Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Alex Daw - Private members for public art

Last night, after 8 emails between myself, the gallery and the private members club Eight, I finally got the chance to see Alex Daw's show Proper Gander.

I was curious to see how hosting a somewhat street art leaning artist in a private member's club would work, and to varying degrees it may have. 

Of course, going to a member's club carries an air of exclusivity and importance, and Eight was no different.  Hidden down an alley in the heart of the banker's city, it was a subterranian club which enhanced it's feel of importance.

After signing in at the reception, I had to wait for one manager, then another to lead me to the exhibition (which was a further flight down...about 5 floors below ground level).  He showed me the pieces then left me to enjoy the art by myself.

It was quite unusal to find myself alone, in the bottom floor of a member's club, looking at art that seemed to be fighting with its surroundings.  The bright colours Daw uses contrasted heavily against the mahagony wooden panneling that coated the various rooms.

Long hall where the majority of pieces were located
According to HangUp Pictures, who is managing the show:

Entitled 'Proper-Gander' the exhibition explores ways of seeing, looking at and receiving 'culture', visually, audibly or otherwise. Playing with satire, art history and contemporary culture, the exhibition aims to question existing ideas and art forms, as well as commenting on the current trend of daily mega brand, brainwashing propaganda via television, films, advertisements and the internet. 

Sick of the generic and often banal gallery experience, Daw is attempting to shift into more site specific venues transforming the luxurious confines of the Eight Club into a subterranean nerve centre housed deep within the city walls. This clandestine den will be home to a plethora of Daw’s artwork from traditional 2-d works on paper and oil paintings, to carved magazines, moving image and performance installation. 

Daw himself describes his work as:
“I am attempting a minor revolt, an artistic revolution of sorts. At once creating an unsettling rendition of my own personal fears and dreams as well as attempting to understand art and the role of an artist in contemporary society.”

I found the work to be very engaging.  I'm a sucker for mixed media and really enjoy texture in art and Daw uses both techniques to create his images.  While I think the light installations left a bit to be desired, the rest of the show was impressive.  

The real question is, how many people will see it?  If you want to see the show email ben@hanguppictures.com to get your name on the guestlist.

Method Man - Oil, acrylic, paint marker and aerosol on canvas

This was my favorite piece - Tract - Mixed media collage with aerosol spray on glass panel.

Close up of Tract.  Really interesting use of images.

Iterim - Mixed media collage on lightbox

Wonderland - Intricate hand carved magazine in beautiful presentation frame.  This piece was fantastic.  Totally carved from a magazine.

Wonderland close up

Animism - Mixed media collage with aerosol spray on glass panel.

View of the upstairs room in the member's club.  Quite stuffy, but had a nice enough dinner

Forgot the name of this piece, but this was the print, edition of 19.  3 colour hand pulled screen print.  Really nice for £70.

Reminder - Mixed media collage with aerosol spray on glass panel. Another of my favorites.

Reminder close up.

Depot - Spray paint, acrylic and collage on Daler Rowney heavyweight acid free paper.

Movie room at the club

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Dran (or rather, we're all completely mad)

An apparently innocuous day in wintery London turned into another good story as I once again underestimated the lure/hype/value of street art.

Dran, the Toulouse based artist whose work dominated the Mark and Stencils show (though the papers and fans called in the 'Banksy' show as he had 4 pieces there) was releasing a print today and was going to be in store to sign one of the few books he released at this year's show.

There was a run of 50 of the color version of the print (done on newspaper and plastered on cardboard) and an alternative run of 100 of the black and white version (hand pulled screen print unsigned) being released at 11am this morning.

Not realizing the appeal of anything Pictures on Walls, I woke up, ran some errands, took in some of the snow and leisurely made my way over to POW, arriving around 11:30.  For the next 90 minutes I shared stories with the same fools like me who were standing in a blizzard (for England anyway) waiting to meet the artist who had captured imaginations with a well thought out gallery show and two stunning print releases that sold extremely well despite a very high price point (500 quid).

Idiots.  All of us.

Queue at Marks and Stencils during a blizzard

All i do these days is stand in line in Soho
So again, some great people in line and the snow storm was a footnote as we all got along and talked art and our idiocy for standing in the snow.  Most had been there since 9ish to get the coloured version which was only sold online in London.  This was going for 200 pounds at the store.

Once I eventually got in the shot I was given the option to buy the cheaper b&w unsigned print and a book.  I was told Dran would under no circumstance sign the print so I bought a book as well and got in the next queue for the signing.

Plenty to stuff to look at while in line as POW has changed all the artwork in the show to take advantage of Dran's relatively new found popularity.  It's amazing what hype can do and being sponsored by the gallery that prints Banksy's prints certainly helps a budding artist.

What was fascinating about being in the store waiting to get a book signed was that his friends/team brough down a homemade screen press and started printing hand pulled one colour bookmarks.  It was fascinating to watch the process and an awesome insight to how it's done.  The bookmarks were 10 quid but all that money was going to charity.

The homemade screen print

A few of the images which were NOT for sale...down on various mediums

The screen print which was printing the bookmarks

Dran signing books

Great guy Dran.  From Toulouse, young fella who seemed as surprised and happy with the success of his show as anyone.  This was his incsription in my book.

This is the bookmark they were printing.  Awesome image showing a book shining light on a child's face

The black and white print.  Edition of 100.
After perversly enjoying my time in the queue I decided to take advantage of being in Soho and checked out both Lazarides galleries.  The one on Greek St has a Modern Toss show on (which are always entertaining) but the star was the show on Rathbone place.

It was a group show featuring Jonathan Yeo, JR, Vhils, David Choe and a few other artists.  I thought Yeo stole the show.  According to his biography:

Jonathan Yeo (b 1970) is a British artist specialising in portraiture and collage. He is represented by Eleven in London and Lazarides worldwide. He didn’t go to art school but took up painting while recovering from Hodgkins Disease in his early 20s. He became known as a contemporary portraitist in the late 1990s, exhibiting frequently at the the National Portrait Gallery . His best known work includes a world weary Tony Blair painted at the very end of his premiership, an iconic painting of Erin O’Connor which was used widely to advertise the NPG and now familiar images of Prince Philip, Dennis Hopper and Grayson Perry.

After a presidential commission was cancelled, Yeo instead made a collage of George W Bush which was unveiled at Lazarides Gallery, London, in 2007. Made entirely from pornographic magazines, it marked a new direction in his work, and subsequent subjects to receive the collage treatment include Hugh Heffner, Mary Whitehouse , Wyndham Lewis, Lucian Freud and Paris Hilton . The exhibition "Blue Period" in 2008 included nudes as well as portraits made the same way, and there have been subsequent shows in London, New York, Bethlehem and Walsall.

Tiger Woods by Yeo

Woods closeup

Woman by Yeo.  My favorite piece at the gallery.

Vhils.  Interesting seeing his gallery work as, like Invader, he's very much associated with large scale outdoor installations



All in all, another fascinating day of London art.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Banksy - Choose your Weapon post script

here's where all the money went...pretty cool

Click here to read the bbc article

Banksy - Choose Your Weapon

Where to start?  Perhaps a bit of back story on Banksy for those who aren't aware of who he is, and what he means to the scene.

Banksy is the pseudonym of a British graffiti artist, political activist and painter, whose identity is unconfirmed. His satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine irreverent dark humour with graffiti done in a distinctive stencilling technique. Such artistic works of political and social commentary have been featured on streets, walls, and bridges of cities throughout the world.

His work is sought after by collectors and celebrities and his documentary 'Exit Through the Gift Shop' was just shortlisted for an Oscar.
His work routinely sells for 6 figures.

So once a year Banksy releases a print.  Deemed reasonable by collectors (priced at £450) they are hugely sought after by the quite large contigent of fans who can't afford an original or canvas piece.  However, once they've sold out, on the secondary market they normally go for 4 to 10 times that price.  Getting a Banksy at face value is not easy.

The rumours started a month ago about the release, and the forums were speculating like crazy.  Let's fast forward to 8pm on Friday night.  I get an email (THANK YOU MATT!) from a friend on the boards in the US 'dude, you in line yet?'.  I had no idea what he was talking about and wrote back as much.  He then sent me a picture of 100 people in line at POW's SoHo pop-up store.  I downed my whiskey in a gulp, and ran to the tube to make my way to Soho.

I got to SoHo around 9pm and would reckon I was about 180 in line.  With no (official) information released about the print yet, it was unclear whether this would be good enough.  Regardless, it was a relatviely warm night, I went and bought some beer and settled in getting to know my neighbors in the queue.  

And then...sheer chaos.  At 10:30pm POW sends an email out to their subscribers.  'blah blah blah...8 different colours, 25 of each colour, on sale Saturday from our store in EAST LONDON!'  

You've never seen so many people move that fast.  People running through the streets of central london trying to buy cabs from others who were waiting.  People who hadn't run in years looking like Usain Bolt as they headed for the tubes.  I started a mad dash with two guys who were in back of me in line.  They had a car and I did a few calculations and thought I'd get their quickest with them.  

We jumped in the car and I reckon it took about 25 minutes to get to Shoreditch.  We parked about three blocks before POWs showroom and ran like crazy.  In a dead sprint we ran to the queue and when the dust settled, ended up being about 150th in line.  Result!

We made friends with the people around us and settled in for a long cold night.  

View of the queue from commercial road...not a lot of order and distinct lack of security/personel from POW

This is around where I was, around the corner from Commercial Road

Marc, and are friend in a tux who had come directly from a work Christmas party when he got the news

Those are some long cold hours on the street when you don't know if you're getting a Banksy.

Bundled up.

So, having come straight from work I wasn't prepared for the cold at all.  No sleeping bag, no long underwear, I hadn't even worn my scarf that day.  However, nervous that in the 10 minutes it would take for me to run home they'd pass out tickets and I'd miss out, I stayed the course.

Around every 15 minutes or so a couple guys in the queue would come around on counts (mostly folks from the back of the queue that were trying to gage whether they'd be inside the coveted 200 number) and we were consistently within 150.  With the line locked down, we lay down feeling fairly confident.  

The night from 2-6am was fairly uneventful save for the odd fight (two that i counted) or figuring out who was gonna walk across the street to get tea (which started the night at about 50p a cup and ended the night at a pound a cup...see, Banksy is good for the economy).

However, at about 6:30...our second bout of absolute bedlam.  

At this time a security guard/POW person showed up with tickets.  And the queue absolutely imploded.  People from the back running to the front, people at the front trying to fight them off.  And perhaps worst of all, CARLOADS of people pulling up and walking right up to the ticket dude and getting their tickets.  Musta be friends, or must have paid him to give them tickets.  It was terrible.

Once all the touts and queue jumpers were sorted out the fat bald security guy started making his way through the line.  I was nervous as hell, cracked out from being up all night, and just hoping me and the people I was with would be sorted out.  As he came closer to us (I was about 10 people away at this point) he got to number 170 and said 'that's it, that's the last number'.  


I can't believe I waited that bloody long for NOTHING.  I think I probably stood there for 5 minutes in shock before starting the long walk home...trying to think if there was any way to tell this story in a positive light and not make me look like an idiot for waiting all night just to catch pneumonia.

As I turned off commercial road I saw the three people that were sat behind me all night.  Really cool kids, I was disappointed for them as well.  However, when they saw me, they screamed at me to get into their taxi.  

'Guys, I'm over it, I'm just going to go back and go to sleep'
- 'C'mon Evan, only a couple more hours, get in the taxi'

So these guys had gone up to bald ugly fat security guard and he had told them that there were only 170 tickets being passed out 'HERE'.  Said with a leering tone it led my friends to beleive the last were being sold back at the Soho store.

So as we dashed across town at 7am we were clinging to hope.  And frankly, at that point I had nothing better to do then sleep so figured I may as well go with it.  In what was becoming a typical refrain the cab dropped us a few blocks from the store and we ran ran ran and got there.  We were about 15th in this new queue.

As the line grew (to about 60) hope was raised yet there was certainly no information.  One of the guys in the queue took the initiative and we numbered everyone's hand from 1-60 to make sure there were no queue jumpers.  At 9am, the first employee showed up and we went up to him.

'We're here, we will gladly go home, please just tell us if we can buy a print here'
- 'we have 60 prints for you here'

Absolute bedlam.  He passes out tickets and for the next few hours we all sat around telling stories, talking art, and really enjoying each others company.  It couldn't have been a more different vibe from the queue on commercial road.  While i'm sure some of the prints bought from this queue will be sold, I'd be surprised  if many were...these were fans.

When my number was eventually called (17) to go in and buy my print, I pumped my fist and walked to the store.  Looking back at the people that had literally survived the night and this ordeal I couldn't help thinking what a heady mix of luck, intuition, and perserverance had led us to get a print.

Now the prints are selling for 10x their value on ebay.  The money is attractive.  Some people will take it and buy a car, some people will take it to the casino, some people will reinvest it in art.  But mine will be hanging on my wall for a long time as the story behind this print makes it priceless.

Signed and numbered by the man himself.  Not bad having an edition of 25!

Banksy - Choose your weapon

Keith Harrings dog..

Friday, 26 November 2010

Marks and Stencils - Banksy and Dran

The day after a fantastic Thanksgiving feast I was able to take the day off and head over to POW's new show: Marks and Stencils.

Oestensibly a show featuring Dran, the show has had packed crowds since it opened this morning to get a glimpes of the new Banksy pieces (all already sold) and the new print.

The 3D rat was the best of the new Banksy pieces but I really thought Dran was superb. The exhibition is on two floors in the building and downstairs is completely Dran's work.

It feels as if you're in his workshop, with work and props scattered around. Many pieces were done on found cardboard which worked very well.

Anyway, will write more later but just wanted to get some pics up so people could enjoy.

Self-portrait - Dran.  Done on artist cloth and paint, frame included.

Self-Portrait Dran