The essence of a trip should be definable. So much content is difficult to organize but here is my summary of some of the trends I saw and observations I made during an exceptionally art-filled month in Europe.
A. New techniques abound with installation art attracting the most attention. Artists are stretching to use technology and seem to be having fun….remembering that they do not just create to make money. There was often an “anything goes” festivity about the work we saw. Boundaries are being pushed and artists are resisting strict categorizations by media. I have a theory this is due to our exposure to UTube and the multi media savvy of youth. A simple image or object is not enough to gratify desire any longer. We want entire environments which somehow encompass us and give us a total sensory experience. Video art is often dull and slow in comparison with the cinema. It may be cheap to transport, but no one has found a good way to show it at a fair or biennial. I suggest a relaxation lounge, with wonderful seats for those who are tired, where all the videos are shown on demand. Too bad there was not an art channel on the 10 hour airline trip overseas.
At the Ca’ d’Oro in Venice, Fabrizio Plessi has undoubtedly the most incredible room with tiled floor and spectacular windows to display his beautifully constructed set of boats with video clips of running water surging on the top of each one.
B. Cliques do exist and there are artists who are being promoted over and over, while emerging artists still struggle to be seen. Young artists, however, have the advantage of being able to make their own websites to promote their work. At the end of the week-long Free Art Fair at London’s Barbican in Oct 2009 (now in its third and final year) all the works are given away for free. Does this undermine the market price? If people get it for free, will they start to expect all art to be free all the time? Or is this a clever strategy to build audience by helping future patrons to experience owning the works? C. American art is still very strongly represented in London and Venice. The John Baldessari exhibition and Andy Warhol in Pop Life: Art in a Material World at the Tate Modern, Ed Ruscha at the Hayward, Bruce Nauman at the American Pavillion at the Venice Biennial and Abstract America: New Painting and Sculpture at the Saatchi Gallery.
Kristin Baker, (left) The Raft Of Perseus, was a work made with collaged hand painted torn paper on canvas. These works really stuck with me and reminded me of Allison Renshaw, who is local painter and has a stunning work in the Quint show at CCAE. Here is a solution to those who say they can not afford the art that they see in big galleries. You can buy local which might be more affordable. Paul Lee, (right) Untitled (Can Sculpture) created this series of cans with faces and lenses and I immediately thought of Tom Driscoll’s smashed bottles on show at the L Street Gallery for the SD Art Prize. You can also see Tom’s work at CCAE and even buy for $8 one of his fridge magnets, which is not a reproduction but a real miniature work of art.D. Fairs like Frieze Art Fair and Biennials are still the easiest way to see art from all over the world in just a few hours or days. The galleries are now concentrating more on the work of one artist or one genre to make a stronger showing in their booths and pavilions and this is a relief to the eye and more of an education. During the Frieze fair in London, there are an enormous number of satellite shows and major exhibitions in museums and galleries opening to take advantage of the audience that Frieze attracts.
SHOWstudio: Fashion Revolution at Somerset House was the most amazing eye opener for me. This project is the brain child of Nick Knight who is mainly concerned with showing fashion shoots as a process deserving of film documentation. In this exhibition, he has done much more. He shows the process of creation, he allows us to see the actual performance of the shot and he encourages participation in many inventive ways. In the photo above you see Naomi Campbell (left) times three and three times as large as real life. I was able to go to a computer board, choose my color and size of pen and my drawings were projected on this huge colossus. The sculpture was made with the latest technology from triple exposure photo converted in to 3-D data and digitally carved. I got so many ideas from this show and hope we can utilize much of what is happening in London for our Art Meets Fashion project in 2010/11. I loved the prints of lips on glass that were signed and displayed…..maybe our VIP’s can do a similar stunt at the next Movers and Shakers show.
Anish Kapoor (middle) at Royal Academy was by far my favorite exhibition on this trip. Take a look at the firing of the cannon video. By the end of the show the room will be filled with red oily wax and I found this both a strangely exciting and silly experience. Henry Darger (right) at the Museum of Everything shows outsider art works by people who are compelled to create. Many are mentally “challenged” or even institutionalized.
Origin is a two part fine craft fair held at Somerset House. Fenella Elms makes these impossibly delicate porcelain images on the left. The cross over from Fine Craft to Fine Art was evident in this show. I think it is time we had a similar fair in San Diego and we intend to encourage that at SDVAN. I enjoyed the Pavilion of Art & Design London at Berkeley Square especially for the Artist’s Jewels at Didier Antiques (center) because of our Little & Large promotion of sculptors/jewelers. I loved Vincent Dubourg’s (right) deconstructed cabinet from Carpenter Workshop Gallery …click the link to see other terrific works by him.
E. The art market in Europe is not that different than in the USA i.e. shrinking money for grants and from collectors, but galleries are numerous and art fairs and biennials are still thriving. Art still has the power to transform a landscape and the economy of an area. The Venice Biennial has expanded to include its garden setting, a larger warehouse nearby and 44 displays in the city. If you are like me and have known about the Biennial all your adult life, you have certain expectations of the quality of the work being of the highest. But over the years, this has become just one more semi annual art venue, so I had to get over my disappointment quickly and realize that this is a mixed bag of art. Some are outstanding; others are lack luster and even seemed unfocused.
When we reached Making World pavilion, it was Galaxies forming along filaments, like droplets along the strands of a spider's web (left) by Tomas Saraceno that was a show stopper. It filled an entire large room and I felt like a thief crossing a laser protected safe room getting from one side to the other. A long series of turntables with a very odd assortment of found objects (right) was made very special because of the lighting, shadows and motion created. Take a look at the video of Hans-Peter Feldman’s Shadow Play.
The photo (left) is just to give you an idea of why you should watch the video link to Paul Chan’s sexy, funny shadows projected on the rough brick wall. Giacomo Costa’s photo montage Private Garden (center and right) engulfs you on both sides of a walk way of light boxes, but it is only on close observation that you see this digital masterpiece is all collaged and not a natural setting at all.
A terrible cliché, but it is good to travel and good to return. A first week at home showed that SD has as much to offer as any major city in the world. I highly recommend Untitled the movie about the art world now playing in Hillcrest. And I recommend even more strongly the Tara Donovan art exhibition at the Downtown MCASD through February.
I wrote a 30 pages diary of a month’s coverage, and edited it down by taking out all the notes on friends and food. If you want to see more details and photos of this trip please read the 18 page PDF of this trip.. I hope this tempts you to make your own commitment to see more art in the near future.