Instead of spacing out events throughout the year that would allow many more people to attend, especially the smaller events, the clustering together of everything in March meant that most people had to choose and so many galleries and lesser-known events lost out. It was done for 'commercial reasons' I was told and yet I wondered how much commercial sense it made if you immediately rule out a large percentage of your possible audience?
I actually missed ArtBasel this year as I had a ticket for the only free time-slot I had (Tuesday afternoon) but late on Tuesday morning I had an urgent document to work on that kept me stuck at my desk until it was too late.
The previous Saturday I had visited ArtCentral and came away with less enthusiasm than I had arrived with. In my opinion these Art Fairs are not for viewers, they are for galleries and are essentially trade fairs. I entered the large white tent feeling enthusiastic and eager to see the work. However, by the time I had wandered around the many booths seeing similar work by the same artists that I had seen for the last few years, along with new work that was reminiscent of work I had seen before yet presented as though it was unique and ground-breaking (why does it always have to be 'unique and ground-breaking?), I finally arrived at the exit and felt glad to be leaving. The one breathe of fresh air was in the 'Flowers' booth where I saw an Eduardo Paolozzi sculpture. The bronze maquette was a study for the 'London to Paris' sculpture on view at the CASS Sculpture Foundation in West Sussex, UK. I liked the way he had reversed a familiar process - often artists make maquettes from wood, clay or other 'temporary' material before casting the final version in bronze. Paolozzi on the other hand had made his maquette from bronze and then made the final version from wood!
Before I experienced this exhausting and disappointing tour of Art Central, I had visited the Pedder building, a short walk away in Central. Here I saw two exhibitions that couldn't have provided a better contrast. First in Ben Brown I saw Simon Birch's latest show of paintings. It was refreshing to see an artist working diligently to perfect his craft and the intimate exhibition space allowed me to become lost in Simon's world, the figures dancing and floating around me as I toured the show.
Next door, just along the corridor is the Simon Lee Gallery. Here I saw an installation by the Arte Povera master Michelangelo Pistoletto. He had clad the small gallery with large mirrors onto which there were fixed photographic images of the same woman, repeated in different poses. The reflections criss-crossed the room creating the illusion of a labyrinth of rooms joined by rectangular doorways. I became a second figure and I was also multiplied within the labyrinth, engaging in an interactive relationship with the woman, almost a kind of dance. After a few minutes another group of visitors arrived and I was lost in the crowd, in the multitude of reflected images. The work changed totally as people came and went.
This is how art should be seen, each gallery had used the space perfectly to show the work to its best advantage. I left Central full of positive energy and began walking towards Art Central...if only I had planned my day's itinerary in reverse!
Simon Birch at Ben Brown
Michelangelo Pistoletto at Simon Lee Gallery
'London to Paris' by Eduardo Paolozzi