I am on rather an art binge at the moment. October is always the best month for art in London, in large part because of the Frieze week. Like London Fashion week, the Frieze, a world-famous art fair held in Regent’s Park, has a knock on effect throughout the city, so related and unofficial events pop up everywhere…..simply a matter of time and tolerance for over-stimulation. This year, my wonderful art loving friend Sara scored us some VIP (!!) passes for the Frieze, through her wealthy Texan Uncle, so we were able to flash the blue card about town and absorb as much as we possible could manage. The Frieze itself is, for me anyway, the least interesting part of the whole affair. Galleries from all over the world showcase new art and artists, much of it completely unintelligible. Some of it, may I say, utterly ridiculous. A favourite from years back was a collection of dirty traffic cones with sharpie drawn faces on them….have since fantasized often of putting my children to work and finally affording that mansion on the sea in Spain…..
But this year nothing made me laugh out loud with incredulity. Nothing particularly moved me either…except a Tracey Emin neon sign. All that vulnerable romanticism speaks to me. And a stunning Anish Kapoor Sky Mirror. Better yet, him. Another moment with the fabulous man himself. Of course he remembered us (fancy that, ha ha) and was just as charming as he was in Stratford. More kissing. More photos. How divine. The neon Emin and Kapoor, both the art and the flesh, were the stand out highlights for me. Though neither could be considered new or up and coming.
But never mind because the smaller Frieze Masters is what we had really come to see. A collection of galleries with superb, beautiful, recognizable things. Antiquities, medieval religious art, names we love and covet. A Picasso? A Matisse? Perhaps a Calder sketch? A small Henry Moore, one of Louise Bourgeois’s spiders or a Bridget Riley? An enthusiastic Yes to all. I “discovered” the hauntingly beautiful work of Austrian Alfred Kubin. I was so enthusiastic the gallery gave me a book, which I am still pouring over. Always a pleasure to learn more. Masters shows the art that if money were no object I would buy in bulk. Masters is also where they serve the champagne, on the dot of 6, on opening night. Needless to say, it was THE place to be. Terrific art. Terrific fun.
The real joy of the VIP pass, however, is the extra art….so it was that Sara and I found ourselves 3 mornings in a row willingly experiencing the special kind of hell that is the Northern Line at rush hour. Wednesday, an early morning view of Goya:Portraits at National Gallery. A treat of artistic and historical reward. Friday was a lecture and private view of the V&A’s new, glorious Fabric of India exhibition. But Thursday was extra special, not least because it featured the sexiest of all staircases. Damien Hirst recently opened his Newport Street Gallery, on Newport Street in Vauxhall, near Lambeth Pleasure Gardens. A former Victorian scenery painting factory, Hirst began buying it in sections, using parts as his studio. Now, with the help of architects Caruso St John (who are also doing the Tate extension), he has created a visually stunning gallery in which to showcase his 3,000 piece strong personal art collection. The gallery is so new it still smells of fresh paint. And for this very first show, Hirst chose John Hoyland, an English artist deeply influenced by American Abstraction in the 1960s. Certainly colourful and his paintings from the 1960s are a delight, less so in the subsequent decades. But it didn’t really matter; John Hoyland couldn’t compete with the space itself. Large, airy rooms filled with natural light. The kind of rooms that make you immediately think “I want to have a party here,” and we were all roaming round oohing and aahing and chatting to strangers, including the wonderful Penny from New Zealand on the Grand Tour of European art fairs. We were all full of admiration for the building itself, taking photos from above and below.
Then we found the staircase. Oh, oh, oh the staircase. Suddenly all the women were in the staircase. Smiling and laughing and saying “fantastic” and understanding why the security guard in the stairwell was so unusually cheerful….because it is quite clearly, well, a woman. Nice to see we are still very much in style. Poor John Hoyland. But really, can any artist compete with a spectacularly vulvic staircase? I think not. Just wait til the champagne starts flowing there…..oh London, please, please get me invited to that party!