Art Rabbit, A website worth checking out!

Margareta Kern (Liza - Donja Vrba, Croatia. 2006). Courtesy of www.artrabbit.comMargareta Kern (Liza – Donja Vrba, Croatia. 2006). Courtesy of www.artrabbit.com

Artrabbit.com is a really interesting website allowing online readers a clear insight into the London art market, whats going on and listings. You can post your openings there too!

There’s some great online interviews including recent one with Margareta Kern. There is also a number of Art Walks posted which look really interesting and well thought out. Basically I’m pretty impressed with this site! Great for visitors and Londoners alike!

Check out http://www.artrabbit.com/ for recent openings, discussion boards, news feeds and up and coming popular events.

Izzie Egan. C-C-C-Vancouver.com

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Gilbert and George Grace the Tate

Gilbert and George’s “Flying Shit”

Gilbert and George’s “Flying Shit”

 

 

Well, I suppose we need the bad exhibitions to enhance our opinions of what we think to be good exhibitions. However, I really could have missed Gilbert & George’s Major Exhibition at the Tate Modern today. The exhibition, which runs from February 15th to May 7th 2007, is the largest retrospective of any artist to be held at the Tate Modern. For 10 pounds (£8 concession), you can walk alongside walls covered with loud and overly-imposing eyesores. Besides the aesthetic nightmare, I found myself saying the four (maybe four-and-a-half) words commonly muttered at contemporary art shows: “I don’t get it”. So, in an attempt to understand the content of this visual repugnance I capitulated and read the guide. This was definitely a last resort as art shouldn’t need to be translated through guides.  

If you’re not familiar with the artists, Gilbert was born in Italy in 1943, and George in Devon in 1942. They met during a sculpture class in London and soon began to sculpt together. The couple looks average in every way and they are always seen wearing suits and ties as if matching attire is their crazy gimmick. According to ‘the guide,’ “They adopted the identity of ‘living sculptures’ in both their art and their daily lives, becoming not only creators, but also the art itself.” Apparently, this is the rationale why almost every image is a self-portrait. Their dry, corporate appearance is contradicted by their 12-year-old-boy personalities that find ‘pee-pee’ and ‘poo-poo’ hilarious, and even more worrying, aesthetically and artistically ground-breaking.

 

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Each image seemed to follow the same recipe. They all resembled stained-glass church windows (even though the images themselves were produced on photo paper) and had a crucifix of some other religious reference. This was then juxtaposed by abjection, often in the form of a naked boy, random excrement, blood, or other distasteful matter. Each image also was not complete without a portrait of the two ‘artists’ and a title which was written right across the image itself. For example, one of the photos was called “Shitters” depicting shit. Another was named “Our Spunk (1997)” depicting (need I explain). Finally, some images amalgamated their subject matter including the piece “Spunk, Blood, Piss, Shit (1996)”.

 

I took the time to further research their art in hopes to understand it. After all they are famous for their slogan “Art for All” which apparently reflects their artistic mandate. The following are quotes which they have used to describe their work:

 

Gilbert and George’s “In the Piss”

Gilbert and George’s “In the Piss”

“Now we use more colours, but in each picture they mean something different…They can be symbolic or they can be atmospheric or emotional…It’s more a part of our own language, really – part of our vocabulary”

 

“We wanted to dream a kind of paradise [with] those brightly lit human beings that we compare to flowers”

 

“It’s him, from head to foot. It’s very haunting. Because you think it’s a mouth, with an areshole in the middle, but in fact it’s a belly button.”

 

“Fundamentally, there’s something religious about the fact that we’re made of shit. We consist of the stuff. It’s our nourishment, it belongs to us, we’re part of it, and we show this in a positive light.”

 

Needless to say, I remain bewildered. Gilbert and George have not succeeded in creating ‘art for all’ as it definitely wasn’t for me. I found their images and ideas to be asinine, generic and unoriginally anarchical. Personally, I think ‘abject art’ or art that includes repugnant or vile subject matter to be rather interesting if done in an intelligent manner. For instance, the work of Andrea Serranno comes to mind in his works such as “Blood and Semen III” (which was used for a Metallica album cover) and “Piss Christ.”

 

                  Andres Serranno’s “Blood and Semen III”                               

Andres Serranno’s “Blood and Semen III”          

As depicted on Metallica’s ‘Load’ Album                

 

 

Andres Serranno’s ‘Piss Christ’

  Andres Serranno’s “Piss Christ”

I did not find Gilbert and George’s retrospective at all intriguing and find their talents to be child-like and completely over-rated. I hope my next entry will manage to encourage you to go to a show! I highly recommend the rest of the Tate Modern as their permanent collection is impressive and it remains my favorite gallery in London.

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Gurskey at the White Cube

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One superb quality of the London art world, not to mention one of the city’s best kept secrets, is the hospitality offered by galleries during show openings. It isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a great night out, but going to shows and looking at pictures while in the company of free alcohol and eccentric characters is often a recipe for entertainment. Openings usually take place on Thursday nights and because galleries usually come in groups, one can efficiently see a wide range of art in a night without walking off their buzz. If you don’t have friends that enjoy art, or simply want to meet new people, websites such as www.londonartclub.com bring together persons interested in going to shows en masse, regardless of one’s art knowledge.

If you’re anything like me, you will only enjoy the work at a minority of galleries you experience. Not meant dissuasively, I think this is a good thing as the fun is in the search. However, when I can draw distinct parallels between artist and telemarketer I know I have stumbled into a sub-par show. I strongly feel that the audience should not need to be convinced of an image and that one should be able to enjoy a work on a superficial and intimate level. I say this still being shocked by a show I went to a couple weeks ago where the artist, dressed in a black turtle-neck and thick-framed glasses, pointed to his brown and black abstractions and actually recited how his images had ‘existential undertones.’ As this artist made a parody of himself, I was shocked at the lack of audience criticality as people were being force-fed what seemed to be ersatz meaning. This reminded me of a Degas quote from a poster in my high school art room, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” At the end of the day, art world professionals will always tell you to find solace in what you find aesthetically pleasing and to make this a prerequisite for purchasing art. On a conclusive note, viewers who are new to the art scene often feel their opinions are unworthy and that finding a piece incomprehensible is due to a lack of formal art education. Especially in the commercial art world, there is a good chance that if the work looks like garbage, it is.

On a more positive note, tonight Andreas Gursky’s first solo exhibition at the WhiteCube gallery opened and it was one of the most impressive displays of photography I have ever seen. With the atmospheric detail of Ed Burtynsky’s photos, the epic proportions of Barnett Newman’s paintings, and the merging of fantasy and fiction that Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller incorporate into their work, Gursky manages to take some of the best elements from other artists and merge them into single images. His large-format colour photographs depict the globalization of everyday society. In his Pyongyang (2007) series he was given permission to take photos at North Korea’s annual Arirang Festival which is celebrated in honour of the late Communist leader, Kim II Sung. With more than 50,000 participants performing choreographed acrobatics and in excess of 30,000 school children watching, the artist creates a sort of mosaic of people. The obvious incongruity of smiling faces and dancing within the controlled, totalitarian nature of the event adds a tension that glares right back at the viewer.

 

Each photo in this show has been skillfully altered using the latest digital technology which adds an interesting dimension to the work. For instance, in his three photos named James Bond Island I, II, III (2007), Gursky altars the Thai landscape in a way that a local would immediately recognize the geographical location and then question him/herself as to whether or not this was in fact the place s/he originally had in mind. Depicting the island peaks of Khao Phing Kan in Thailand (which were made popular by a recent James Bond film), even strangers to Thailand, such as myself, could detect an inexplicable intrusion or alteration of some kind. Like Jeff Wall, Gursky plays with the idea of photographic truth as he inserts fiction into the otherwise realistic-looking photos.

The layers of Gursky’s work can engage anyone from a child to an art connoisseur. I would highly recommend this show which runs from March 23rd to May 5th at White Cube Mason’s Yard. Also, remember to go to openings as you can often get a chance to meet the artists themselves (Gursky was there tonight), plus people that look like they have so much money they don’t know what to do with it. Nicknamed ‘the Young Saatchi’, Nicolai Frahm (a name worth Googling) was in attendance smiling, shaking hands and reeking of wealth. The combination of this demographic along with the free alcohol makes exhibition openings a promising choice for London singles.

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Thanks Beyond Robson!

The C.C.C. London would like to thank Beyond Robson for thier great insightful interview with Izzie Egan the C.C.C’s Founder.

We look forward to being able to keep you informed with snippets from the Art Market, whether it’s London, New York, DC, Toronto or Vancouver. We will hopefully be adding new cities to our list in the future.

For the meantime you can read about whats going on on our blog sites!

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The London Market Boom

Sotheby’s London

OK. I have spoken about the different layers of the London art scene. Before attempting to talk about individual shows, I will continue to establish groundwork of the London art scene by talking about how powerful the current market is in the international context.

There were two telling articles in the March edition of the Art Newspaper which help to properly wrap one’s head around the current explosion of the London art market. The first is written by Georgina Adam, who claims that art follows money, and due to London currently riding on the success of a financial boom, the UK capital is leaving New York and other large-scale cities in the dust. She describes the financial boom by mentioning the current and inconceivable property prices in London, citing the recent sale of four Hyde Park penthouses for £84 million each. Furthermore, New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has commissioned a report from consultants McKinsey to find out why New York is failing to keep up. Apparently, because of America’s more stringent immigration policies and implementation of the Sabanes-Oxley Act 2002 which tightens accounting practices, it has become a far less desirable place to start a business. The result of this is that hedge fund assets in the
UK are growing at an annual gain of 63% while they grow at a mere 13% in the US. Adams goes on to say how this mirrors the art market as financiers and hedge fund managers are the biggest spenders in today’s art market.
Other forces include the geographic ease for which London offers the wealthy from new economies such as Russia, the Middle East, and India. As residents of the UK only need to pay tax on what they earn domestically, London has become quite the tax haven for ‘ultra-high-net-worth individuals’ coming from foreign economies. Adams mentions that the accountancy firm, Grant Thornton, estimates that two-thirds of the 1000 wealthiest Brits are foreign nationals. In addition, because artworks can physically be transferred from one economy to another (a huge bonus for art investors), it is no wonder why Americans have taken advantage of the strong pound/weak dollar and have consigned pieces to London auction houses to maximize fiscal return.

 

The result of these facts is noticed when observing London’s staggering $750 million (USD) turnover between ‘impressionist’, ‘modern’, and ‘post-war and contemporary art’ auctions between the dates of February 5th and 9th, 2007. In a mere five days, London saw the highest grossing auctions in European history. It is no fluke that the London art market is swelling at such an astonishing rate. For instance, according to Roger Bevan of the Art Newspaper, the Contemporary Art auction on February 7th at Sotheby’s earned £45.8 million, while last year it realized £30.4 million, and the year previous, £28.6 million. Parallel to this was the Christie’s auction which made £70.4 million in its ‘Post War and Contemporary Art’ evening sale. In 2006, the equivalent sale made £37 million, and in 2005, £24.5 million.

 

This evidence suggests that London art market professionals are currently basking on cloud nine. The success of this city’s market seems to have turned into an annual surprise as each year London tops what was thought to be an unbeatable turnover from the previous year. We are all internally bracing ourselves for a potential crash, but at this point the economic prognosis doesn’t suggest any sign of a weakening market.

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Hello, and Welcome to the London Art Scene

Thanks Izzie for such a kind welcome and I’m thrilled to be offering a voice to those interested in learning about what the London art scene has to offer. Firstly, I should introduce myself so readers know whether any of this information is, in fact, worth listening to!

 

My name is Richard Sehmer and I am a Canadian currently living in the bustling city of London. I grew up in Vancouver, and then went to do an undergraduate degree in studio art and art history at York University in Toronto. Upon completion, I moved to London where I earned a master’s degree in art business from Sotheby’s and met classmates, friends, and now, fellow-bloggers: Izzie (CCC Vancouver), Joe (CCC Toronto), and Victoria (CCC New York). Currently, I am working towards a law degree at City University in Central London with the ambition of becoming an art lawyer. This blog will hopefully help you to explore the substance of this thriving art scene, while it helps me stay in touch with the art world as I continue my legal studies.

When being asked to write about the London art scene, one can’t help but feel as though they would if one were asked to clean the outside of a building with a toothbrush. Not only is the scene impressively overwhelming, but it is constantly changing as new styles, galleries, artists, collectors, and economic trends (to name a few factors) endlessly mold the art world into what it is today. Nevertheless, this is what makes the London art scene such a vibrant and exciting discourse as one is never at a loss for words.

To begin, one must ask what we are talking about when we say ‘art scene.’ Perhaps this sounds like an asinine question, but, from my experience, it is best to find structure in such a massive subject, by first defining what it is in fact we are talking about. The London ‘art scene’ can be described through various vantages. For instance, a tourist would experience the London ‘art scene’ by potentially prioritizing major museums and galleries: The Tates (Britain, Modern, St Ives), The British Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum (or “the V&A” as locals say), the Design Museum and the list continues. Perhaps the London ‘art scene’ even includes places like Madame Tussauds, The Sherlock Holmes Museum, and the Natural History Museum. To a local, the ‘art scene’ may consist of the less ‘touristy’ of destinations, going to galleries which aim more at commercial sales rather then going to government-funded institutions. Most of the time people go to a gallery with no intention of purchasing work. London hosts a myriad of galleries including places like White Cube, Flowers, The Redfern and hundreds of other institutions located from the affluent areas such as Bond Street and St James, to places like Hampstead, East London (Hoxton, Aldgate, etc), Maida Vale, Islington, and Chelsea. Maybe one would be so daring enough as to venture into the guarded doors of Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Bonham’s to check out their previews. The art market professional, may describe the ‘art scene’ as, besides the aforementioned, a world including issues such as conservation/restoration, art crime (ie recovering Nazi loot), art publications and critics, consultancy services, insurance, and even efforts invoked in maintaining relationships with actual artists. Without stating the obvious, people often forget that current practicing artists are an essential ingredient in the development of a successful ‘scene.’

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As is clear, everyone has a different perspective on the definition of the ‘London art scene,’ and I will do my best to entertain most facets in my subsequent blogs. As a viewer of art, however, it is imperative to remember that the art world, especially in London, can exude snobbery and pretentiousness. When surrounded by such an exciting art scene, one can not afford to be too scared or belittled to spend as much time as you want walking into the most top-notch of institutions. The art-world requires a tough-skin and an ability to not be intimidated by insecurities such as a lack of art knowledge or a feeling of unworthiness. In large part, this is what often differentiates between the mindset of ‘tourist’, ‘local’, and ‘art market professional.’

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Just a Little Introduction.

The C.C.C. is proud to announce the launch of the C.C.C. London Blog.

We are delighted to introduce Richard Sehmer as our blogger extrodinaire in the UK.

I hope that you enjoy reading everything Richard has to say.

Izzie Egan. Founder of C.C.C.

Richard Sehmer at The Basel Art Fair. Richard Sehmer at The Basel Art Fair.

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