Thursday, 13 January 2011
Having to queue up to get into a commercial gallery for a Tuesday night private view is a slightly tiresome thing. Not being allowed to take your glass of plonk into said exhibition due to overcrowding doubly so. If it hadn't been Sprüth Magers I'd have stropped off home. As it was I satisfied myself with a small claustrophobia attack in the back room before hurling myself through the crowds and back into the fresh air. Where do all these people come from? I thought the art world was supposed to be small. Private views are turning into the upmarket equivalent of a football match. There's a serious risk of those at the front being crushed to death as those at the back just keep on piling in.
But with an indescribably awesome aircraft hanger-esque space in Oranienburger Straße Berlin and at the other end of the spectrum this quirky little ex-Medici gallery in Grafton Street Sprüth Magers are a stylish set up. I also seem to intuit a sense of integrity in Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers that died off long ago in most gallerists who've achieved anywhere near their level of success.
The difficulty with success of course is that it’s a honeytrap. Once it's got you in its sickly sweet and sticky paws you can't bear to lose it. Selling your soul, grandmother, artists up the river seems to be simply the hors d'oeuvres in the art world these days. Luckily all of that's never been too much of a problem for me! And whilst it could be a problem for Sprüth Magers they don't seem to let it be.
I'm also a sucker for the slightly feminist ideals lying low somewhere behind Sprüth Magers. I don't want to presume but I believe Monika Sprüth particularly is of such a bent. In the 1980s she set up radical magazine Eau de Cologne giving a voice to conceptual and feminist artists such as Rosemary Trockel, Barbara Kruger and creator of the solo show currently gracing Grafton Street, Cindy Sherman.
The work, considering it was Cindy Sherman, didn't grab me all that much at the time. Initially her work depends upon some sort of recognition of the stereotypes she's evoking I think and I didn't get a particularly strong feel for whatever they might be whilst I was in the gallery. But over a couple of days it's grown on me through my memories of it. There was a potent sense of tragedy that was difficult to be with but retrospectively seems important.
I also enjoyed the fact that the work seemed to be far too large for the space, so each of the self-portrait figures loomed huge over the tiny packed rooms like domestic dominatrices, deities to the religion of middle class perversion and denial. One character sported a revolting yellow pudding bowl and almost frighteningly gormless expression whilst mysteriously cradling a handful of leeks. My favourite wore an expression of melancholy along with a skin coloured track suit type thing with stick on boobs and bush whilst she gripped onto a very phallically placed sword. Come to think of it maybe the leeks were a bit phallic too.
All the figures stood before rather than within monochromatic romantic style landscapes that self mirrored like a Rorschach test. The whole schema decorated the gallery as a mural rather than discrete images, increasing the sense of overwhelment and oppression and also making it tricky to find a spot of wall upon which to lean whilst one got one's ear bent by yet another aggressively self publicising curator / artist / vapid hanger-on. But never mind, it wouldn't be a private view without all that. It's not about the art you know!