Oh woe, oh woe, there is an economic downturn and we're in the art world and nobody's buying art, not even the Russians, oh woe. All the big guns are laying off the little people and the little guns have gone to the wall, and been shot. Mr. Hirst has famously let a large number of his picklers, and prescription painters go. Teckies across London have received emails of high importance and collected their cards.
Times is hard in artland and it's beginning to show at the private views. Becks, Ashai and Bombay Sapphire are still prepared to step up and put their money where our mouths are but trends are starting to show. 176 have moved their bar to the back room, the Photographers' Gallery put theirs on the second floor and at Raven Row it was in the attic. Now, I grant that it's not behind plexiglass yet, and so far there are no slidey tray things beloved of service stations but just you wait.
What can we expect for the beer dispenser of choice for the owner/operator, the green garden-centre planter? I suggest three times as much ice to start. Take it right up there near the rim. Threat of hand chill should slow the go rate somewhat and take the 'all gone' point past that desired threshold of 8pm.
It was damn busy at the opening of The Deutsche Börse Photography prize 2009 at The Photographers' Gallery but the good-natured queue had plenty to watch with the great, red neon of the 24-hour 'sweatbox' gym to the right and a succession of dressed to-the-nines types swanning up to the front then being directed to the back. It just never gets old.
The four artist up for the 30 grand this year are Paul Graham, Emily Jacir, Tod Papageorge and Taryn Simon. Unanswered questions regarding Papageore's pictures of sunbathers in Central Park include: are these pictures posed? Did he get permission? Why are all three people in the picture wearing the same fabric? Despite a block of text Simon's photos also leave the viewer hungry for information. Why is that poor white tiger in the zoo? What happened to his cross-eyed, knock-kneed brothers and sisters that failed to make the grade? And of course, what is in a Baille playboy? For more information about this show see Phil Harris's review elsewhere in this edition.
More great neon at 176, balancing the ballad and video in the central space. The Gainsborough Packet by Matt Stokes is an adaptation for a letter by John Burdikin found in the Tyne and Wear archives.
Alex Sainsbury's new space is swimming against the tide. As galleries from the East End are choosing to cash in a few of their credibility tokens and head for NoSoho/Noho (north soho? north ho?) he's upped sticks from Langham Street W1 and has landed in Spittlefields. A vast and beautiful space, filled to the brim with Ray Johnson's collages and mail art. There are hours and hours of stuff in there and it's time well worth spending. Two other top results for this particular space: a) there's a seven-metre railing opposite the gallery to cater to the east end's ever-growing art-cyclist demographic. b) Raven Row, the original name for the street? Did he know that before he got it? What were the runner-up names?
Meanwhile... Concrete in the Southbank Centre (http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/) has interesting work by Duncan Wooldridge that raises complex questions of authorship and repetition. A sentence I lifted from the website raising rather less exciting questions of authorship and repetition.
Laura Buckley, David MacLean and Haroon Mirza have collaborated on an in Stage Fright at Rokeby Gallery (http://www.rokebygallery.com), which is an extension of the three artist's practices. Also in the show is Doug Fishbone, who is showing a video of a hypnotized audience. The exhibition is on until 21st March. As a show it pushes the practices of the artists and covers some interesting ground You will go there. You will tell your friends it is great.
Media provocateur Mark McGowan is organizing 'The Role of the Village Idiot' it will take place on Saturday, 28th March 2 - 6pm in Peckham Square. As a career choice, village idiot was not an ideal one but came with some perks. They were tolerated, humoured and viewed with disdain by the more upstanding citizens but had the freedom to step beyond the boundaries and challenge convention, confront the status quo and wear whatever they wanted. Not so dissimilar from today's art students then.
Also worth having a look at are Mark Pearson's on-line projects. Invited artists contribute to esoteric and disparate archives of work, fulfilling a specified directive. Edward Clive's Banner Rail was posted on 9/8/08 and defiantly has the 'look and feel' of the 'feral landscape', the 'non-site' into which it has been placed (http://www.thebacklands.co.uk). Over at progress through typography (http://www.progressthroughtypography.co.uk) the first four artist-designed fonts are available to download. A music-based collection is in the pipeline and then what? Cheesecake recipes? Fishing lures? You will be told when you are ready.
In Time Out last week Mathew Hodges forsook his usual column rant against dogs, loud people and children and instead produced a piece of investigative journalism from the lineage of the Nixon exposés. If powerful, shadowy figures got their feathers ruffled along the way then so be it. Hodges was an honest, working hack of the old school and wasn't going to pull his punches. Someone called him a cunt and he meant to find out who. Actually we're not sure that is exactly the case: someone has painted the word cunt in blue paint on some grass and Hodges walked past it. This was probably planned, like those old school graffiti valentines you used to see.
So Hodges quickly narrowed it down to two groups. Feral youth and conceptual artists so we can assume the cyclists and working class men had an alibi. Let us look at the piece. Its strongest element to my mind is defiantly the use of turf as a canvas. Expressing temporariness akin to the arte povera movement, demonstrating the same qualities of change and non-permanence, but not, as was common, through decay, but here with a much more positive, growth and new-life. Oft sited as a backlash against the more macho, land-art movement, does the use of the word cunt reclaim this feminist aesthetic and give it a contemporary twist? It makes parallels with the blokey, here forever, wall-based graffiti of the east end so beloved of the bargain booksellers.
Hodges also complains about artwork titles - making up some long-winded examples to make his point. Artists are often wary of titling and words, feeling that they can oversimplify the work, and so choose to leave them untitled as in this case. Something blunt and to the point could be in keeping with the piece, possibly with the words Michael and Hodges in it but that could lose it's enigmatic qualities and it is the right of the artist to leave interpretation open.
I wish not to steal the thunder of our hooded brethren but there is an original and creative element here, which, though raw, shows considerable promise. Perhaps the two groups are not exclusive and this particular practitioner falls in both camps and we can both claim the work.
Is it art? Is everyone an artist? There is only one true test. Time. How long before it gets ripped-off for an advert.