Thursday, February 16, 2006

5 go to 39 to see 54

I go up to Old Street and the 39 gallery for the first time. Checked the place out on their website and they seem to have an interesting programme going on: a succession of shows asking a wide range of artists to respond to a specific proposal. Check out their shows here. Tonight, it's the opening for the 39 pack of cards: 54 artists re-presenting a card from the traditional pack. This is a neat formula, if only because it ensures that the private view is gonna be stuffed with people. I do the math: on previous experience I can usually count on getting probably 25 to 30 people to see anything I do solo. Employing this figure as a bench mark, and multiplying by the 54 artists involved, I figure we could be looking at nearly one and half thousand people turning up...
I get there around seven. The place is still reasonably quiet but steadily filling up. I have an arrangement to meet John Hayvend, but he's a no show for a while, so I have to do that thing you do at private views when you are on your own and you don't know anyone else there: I HAVE TO ACTUALLY LOOK AT THE ART ON SHOW. It's bizarre. Not the art, but the having to stand looking at the art. For goodness sake, I'm at a private view, I don't expect to be looking at any artwork. But, that's what I do. I hold the ubiquitous little green bottle of beer and take some time to look at the art. Except, of course, I don't. I can barely see anything. All I can think is that I must NOT look like I am waiting for someone. So what I do is look REALLY INTENTLY at the art. And then, shame on me, as I do this: I let a slight, smug, knowing smile carve into the geometry into my face, to indicate to anyone who looks at me that, of course, all these works are by artists who are all friends of mine. I know them all personally. By looking at their art I am sharing some private joke, some resonance from their previous work, which, person-who-is-looking-at-me, doesn't get. That is what I do.
And then I realise what I'm doing and think: 'stop it, you twat.' And that's when I start looking around the room and seeing lots of other single people holding their little green bottles of beer and looking REALLY INTENTLY at the work.
I realise we are all waiting for the private view to start happening...
More people arrive. I drink more beer. I think about what it means when a 'private' view is more stuffed full of people than will ever visit the show when it is open to the 'public'. Then my head starts to hurt. And then John arrives.
And then Lena and Sara Preibsch arrive. They have just come from openings at Vine and Modern Art. A busy night.
We are joined by Anushcka Wiese and we say hello to various people, (hi, there, again, Kate Street!) and have little conversations (some good, some awkward, some just catching up) and the gallery fills up and I think I may have got the math right. The place is really heaving. We are right in the middle of the gallery. It's like being at a festival. I'm waiting for a band to appear, someone to sell me a bag of parsley and everyone to go mad. It's full on.
Yada, yada, yada...
Eventually, we get herded out and head to the pub. As this is happening the Beautiful Boy turns up with, of all people, Jonas Mekas's son, Sebastian. They escort us the The White Lion. The front bar is attempting to break the record for most amount of people in a pub following a private view ever. It's like hacking thru a jungle, but we get to the back room and have a few games of pool - Lena 'Hurricane' Nix wins everything. I have a chat with John. I wonder what the story for the night is.
It's late and we start to leave. As we do, I notice a girl in a hat by the bar. I've seen her at the gallery earlier and I've seen her all night in the bar as well. I have to get a photo. 'You have a great hat', I say, ' Can I take a photo?'. She's up for this and tells us that the hat was given to her by someone in a public toilet. Whatever. I don't get her name but I do get the photo.
So then, as we leave, I decide to propose a show: 1500 artists choose and wear their favorite hats. I'll propose it to 39. And come the private view, I'll stand there with my little green bottle and pretend they're all close personal friends of mine....


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