April to June has been a hive of activity, and could best be described as "Attention Grabbing" as collectors and dealers jostled for a piece of the action given the anticipated grand opening of the Tate Modern at Bankside.
Jay Jopling, first off the mark, unveiled his new space in Hoxton Square (the groove part of town), White Cube 2 (as in squared not two) with a show of gallery artists called Out There. It was also a convenient opportunity to announce local boys Gilbert & George had moved out of the West (Anthony DOffay in Cork Street) to the Eastside to join JJs stable, a rather large and unremarkable work of theirs dominating the new space. The show was more of a showcase; the only two interesting works were Rhizome by Jake and Dinos Chapman - a miniature model of a desolate drive-thru McDonalds, and Darren Almonds Today 2000 - a large-scale analogue clock that flips over nothing but the day of the week.
Other artists in the showcase included Glossy Gary Hume, Damien Hirst (Rehab is for Quitters - a medical skeleton lying atop a glass crucifix with air-blown ping pong ball eyes), Tracey Emin (I think it must have been fear - another piss-stained quilt), Gavin Turk, Cerith Wynn Evans, Anthony Gormley, Mona Hatoum, Marcus Harvey, and Marc Quinn. It will be interesting to see how this new space works in the future, apparently opened so curated exhibitions and more ambitious projects by gallery artists can occur.
The original White Cube in the St James (running concurrently with small solo shows) is the complete antithesis - a more homey domestic space. Fig-1 is another White Cube offshoot - a series of 50 shows in 50 weeks, co-ordinated by artist/curator Mark Francis in a temporary space in Soho. Critically, these have actually been more interesting and incredibly diverse in line-up. Contributors have included artists Richard Hamilton, Anish Kapoor, Liam Gillick, Tacita Dean and the writer Will Self, hat designer Phillip Treacy, and fashion designer Bella Freud.
Victoria Miro and Sadie Coles have also opened up huge project spaces in East London. The opening show at Sadie Coles Hoxton HQ favoured the lo-tech, with many works indistinguishable from the incidental grunge of the space. Sarah Lucas had more breast and penis jokes with a chicken in y-fronts with lemons for tits, and large photos of her sitting on the toilet. Jim Lambies contribution was a row of plastic shopping bags, paint filled and attached to the wall apparently shot at to cause some cursory colour mixing and dribbling. You had to wonder what all the hype was about!
Another "biggie" - The Lisson Gallery - set up a temporary show in a Covent Garden building that was about to be converted into Luxury Apartments. This however was a damn fine show. Video and film extravaganza included artists such as Vanessa Beecroft, Douglas Gordon, Tony Oursler, Jane and Louise Wilson, Paul McCarthy, Pierre Bismuth, Ceal Floyer and Matt Collishaw. Four floors of it.
Vanessa Beecroft VB-43 was the opening performance at the launch of the London Larry Gagosian Gallery in Heddon Street. Tall, pale, naked, redhead women in Manolo Blahnik shoes all avoiding eye contact with the "audience" for three hours. Documentation of seminal performance work by Chris Burden was the first exhibition at Gagosian, and opened the next day.
Charles Saatchi staged Ant Noises (an anagram of Sensations) as his contribution to recommitting to the YBA phenomenon, and shining up the brand name. More like elephants than ants, the centrepiece belonged to the big, bold, new work by Damien Hirst, which reportedly cost Charles £1 million. Hymn is a 20ft tall, painted bronze replica of a childs anatomical model (you know, the made in China type where you can take the organs out). Its kind of a big dumb icon in the Koons tradition - sure its impressive because of the size, but why bronze? Rachel Whitereads 100 spaces, originally included in Sensation, is shown again here. The translucent coloured resin casts, occupying their own space (yet completely excluding the viewer as you were only allowed to stand behind "the marked line" to see it and not walk through and around it as originally intended)... Ron Mueck, Chris Ofilli and Sarah Lucas were also in this part 1 of the show, as was Jenny Saville whose massive, fleshy paintings really were something.
So amidst all of this "big stuff" the Tate at Bankside or Tate Modern (if you prefer) opened. It really is quite fab, although differing points of view abound on how the collection is hung. This Tate is solely devoted to international modern and contemporary work across eight floors of nearly 12,500 square metres in total. The collection is loosely grouped into four traditional genres: history/memory/society, landscape/matter/environment, still life/object/real life and nude/action/body. Within these groups, younger generation artists show next to the famous dead guys, so it does not follow an historical grouping. Particular highlights are the Joseph Beuys, the Mark Rothko, and the Bruce Nauman rooms. Between cinema and a hard place is a curated show (and the only gallery you have to pay an admission fee) that takes over the entire 4th floor and includes work by Christian Boltanski, Bill Viola, Thomas Schutte, Rebecca Horn, Matthew Barney and Julian Opie amongst others. The mammoth Turbine Hall houses new monumental work by Louise Bourgeois.
Its not a pleasant experience in the weekend, as you can imagine, but the Tate is open till 10pm on Thursday and Friday nights, which is the only way to see the work without hordes of people. What is fantastic is that the education and talk programmes that run throughout (including Laurie Anderson, Gilbert and George, Sarah Lucas, Mona Hatoum) with an international critics and critical theory conference coming up later in the year.
Further afield there have been some rocking shows, particular faves include:
Galleries that are worth checking out include the following artist-run spaces and smaller private galleries: Platform, One In The Other, Lift, Modern Art, Maureen Paley/Interim Art, Anthony Wilkinson, The Agency, Vilma Gold, Avco, Underwood Street (no. 30, Five Years, Mellowbirds), Mafuji, Void, The Showroom, The Approach and the recently opened Stuff - all in the Eastend. Hales Gallery and The South London Galley in the south, The Jerwood gallery, and Delfina at Bankside.
Denise Kum is an artist presently residing in London.