There will be a new breed of galleries exhibiting at the London Zoo this fall. Some call them the "underdogs." But I call them the "sure shots" -- the next generation of young British galleries and their stable of international artists.
Banking off the resounding success of last year's Frieze Art Fair held in Londons Regent's Park -- where over 30,000 people flocked to see 124 top international galleries in just three days -- two bright stars, art dealer and Bloomberg Space curator David Risley and co-director, curator Soraya Rodriguez, have organized a guerilla-style alternative -- the Zoo Art Fair.
Running simultaneously with Frieze (Oct. 15-18, 2004), Zoo will consolidate 26 of London's top young galleries, arts organizations and publications, all under three years old. Zoo will be held at the London Zoo's Prince Albert Banqueting Suite and the Mappin Pavilion, a short walk from David Adjaye's Frieze pavilion.
"We dont want people wandering off to look at the apes," said the vivacious Rodriguez to the Evening Standard." We want them to buy art."
32-year-old art dealer David Risley, a lad not afraid to get his hands dirty, emphasizes that Zoo aims to promote the lesser known, younger artist. "Its a complete cross-section of whats exciting in London right now," said Risley. "Its not just galleries but set-ups like Rockwell, a Dalston space run by nine artists, where they put on amazing shows."
Zoo will also include a section called "The Great Unsigned," organized by Rodriguez with guest curator David Thorp, for artists who are without gallery support.
Like many East End gallerists, Risley was formerly an artist. He was given his first big break while working a Zwemmers art bookshop on Charing Cross Road. Spotting an empty space upstairs, he persuaded the owners to let him use the first floor room as a gallery. His art dealing business has been an upward curve every since. He left the West End and went east, founding his current eponymous gallery in a former tannery, where he shows everything from blue-chip contemporary George Condo to hot newcomer Masakatsu Kondo.
In anticipation of the Zoo fair, I decided to take a down and dirty tour of the Zoo galleries, visiting them on their home turf, so to speak. I invited Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst, director of the Heddon Street branch of the Larry Gagosian Gallery and her husband, filmmaker Duncan Ward, to accompany me. Gogo is one of the impressive list of gallery sponsors of the Zoo fair, a list that includes Gimpel Fils, Haunch of Venison, White Cube, Interim Art, Hales, Sadie Coles HQ, Sprth Magers Lee and the Saatchi Gallery.
Tom Gallant at Museum 52
Our tour began at Museum 52 on Red Church Street. Museum 52 started life in July 2003 when musician Christopher Taylor -- front man for the groovy band Menlo Park, visual artist and, as rumor has it, the soon-to-be film star -- decided to turn his living room into an art gallery. In November last year, Taylor joined forces with the sparkling Juliet Hodgkins, who now co-directs the gallery.
Despite its brief existence as a project space for contemporary art, Museum 52 has already put up an impressive series of one-man shows by artists such as Conrad Shawcross (now featured in the Saatchi Gallery collection), Nick Waplington, John Isaacs, James White, Christopher Landoni, Norbert Schroener and the current debut show of Brussels-based Tom Gallant.
Gallant's show took almost two years to produce. A trained printmaker, his fascination with paper as a medium led him to master the traditional Japanese crafts of Kira-gami and Origami.
Gallant produces what I would call "stealth objects," not unlike those of Grayson Perry -- superbly crafted and decorative from afar, but potentially shocking upon closer inspection. We are drawn nearer, seduced by craft. But before we know what we are looking at, we are close-up and intimate with an emerging pornographic image.
At first sight, the intricate paper cuts and folded birds of The Collector - 1,001 Origami Cranes (2004) (6,500) -- arranged like a beaded curtain in a Soho sex shop -- seem to be innocent, delicate objects. But closer inspection reveals they are cut out from the pages of pornographic magazines.
In The Collector - 108 Moths - Sphingidae of Eastern Palaeartic (2004) (7,000), a grid of 108 Kiri-gami moths, have been intricately cut by hand from a selection of similarly graphic images. Why 108? Gallant tells me at the turn of the Japanese New Year, a monk will bang a gong 108 times in order to purge the sin of the new year. Is Gallant suggesting similar a form of numerical absolution?!
And what about the constant exposure to that pornography? Has it had any adverse effect on the artist? "I've become calloused to the medium, but not the message," he says with a devilish grin!
Mia Enell at Trolley
Just down the road, over at 73a Red Church Street -- the former headquarters of Modern Art Inc. (now on Vyner St.) -- we are greeted by Trolley owner, an amiable Italian who goes by the name of "GG."
To date, Trolley's exhibitions to have been closely aligned to its award winning publishing enterprise. Trolley has established itself as one of the most innovative and exciting publishers of an often daring range of book productions. Focused on art and photography, Trolley's contemporary art titles include the legendary Don't Be So, a book of poetry by the superb, electo-crooner Paul Fryer, with illustrations by Damien Hirst.
Of course there are exceptions. During Zoo, Trolley plans to mount a show unrelated to it's book production titled "Me and Marcel," a painting, video and photography exhibition by Mia Enell, curated by the very cool, VERY magazine publisher Uscha Pohl.
Caroline Achaintre at OHana
Lawrence OHana was formally a businessman based in Dublin before opening his eponymous East End gallery in November 2003. Yet hes had more experience with art than most dealers will have in a lifetime. His grandfather was one of Londons great modernist dealers, Jacques OHana. Formally on 13 Carlos Place, the gallery is now home to the Hamiltons Gallery, which is owned by dealer to the stars, Tim Jefferies.
To date, OHana has exhibited Reza Aramesh, Lali Chetwynd, Giles Round and Sebastiano Patane and international artists Haegue Yang from South Korea, the sound artist-dj team LAZOO from Italy and the Serbian Ivan Grubonov.
The gallery also hosted a season of underground art films by the late New York filmmaker and performance artist, Jack Smith. Many of Smiths films have never been screened in London before.
OHanas current show is a new series of new works by German artist Caroline Achaintre -- her first major solo exhibition in London. The show consists of large-scale wall mounted rugs and watercolors. Achaintres expertise as a weaver, the lyrical woolen surfaces and artificial colors -- the candy-floss pinks and acid yellows -- provide a striking contrast to the sinister imagery she employs. Her menacing clowns, such as Mr. G (2004) (6,500), are reminiscent of the dark obsessions of suburban teenagers. Much of Achaintres imagery is appropriated from heavy metal album covers -- Kiss, Slipknot, the Insane Clown Posse and Marilyn Manson -- or downloaded from the net. Call it menacing kitsch with the pedal to the metal.
Meiro Koizumi at Dicksmith Gallery
If there were ever two young dealers to watch, Tom Hanbury and his partner Rodolphe von Hofmannsthal of the Dicksmith Gallery are the ones. Hanbury, 24, the descendent of the famous British gardening family, was educated at Oxford and trained as an artist at the Chelsea collage of art. Von Hofmannsthal, 23, who trained as a photographer, has culture running through his veins hes the great grandson of the literary giant Hugo von Hofmannsthal, librettist to Strauss.
The pair met in New York in 2002 while bidding against each other Christies sale. An ensuing friendship developed. The following year, von Hofmannsthal bought a Georgian townhouse five minutes walk from the White Cube in Hoxton Square. Dicksmith Gallery opened to much fanfare in November 2003. And the buzz around London hasnt stopped since.
In his debut show,"Powerlessly Hardcore," Meiro Koizumis reveals an imagination rooted in its concerns with the transience of the body where the cultural, political and the corporeal interlock in a harsh and edgy fantasy. His projected DVD, Jap (2004) (1,200, edition of six), is overtly violent yet structurally controlled. The video opens with a bound Japanese man being given a brutal "lesson" in human rights by a sexy Western-looking woman. She makes her point by harshly humiliating him, a prelude to murder. Mixed into the soundtrack, a Japanese man recites a list of his desires and perceived deficiencies in a halting, yet forceful voice. The effect is simultaneously disturbing and absurd. The murdered man eventually returns to life -- the cycle, we assume, to repeat interminably.
Marc Bauer at Store
Around the corner at Store, on Hoxton Street, we find another dynamic dealing duo, writer Niru Ratnam and ex-Tate curator Louise Hayward. The gallery opened in June 2003.
Marc Bauers debut solo London exhibition, "Happier and Healthier," takes the form of wallpaper, wall-painting, drawings and a signed limited-edition book of drawings and text.
The front room of the gallery is plastered with what appeared to be quaintly patterned wallpaper. But upon closer inspection, the subject of the delicate blue line drawings became shockingly evident -- a nuclear family, including child and dog, engaged in various combinations of unabashed fornication. Not surprisingly, Much of Bauers practice is rooted in his reading of the Marquis de Sade and Georges Bataille, the man Andre Breton once referred to as a "scatological professor."
"The wallpaper was so incredibly popular, so we started selling it for 75 a square meter!" says a bemused Hayward.
In the back room, in an accompanying series of drawings, we see more startling elements in the form of Clemente-like charcoal drawings on paper -- the bare genitalia of a pre-pubescent girl, the tip of a young boys penis poking out of his y-fronts -- all rendered with a teenagers perception of adolescent life and longing.
"The installation tries to put a perspective on morality and to confront its limits," writes Bauer. "How to behave in front of these images? Please, keep up appearances pretend that these drawings are funny, but don't be fooled, it might be serious, it might have happened." Shock, horror!
FA Projects, Ritter/Zamat
Over to Bankside, behind the Tate Modern we travel to two more fine galleries on Great Bear Street -- neighbors fa projects and Ritter Zamat.
Fa projects was opened by Nicholas Baker and Zo Foster in September 2001. The gallery is housed in a spectacular 2,500 square feet Victorian warehouse building. One of the more established participants of Zoo, the gallery has been exhibiting emerging international and British artists working in a variety of media -- video photography, painting, drawing, sculpture and installation.
Entering fa, our attention was immediately drawn to a few back room gems by artist Neal Rock. Rocks constructions look as if they were created in the age of Rubens. His baroque constructions, such as JL 36, (2003) (2,200) are densely pigmented, glistening layers of undulating silicon, delicately cast onto three-dimensional supports using cake icing tools. The overall effect is one of decorative excess where the visceral surfaces act as pillows for appropriated objects of commercial decoration. Our response Rocks work teetered between total fascination and gentle revulsion.
Just next door to fa projects is Ritter/Zamet. The gallery, a former Victorian coffee-grinding factory, is set in what was a "bear-bating" garden in Shakespearean times.
The team of German art dealer Marcus Ritter (formerly of Marcus Ritter Gallery, New York), and British art critic and consultant Kate Zamet (shes also worked for Anthony DOffay and PaceWildenstein) pack years of experience in the art world. They opened the gallery in November 2003. Their main focus is on emerging European and U.S. contemporary artists as well as a secondary-market program and art advisory service.
Herwig Weisers incredible Zgodlocator (1998-2002) lies somewhere between sculpture, installation and a dynamic musical instrument.
Entering the front room of the gallery, we step up to a huge carpeted platform perforated with several circular cut-outs covered by tempered glass. The largest hole contains the granulated remains of re-cycled computer, "hardware sands" and in the smaller, a ferrous lubricant used for hard disk drive spindle. This entire assembly lies on top of a magnetic grid that is concealed underneath.
The magnets are attached to a computer tower that interprets any disturbance of the magnetic field in real time. This short-term data is fed to an oscillator in the tower, which translates the movement into an audible sine wave like sound -- shades of John Cages experimentation with modular synthesizers and proximity sensors.
There are also MIDI controllers on top of the platform. Turning the controllers disturbs the magnetic field underneath. The oscillators react far more violently, creating heavy, industrial sounds. The magnetic disturbance also causes the ferrous "hard ware sands" and lubricant to bristle and create a variety of sculptural patterns -- forming a kind of lunar landscape.
Zgodlocator is an obsessional labor of brilliance, full of technological witticisms. At a certain moment you are sure to get on all fours and ogle the underbelly of this colossus. And you won't be disappointed. After the a long day we had in the saddle, an art work like this most definitely picked us up and restored our faith in mans unfathomable imagination.