I don’t know much about owning art, but I know I like it when i do.
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To London yesterday to look at my old friend O Zhang’s new show at the Frieze Art Fair in London’s Regent’s Park. Her new work, entitiled The World is Yours (But Also Ours) is being exhibited by the CRG Gallery of New York. O’s space lies at an end of one the big tent’s long corridors and it is dominated by a very large poster print of a young Chinese girl wearing a Western T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “It’s All Good in the Hood”. As usual with Zhang’s work, there’s an ambiviallence to her subject’s expression: here we see a mix of defiance, pride, and shyness. The girls, moreover, stands outside the entrance to Tiananmen Gate in Beijing towering, not only over the viewer, but also above the famous photograph of Mao Zedong, almost as if he were receding into the past. Behind the girl, a torn police ribbon trails off into the middle distance.
The accompanying 15 photographs follow a similar pattern: young, Chinese girls in garish Western T-shirts standing in front of a significant Beijing landmarks. Each picture also has a Chinese slogan running along the bottom taken from a classic text from the country’s communist past: “Stability Overides Everything” or “People are the Real Heroes”. In one frame we see a young girl outside the Olympic stadium wearing an Astroboy T-shirt above the slogan of “We are Capable of Everything”. Much of it is extremely witty: one girls holds an I Love China handbag in one hand, while wearing an “Everything is Shit” message on her T-shirt, the Chinese slogan along the foot of the photograph reads “Poverty is not Socialism”, a famous maxim of Deng Xiouping.
Zhang writes in a statement that, “having divided my time equally in recent years between the East and the West, my own experience of my home country is often one of profound ambivalence”. She explores this subject assiduously with this series of pictures that “visually capture the economic and political conflicts in modern day Chinese culture, among them, the identity crisis facing Chinese Youth.” It is a great collection of her work, much more political and direct than anything previously.
One of the most undervalued institutions in Brighton is the Fabrica gallery on the corner of Ship and Duke Streets on the edge of the South Laines. Situated in an reconsecrated church (the old Holy Trinity Church) the gallery is totally unassuming from the outside. A nice thing is that you never quite know when its going to be open, it has exhibitions just four times a year, and so every now and then you kind of just notice that the door is open and you pop in. I’ve yet to see a poor exhibition and usually the interior is given over to a single piece or installation.
The current exhibition, The Undercroft by the sculptor Vincent Mauger. He has built a life-size replica of a tree out of sheets of reconstituted wood. Simple really, but beautiful especially when the late afternoon sun streams through the upper windows casting long shadows across the dusty floor. Great view of the “branches” from the pulpit too.
Two found items while googling on the Paris Bar in Berlin. Firstly, the above painting of the Paris Bar by Martin Kippenberger from 1993. Kippenberger donated his art collection to the cafe for the painting. The collection remains, although the painting of the cafe itself is now owned by Charles Saatchi.
Secondly, this infamous Rolling Stone interview from October 1979: Chris Hodenfield interviews Iggy Pop in the Paris Bar. Iggy gets so drunk he ends up rolling around on the ice in the street outside.
“My last night in Berlin I waited for Iggy Pop in the Paris Bar, a subdued green room holding a few green souls. They had all stepped right out of Van Gogh’s The Absinth Drinkers. It was real art if you could tolerate it. And so has been much of Iggy’s music.
“I thought about Iggy and Bowie. Bowie moved gracefully, half-hidden, British, almost snobbish, always impressive. Onstage, he holds himself taut as a bow drawn by an arrow, and the audience waits for the release. Iggy Pop is sullen, graceless, original, willing, street smart, naive, American, seemingly doomed, but resilient, strong as a horse.”
I recently visited the cafe and liked it a lot. There were no absinth drinkers at the bar, it’s far more glamorous now, but it did retain an air of bohemian bliss, thanks largely to Kippenberger’s art collection that is crammed into every nook (including photographs of Sarah Lucas and Yves Saint Lauren).
I quite like the work of the Little People aka the Tiny Street Art Project, which further describes itself as “little handpainted people left in London to fend for themselves”. It reminds me of a much nicer form of contemporary art than the Chapman Brothers (who are currently busily retouching the paintings of Hitler). Anyway, the artist behind the little people, Slinkachu, has a new project, entitled the inner-city snail (the bottom two images, above) and a book out in September. Interestingly enough, the forward is to be by Will Self, who once wrote the slightly sinister short story, Scale, about a man who has lost all sense of it and ends up thinking he is living inside a model village. Slinkachu’s work is too cutesy to get under the skin in the same way. I think I just like them for their wit and the way they soften your view of London.
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