'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

Thursday, 22 April 2010

A friend of mine has just got a job working for White Cube.

"How's it going?" I enquired after day one.

"Great, although there's absolutely nothing to do. So far I've watched Deal or No Deal on Jay's TV and sat in Jay's Mercedes on Duke Street fending off traffic wardens." Ah, the contemporary art world. Who says it's not serious?

But actually, Gallery Girl is a very important figure on the contemporary art scene. First impressions and all of that. The thing is though, I'm not sure the desirable first impression is necessarily the obvious one.

Before I'd run my own gallery I went along with the commonly held but hopelessly naïve view that contemporary art galleries should be more welcoming than they are to visitors walking in off the street. Well, sorry to be a bit uncharitable, but actually, as a gallerist, that's the last thing you want to be doing. Fine if you're Jay and you can afford to pay someone like the glorious golden haired Pinkie to sit there, looking gorgeous, and smiling winningly at everyone who comes through the door, then yes, great, of course. But if like most gallery owners you're only just keeping your head above water even without the cost of a winsome gallerina, and it's you yourself having to deal with what is, for the most part, a fairly charmless general public, then I can assure you, the desire to be welcoming swiftly falls off a cliff.

Artists are alright. I don't mind them. Because they've got half a brain. They're reasonably au fait with what they're looking at. And collectors. One collector in ten might have a slight Scooby Doo. The rest not. Cashola does not a collector make. No idea I'm afraid. Which is fine, having no idea is fine, if you instead have an open mind. This is the key to engagement with contemporary art, far more important than an art history degree, or even any art historical knowledge whatsoever – is an open mind. But about one in a hundred are in possession of such a thing, probably one in five hundred, one in a thousand, less... For almost everyone else, going to a contemporary art gallery is a high brow version of watching Big Brother. You do it so you can sneer at others and feel that however crap your own life may be, at least you're not stupid enough to either a) appear on a crappy reality TV programme and make a complete and utter tit of yourself, or b) lay a load of bricks on the floor (ah, the bricks conversation again, good-oh!) and imagine you've created a work of art. Because only a retard would be that stupid, right?

So maybe that goes some way to explaining why the usual routine at Waddington's, according to Martin Herbert in this month's Art Review, is to be greeted by "a gallerina pointing a shotgun at visitors and bellowing 'Get out!'" Martin doesn't say whether or not this seems to him to be an appropriate reception. Probably not, unless he's run a gallery himself, in which case he'd get it completely. At one private view during the Golborne Road years, I'm occasionally reminded with some glee, the words "get out of my fucking gallery" were heard. I'm not sure from whom. Some retard.

Anyway, I'll stop being chippy now. Sorry. One of those days I'm afraid.

Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin have an interesting approach to the Gallery Girl conundrum. They've got an exquisite weimaraner who trots powerfully from one room to the next, checking that everything's running smoothly and generally being gorgeous. This may be the answer – beautiful, enchanting, capable, but never, ever engages with questions, art historical or otherwise, and yet offends no-one by her aloofness. Everyone's happy just to look and learn. Genius. Trust a Frenchman, eh?

Aside from the weimaraner, other cool stuff around the Marais includes Mona Hatoum at Galerie Chantal Crousel. The Gallery Girl there was a winningly offbeat American lady with short legs and noisy cowboy boots. Offbeat's always a good sign.

At Galerie chez Valentin we looked at some bathroom tubing or whatever you call that stuff that joins the loo to the wall. Hand moulded loo tubing placed on a plinth as per a sort of 3D still-life, a fake ready-made as it were. An interesting idea. The text wasn't very well written though which upset the vicar. Gallery Girl seemed to think we didn't quite get it. I thought it may have been she who didn't quite get it.

One of my favourite shows in the two-day exhibition-a-thon of Paris was Jason Dodge at Yvon Lambert. An affecting piece called The Doctors Are Sleeping, which consisted of an arrangement of nine blue pillows on the floor. They had the look of a hospital, or perhaps it's a smell, an atmosphere, that whiff of being diseased in a frighteningly immobilising way that always carries with it a feeling of contagion, even when there is none. It carries with it the truth of our own impermanence I suppose. We are all going to die. I like that that sounds almost banal. In a way of course it is. In a way it's the ultimate banality.

Later on, whilst we sat in the sunshine on the pavement having a café au lait and a bit of tarte tatin, I read out the blurb:

"New works in the exhibition include:
The doctors are sleeping
Dr med. Jurgen W Bauer
Dr med. Axel Jung and Dr med Annette Jung are sleeping
Dr med. Friederich Schmidt-Bleek is sleeping
Pillows that have only been slept on by doctors

Pillows that have only been slept on by doctors lay in the position in which they were slept on. The pillows were made by a seamstress to know exactly the moment, feathers and fabric became pillows."

"Jesus," said the vicar, and then, "I wouldn't mind seeing a Titian."


leelee said...

I have been out of the art field for years. To tell the truth it was the name of your blog that sparked my curiosity. That interest was from my bygone years. You see, like your friend, I had a job being a gallerista for the defunct Boyce gallery years ago. It seems that the art world is suffering from the recession as much as any business field. To me art is an emotion, but it’s also a business and needs to be run as such. I can imagine your frustration with your very lucky friend. She lucked into a financial goldmine. You aren’t being snippy; you were just stating facts. The fact is things are bad for both artists and galleries. Some artists and dealers choose to use the internet to buy and sell art . The world is engaged in emotional belt tightening. The buying public has tightened their belt so tightly the art community has suffered from the strangling effect. It seems that more art is being bought and sold online. Art is ever evolving. It seems that the way artists are doing business has evolved also

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