'our creation is that guru; the duration of our lives is that guru; our trials, illnesses and calamaties is that guru. There is a guru that is nearby and a guru that is beyond the beyond. I humbly make my offering to the guru, the beautiful remover of ignorance, the enlightenment principle that is within me and surrounds me at all times.'
Guru Stotram

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Galleries around the world are closing their doors. Not necessarily once and for all, but certainly, it would seem, for a bit. The gallerist - by and large - is battening down the hatches. Shutting their outposts to focus on first base in some cases. Finding altogether less traditional and more economical ways to show and flog art in others. Approach, Albion, Allsopp etc etc.

So hats off to Iwan Wirth who has just announced that Hauser & Wirth are to open a swanky and fairly massive new exhibition space in New York this September. The man who appeared at number five on last November’s Art Review Power One Hundred…. is a legend. I can’t personally vouch for the truth of it, but word has it that as well as being a famously shrewd operator, he's also a thoroughly good egg. He's certainly committed to making a buck or two - one ambrosial story tells that dining out recently Wirth sold a Martin Creed whilst in the loo. Hilarious. But there also appears to be a significant and highly plaudible degree of commitment to showing work that seems to me to be seriously un-sellable. Sure, there's nothing wrong with coining it in if it’s done in the right way. It's got to be done in the right way though. Flogging mediocre stuff just because you've managed to find someone wealthy and ill-informed enough to buy it isn't a good enough excuse. I'd go as far as to say it's morally questionable actually. You might as well be selling double glazing. Or mobile phones. Not that flogging double glazing or mobile phones is morally questionable per se. As with everything else, it all depends on how it's done. Or why it's done. It's all about intent, no? Anyway, enough moralising from me. If I were making a fortune flogging anything no doubt I'd be off my high horse quicker than you can say Affordable Art Fair. So I might as well dismount now and save myself the embarrassing fall from grace later on.

The latest H&W 'opening reception', at what was once the Midland Bank on Piccadilly, was a surreal treat. Rather than the usual crew of bourgeois pony's neighing on and chucking back the free plonk like its Christmas, or the ocean of skinny jeans spilling their Peroni everywhere, here was row upon row of people actually engaging with the art work. Perched in silence on gleaming white puffy seated benches like little fluffy clouds, a rainbow of disparate art enthusiasts, sporting black head phones (if that’s what we're still calling them these days are we? probably not. oh well.) watching David Claerbout's latest filmic offerings.

Sometimes you go to a gallery and you think, blimey I couldn't hack this for long. There's something strange in the air. A disquieting vibe or something. Oddly I had that in Sadie Coles' garage the other week. Perhaps there was a storm brewing or something. But at Hauser & Wirth I didn't want to leave. I could have stayed there all evening. In fact, I just about did.

Delicious little chaps in black aprons handing round the beers and a charming lady at the top of the stairs warning you to tread carefully as it's jolly dark in the basement. And so it was too. In an almost black dungeon-esque vaulted room was showing an 18 minute video installation entitled Sunrise, depicting a nocturnal scene of a maid cleaning house and setting up breakfast in a beautiful and intriguing modernist villa in Belgium. I do like the low countries. Being a nocturnal scene even the film was almost black. Goodness knows how she could see to clean or why she didn't put the lights on. So as not to awaken the occupants of the open-plan apartment perhaps, whom we catch a very brief glimpse of, in the form of lumps under the duvets, sleeping head to head on either side of a dividing wall, in separate double beds. Three coffee cups are laid out but we don't see a third occupant. We wonder though. We wonder who lives such an extraordinary life, in such an extraordinary villa, amidst such an exquisite landscape. We never see the house hold coming to life. Rather we follow the maid as she sweeps the yard and then, just before day break, collects her bicycle, pushes it past the landscaped pond, down the drive-way and out onto the deserted country road, along which she cycles home as the sun rises, to the accompaniment of Rachmaninov's Vocalise, that gives the last minutes of the film an unexpectedly emotive and uplifting finish. It was a thoroughly enjoyable twenty minutes in a dark basement. And everything else I saw there was great too. Crumbs, I like this place. I love Hauser & Wirth.

And now I know why I seem always to 'love' things so. I read in The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet it's because I'm Tigger type. What the Jungian (the slightly woolly one anyway) might called an Extrovert. Buddhists might refer to as the Greed type. Tigger marvels at everything. He throws himself at the world with larger than life enthusiastic abandon. He's already at the top of the tree before he's remembered that he's not very good at climbing down. Tigger believes in everything and believes that everything is something he can do. All things are possible to a Tigger - at least until he tries them!

This, it would seem, is me. Purebred Tigger type. But I've decided I don't mind that, because, as William Blake said "If the Sun and Moon were to Doubt / They'd immediately go out." So, throwing caution to the wind I shout: "Three cheers for Iwan Wirth!" Boing.

Beverley Knowles Fine Art has now been superseded by Knowles / Gresle. Knowles / Gresle is an art consultancy and curatorial project. It sits somewhere between a business and a creative experience, blurring the lines of each to the benefit of both.
The Knowles / Gresle website will be up and running shortly at which time beverleyknowles.com will automatically re-direct.
Gorgeous Ellie the Intern from Sweden and Minnesota is away finishing her dissertation. Incarcerated in New Cross. Twenty thousand words on memory and the family album with an opener from Anna Karenina. Nice. Plus a further twenty thousand words on various theory-laden Goldsmithsie topics. We got an email from her yesterday saying she thought she might be having a nervous breakdown. I hope she was joking, poor flower. Thank goodness those days are over. If I had the chance to be twenty-one again I wouldn't take it. Even the beauty and naivety of youth are no temptation. Thirty-something's okay. And seventy something's going to be a right laugh I reckon. The older you get the more outrageous you can be and nobody bats an eyelid. What's infantile at twenty-five seems sage at seventy-five.

But nothing could excuse the private view I went to last night in Kings Cross. It was terrible. I don't like to slag things off too unthinkingly, but really, this was terrible. It was beyond terrible. 'A cosmological ricochet which is conceptualised through repeated images of bananas...' I'm not even kidding. That's what the text says. An artist + gallerist showing her own work in her own gallery. Supporting texts by artists the gallery is showing later in the year. A tad sycophantic they turned out to be, rather unsurprisingly. I'll treat you to one Q&A.

Q: 'And now you have a new enormous gallery space in Kings Cross and you collaborate with all these different artists. It feels like a very exciting new chapter in the story. Do you ever feel so happy you could burst?'
A: 'Yes, all the time… Britain is the most civilized and polite places (sic) I've ever been. I like British people a lot. They are reliable, creative and exciting.'

For the love of God.

Warm white table wine served in a plastic cup for a pound. Bargain. And a bowl of pretzels. Yummy. And in the catalogue a photograph of the artist in 1992 with Lauren Bacall. A joke peut-ĂȘtre? A performance? I tried so hard to sniff out even a hint of irony but failed utterly. There was a great quotation from Albert Einstein on the promotional material. 'The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.' That was by far the best thing about the show. In fact it was the only good thing about it. But one good quote does not an exhibition make, unfortunately. If it did, the curator's job would be rather easier than it is.

By contrast there was a cracker on at Haunch of Venison in the ex-Museum of Mankind, now the Royal Academy. Or is it Haunch of Venison? I'm not sure - it's confusing. Anyway, it's 6 Burlington Gardens. No matter whose patch it is, this exhibition – Mythologies – was a delight. The only bad thing about it, and thereby also about this untimely 'review', is the fact that it's now over. I'm quite of a mind though that such details don't make the mention of it redundant. People are still talking about the seminal Freeze show they never saw and maybe Mythologieswill turn out to be another such myth – the show one never saw but never admits to not having seen! So in case you're in that slightly tragi-comic boat, here you are: a belated / pre-emptive heads up.

The fact that it was staged in an ex-museum and on/off Royal Academy venue presented a significant double-edged sword. It meant that an exhibition devised by a gallery that's ostensibly a commercial concern was competing, in terms of viewer perception, against publicly funded exhibitions that have no selling agenda at all. Haunch of Venison set the bar very high for themselves. The stunning location meant the work and the curation had to rise to the occasion in quite spectacular fashion. On this kind of platform they couldn't afford to put on anything even approaching a so-so show. Any hint of mediocrity would have translated immediately into a tremendous flop and staggering embarrassment.

On the other hand, the setting would lend vast kudos and seriousness, as long as the show had broad enough shoulders to carry it. Which it did. It was intelligently curated, visually beautiful, conceptually meaty, and incredibly wide in the range of work it delivered. Tony Cragg, Bill Viola, the magnificent Sophie Calle, Simon Patterson, good old Damo of course, still on the sparkly skull thing – now wall-based – but never mind! Some fascinatingly disturbing taxidermied Dobermans – 'archetypes of urban violence and disorder' so we're told – courtesy of German artist Jochem Hendricks, and relative newcomer Nicholas Hlobo in the wake of his solo show at Tate Modern's Level Two earlier in the year. And much, much, more to thrill and delight.

Art Rabbit described it as 'one of the most ambitious group exhibitions ever mounted in London by a private gallery.' It certainly catapulted Haunch of Venison up to a new level. I'd go as far as to say it rose head and shoulders above most exhibitions currently showing in public galleries in London, many of which you have to pay to see. For my money, it knocked the socks off theRussian Linesman, the Hayward show curated by Mark Wallinger, that plays an unsuccessful round of Russian Roulette with the always tempting but highly risky game of curatorial ego trip.

The only sad thing is I can't now recommend you go and see it. Have I let you down dear friend and reader? I feel the need to stick up for myself, to remind you that I'm not often bringing you a cup of tea that's already cooled. Forgive me, you know how insecure we arty types are! In my defence I mention that the 2009 Turner Prize nominees include Roger Hiorns' Art Angel commission Seizure, an installation bigged up in the diary by yours truly some six months ago. I risk life and limb in the Elephant & Castle to bring you the latest news. The Elephant & Castle, New Cross, even Fulham – surely a destination more than any where a balaclava is more or less mandatory in order to respectably disembark the tube.

Apparently one of the jury members, Guardian critic Jonathan Jones, is big into Enrico David, but that aside, my money's on Hiorns for Turner victory 2009. Twenty five grand for Hiorns and a first for little Ellie.

I read recently that when writing one is best advised to know what the chase is and cut to it. With that in mind, I'm delighted to share with you the exciting news that I've taken on a business and creative partner - Yvette Gresle. Together we will be known as Knowles / Gresle. Knowles / Gresle will be a multi-disciplinary encounter that will be a platform for showcasing challenging creative projects and making a living at the same time. Et voila!

Knowles / Gresle will have three equally focal hubs. Firstly, as a financially viable art dealership and consultancy service, whose clients will be procuring the finest contemporary art for their collections, under our expert guidance. Secondly, as a curatorial base, without financial aspiration, for our own personal interest in challenging ephemeral, installation and performance art. And thirdly, these two strands will be brought together and developed theoretically through our own ongoing writing projects. The whole encounter will sit somewhere between a business and a creative experience, blurring the lines of each to the benefit of both.

I'm very proud of the fantastic things that have come out of Beverley Knowles Fine Art and I'm really grateful to all the wonderful people who've been involved along the way. I wouldn't change a minute of any of that. But nothing is forever and now is the time for the next big thing. In order to get Knowles / Gresle up and running we're going to need to re-claim the time and energy that is currently being given to the space that is Beverley Knowles Fine Art at 88 Bevington Road. We will therefore be saying a sad, but also a joyful goodbye to the bubblegum pink gallery that has been my beloved professional home since October 2005. We've had some times here for sure - the sublime to the unmentionable, the tears and the tantrums. And of course there'll be plenty more of all that under the exciting new auspices of Knowles / Gresle.

Beverley Knowles Fine Art will morphose seamlessly into Knowles / Gresle on 21 May 2009. I'll let you know the new contact and website details nearer the time. I look forward to introducing you to Yvette.

With lots of warm wishes for now and the future...

B x

About Yvette Gresle
Of French descent and hailing jointly from South Africa and Seychelles Yvette Gresle has recently embraced London as her spiritual and artistic home. In 2000 she graduated from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg with an MA in Art History, pre-empting her enthusiasm for all things English with a thesis on Aubrey Beardsley and Oscar Wilde. More recently she spent four years as a full time researcher, exploring public intellectual life and contemporary art in post apartheid South Africa. For the past twelve years she has worked as an independent arts writer, contributing regularly to contemporary arts magazine Art South Africa (www.artsouthafrica.com).