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.