YES! IT'S BECK'S!!
Oh yes. It's the Beck's private view 2006 at the ICA and I absolutely love it! (And so does Jens Hoffmann by the look of things above, no?) I'm as excited as a big, bright, shiny bean. As a barometer of what's hot or not, Beck's certainly delivers: we are squashed in the lower bar with thousands of people and it is defintely, I can tell you, HOT. And the temperature is still rising. It's like a big, thick river of people, with currents and undercurrents and bends and rapids. You go with flow or you don't go at all. And so that's what we do. Strapped in, head up, little green bottle in hand. We're off.
Bizarrely, one of the first people I talk to is Andrew Graham Dixon who is there filming for an upcoming programme on BBC 4. I'm used to seeing him on The Culture Show and he looks exactly the same tonight. Like at any moment he's going to burst out laughing and comletely lose the plot and that refined, urbane look he maintains. Moving along the concorse I bump into Virginia Damtsa from Riflemaker, standing in front of Jamie Shovlin's work. 'Hi,' she says, 'have you seen this work? He is with our gallery.' I'm kind of already up with this information (is she hoping I'm looking to buy?), but it's always nice to hear her voice. And if you haven't ever heard it, you must. Let's say that Disney or Pixar or whoever is producing a film in which the lead character is (stay with me here) a piece of luxurious velvet - lush, rich, soft and smooth. Virginia could be the voiceover for it. Her voice would be perfect. You can literally relax in her husky voice like a duvet.
Noah Sherwood's there. I met him at Curatorspace the other day and we catch up: he talks about scuplture - big sculpture that costs a lot of money to make - and that's his bag. But he's also wondering if he could produce smaller, very commercial works under a pseudonym, sell them, and put the money into the the big sculptures. I take his photo.
Bedwyr Williams and his size thirteens are hanging around just off the bar area. He is with Mari Reijnders and Ryan Board. They are both working on the construction of the next Big Brother house. Unfortunately they are rubbish for gossip. They've not got the skinny on Davina at all. Just that the place is buzzed with helicopters all the time. Either that or there's some subterfuge going on and they are actually going to be in it themselves - can you imagine that? Forget Celebrity BB and think on Artist BB. That would be something, no? (Anyway, I don't have the time to get that one up and running so you can have that one for free...)
The people from Guestroom are there, Maria Benjamin and Ruth Hoflich. I tell them how much I am enjoying Kingdom - a year long project involving the monthly receipt of an individual piece of work through the post. It's fantastic. Receiving something someone has spent time and effort on is simply so wonderful and special, and the pieces themselves have a beautuful sense of mystery about them. They are there with Olivia Plender and when I ask to take her photo she says, sure, and reclines on the stairs. And she's not even drinking tonight...Then there's Richard Hughes to say hello to. Possibly the nicest, most polite and lovely man I've ever met. He is just a breath of fresh air (which is exactly what I need in this heat). There's a lot of people in here now. It's getting very hot and sweaty. I see Lucy Stein and Jo Robertson and Seb Patane and Daniel Sinsel. I nearly get them all but not quite...then I bump into Tom Humphreys from flaca. I do like this man. I often think they missed a trick by not casting him as Doctor Who - he would've been great. Not least because despite this heat he is wearing a long scarf. He tells me he's been queuing outside for an hour (why didn't he just use the Tardis, I wonder?). It sounds like there's a lot who didn't even make it in. We talk some more about stuff and he tells me about the time he was on the way home and needed to make a toilet trip so climbed a fence, did the business and then climbed back over. Except that on the way back, as he is on top of the fence, his foot gets caught and he careers forward in an arc, his foot remaining at the top of the fence, the rest of him straight down. Luckily, he says, the fence was exactly the same height as he was so he was ok. Just needed some people to help him down. We talk some more and some more and I say that what he is doing with flaca is really good. He's not really that interested in getting a sunday supplement piece about the gallery or about the artists, he's just interested in trying stuff out, in a social, relaxed environment. I take a sip of beer and look around. There are thirteen artists here and a million other people. The Beck's prize is tricky: for many of them this is the greatest pressure that will have been applied to them and their work, the most vicious scrutiny. It's an exciting, but potentially problematic place to be. From now on for them, just trying something out is going to be much more difficult.