner), allegiances seemed to follow the booze—this is England, after all. As those in the street tried to juggle a smoke while drinking two-fisted, David Altmejd’s sculpture in the front window at Modern Art elicited polarized, if drunken, debate. Where one punter called it “arresting and erotic,” another sourly proclaimed it “some of the worst art you’ll see in London.” Ah well, as long as they’re talking . . .

But pick of the evening had to go to Thomas Zipp’s exhibition “White Dada” at Alison Jacques, for its sheer audacity. The show was to Fitzrovia as a mustache is to Mona Lisa. After the relative gentility of the neighboring private views, to enter Alison Jacques was to be confronted with a kind of “riot art” run amok. Zipp and his band, Da Rec, performed a set of their signature anarchic guerrilla “jazz”—an aural assault typical of, say, a concert by Bedlam inmates—under unflattering yellow lighting, making the smoke-filled room more redolent of a methadone clinic than a swish art gallery.

After Da Rec's set, the motley crew boiled over into the road and the unsuspecting Sanderson Hotel, a London hot spot more used to welcoming models in Jimmy Choos than tattooed Germans in filthy white polyester suits. (Paris Hilton herself was said to be crashing there that night, and Keanu Reeves made a brief entrance, too, trailing an increasingly requisite glamourless female companion.) The party, thrown by the aforementioned galleries (but for Corrias, who took her gang bowling), was unprepared for the Teutonic onslaught. After drinking more than one thought humanly possible, artist and band dispersed to wreak havoc in the crowd, until at least one member was tackled by hotel security for “indecent exposure” and physically removed (twice) from the premises. (If this was happening here, one wonders what was going on at the Peres Projects party at Bistrotheque.) I later heard from a reliable source that the real charge was “public fellatio,” but as I was not an eyewitness, I couldn’t possibly comment further. “Germans do love to pull their pants down,” remarked one guest, to which consultant Tracy Ryan quipped, “I’m a black man. I love to pull my pants down, too, but I don’t call it art.”

Left: Artist David Altmejd. (Photo: Ryan McNamara) Right: Pilar Corrias and Adam Prideux with son. (Photo: Lynne Gentle)

Left: The Breeder's Nadia Gerazouni, Art Cologne director Daniel Hug, and 303 Gallery's Mari Spirito. Right: Curator Florence Derieux with Tate St. Ives director Martin Clark. (Photos: Ryan McNamara)

Left: Curators November Paynter and Andrew Renton. Right: Artist Rosson Crow, Lina Ayala, and consultant Rob Teeters. (Photos: Ryan McNamara)

Left: Da Rec. Right: China Art Objects's Steve Hanson with artist Walead Beshty.