Spring is Sprung at Showroom
There are little things that let you know that spring is in the air. On the cherry tree in my garden little buds, like tightly clenched fists, have appeared on the dark branches; the stray cat, who we haven't seen since autumn, is back at the window, meowing for attention, strokes and food; last night on the way home from my work the park gates were still open allowing me the short cut home (they close at dusk - and dusk is at last later than my return home). So, walking up Bonner Road to Showroom's 'If it didn't exist you'd have to invent it' show, a group exhibition of around 80 artists who've appeared at the gallery over it's audacious and intelligent history, I see a whole bunch of people standing outside, talking and drinking. Ah yes, I think, spring is definitely here. This is the first private view I've been to in the year where crowds of people are happy and warm enough to enjoy the ambience of the street. So, feeling light and breezy and full of the joys of the season, I grab myself a beer and head in. Only the rules tonight are: no drink in the gallery. Suddenly I realise that's why everyone's outside. It's not warm and balmy and spring like at all. It's really cold and I'm holding an ice cold beer in my ungloved hand...
I bump into Emma Quinn from the ICA. We say hello. She is here to cover the show for ZingMagazine. And she's here tonight to get the 'vibe' of the show (she'll come back later on to see the works properly). Great, I think, someone to compare notes with. I give her the address of this blog and say she should come here, as I tend to talk a bit about 'the vibe' of private views (you, loyal reader, will know this). I also think it will be good to get her input during the night. Which I do, and of which more later.
I see Giorgio Sadotti, Liz Wright and their two adorable daughters. Both Giorgio and Liz have work here tonight and both of the pieces they have I like. Giorgio's I've seen before at MOT, but Liz's is new to me. I get her to point it out to me. There's no labels on the works so it's pot luck if you recognise stuff. That looks like a Jim Lambie, I think and, oh, there's a Martin Boyce, that's a Simon Starling, surely, etc etc...
I check in with Emma. Am I frustrated that none of the works have names and titles beside them? she asks, slightly frustrated. Do you think it's some kind of ploy? I consider this and nod sagely, wondering what it all means. Then a few minutes later I find a pile of printed handouts with the key to all the works. I hand one to Emma.
There is some great stuff here. And as I'm thinking this I bump into Warren Neidich. I've written before about him at private views: he talks to you for a few seconds and then he's off, clutching at someone else. Tonight, apropos of nothing, he says, 'I have attention deficit disorder at these things. I can't keep any concentration on anyone.' 'YES,' I practically shout at him, 'THAT'S RIGHT!I KNOW YOU CAN'T,' and as I'm a sucker for people with a scintilla self knowledge (aren't we all?) we then talk for a bit. At one point he says: 'I think the real problem with young artists working today - and I see this in the Beck's Futures show - is this...' I hold my breath. I think: this is going to be really interesting and certainly something that I should remember and put in the blog later. Here's a man who is going to lay it on the line, who's going to say what is happening here.
Then, suddenly, he's finished. Somehow I didn't actually get what it was that he was saying. I drifted off. Or went into some private view black hole. And he's ended with something, like, 'they're all uptight in London at the moment'. Then he points to a work on the wall here. 'Hey, man, look at that.' He is pointing at something that I could only describe as 'the least uptight piece of work I have ever seen'. I think I'm losing it. By the time we say goodbye he has invited me to do a show with him. I wonder how may other people have been invited to do a show with Warren?
Time to check in again with Emma. A good thing, because she has picked up on the amount of children here. It's just past eight o'clock and the gallery seems to have finally started to empty of them. As well as Giorgio and Liz's lovely daughters I'm sure there were at least another fifty or so kids here when I arrived. More than I think I have seen at any other private view I've ever been to. It makes me feel both very old and very young at the same time. And it's indicative of the show, and the artists, here tonight. Most of the private views I go to are young affairs - the in-your-face, we're-up-for-it, just out of college kind of things. Showroom is different, it has a unique place in the London art world, having doggedly shown some truly great artists over the last few hundred years. Artists who are committed to the work. Artists who have been working for a long time. Artists who really deal with the big questions. What you might call, in laypersons terms, 'Really Good Artists'. So it's an older crowd. With more children, but with less mayhem and excitement and feverish looking around. There's less need to be seen and to be looked at. And to revisit Emma's question earlier, I'd say this makes 'the vibe' pretty good...
As I walk back down Bonner Road at the end of the night, two things are left in my head. One, is that for so many works (and also tonight, people) in the space, none of the works seemed cramped. They all had space to just be. It's a beautifully hung show. And secondly, all the works had that weight you get from good art and a little history. Of the stuff tonight there was maybe 70% where I knew the artists work and could arrange some kind of context around the particular piece. Many of them seemed to be much bigger and to have greater depth than they could possibly be carrying on their own. They were pieces from a bigger picture. And The Showroom has always been part of a much bigger picture.
This is a great show.