The Devil's in the Detail

Had gallery etiquette turned over a new leaf? I asked myself. The arrogance that normally exudes from delusional art school students who work in contemporary galleries was absent in the air. The answer: I was in The Wallace Collection. Far from Hoxton Square and not too far from the scene in Mayfair, The Wallace Collection houses one of the world's finest collections of fine and decorative arts from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century that include an array of Old Master paintings and it is here that another of the world's finest - and prolific - subjects was to collide with this institution. Damien Hirst rediscovered the paint brush between 2006 and 2008 to produce 25 new paintings for the exhibition, No Love Lost, Blue Paintings.

The exhibition has caused much media attention not only in regards to the 'bold' new direction of Hirst's work but his personal choice to exhibit in such a classical environment au fait with the traditional European style that neighbours the dark, deathly, Bacon-inspired works. The stewards at the Wallace were wonderful and enjoyed the popularity of the show which is bringing in high visitor numbers. 

Several figures have been quoted in regards to the installation of new silk walls and this was confirmed to be in the region of £60,000 - produced by silk manufacturers, Prelle of Lyon (favoured by Marie Antoinette as well as the Wallace). But the light blue striped silks in the two rooms will go with the works once the show closes and the walls will be recovered with a rich green design that is installed in the parallel wing of the house. In total however, it is believed Hirst paid a quarter of a million pounds to hold the exhibition and timing was everything. The two rooms used were scheduled to be renovated, so with Hirst funding the new floor and gilding on the ceiling, the Wallace allowed for the show to take place with half of the bill already covered to make way for the new Venetian Rooms where the collection's Canalettos et al will soon be hung.

I always enjoy the juxtaposition of setting in a contemporary art context and even though Hirst's lexicon of imagery from fags, to sharks and the exhausted skull remains, the show is a triumph - bringing new meaning to the saying, the Devil's in the detail.

P-OP Art

Pop into Pop Life at Tate Modern and prepare to be immersed in the movement of an art form that is as important today as it was at its birth. Art and commerce work hand in hand to address the power of Art on both economic and political stages - a stronger force than the superficiality that is usually perceived. The usual Pop cavaliers are here: Cattelan, Hirst, Koons, Prince and Warhol but enjoy the rare exhibits of work in the UK from American duo Pruitt Early who glamorized African-American culture in the early 1990s with Red, Black, Green, Red, White and Blue (top left), Meyer Vaisman's In The Vicinity Of History (bottom right) as well as Keith Haring's graffiti that invades the space from floor to ceiling as well as his embrace of merchandising as a medium with a version of his Pop Shop concept in the space. Takashi Murakami's practice mirrors that of Haring and his efforts of expanding Warhol's model of factory production are on display in all of its Japanese-glory. From the various directions his work has taken under his company Kaikai Kiki Co. Ltd with collaborations from Pharell Williams to Kanye West, Comme des Garçons and Louis Vuitton as well as his art fair concept GEISAI, highlights include his new work based around the character Akihabara Majokko Princess (centre). Directed by Hollywood director McG, the music video featuring Marvel Comic-doyenne, Kirsten Dunst singing the song "Turning Japanese" by The Vapors and dancing around the infamous Akihabara district. Pop Life highlights the labels between high and low Art - the furore of Prince's work of celebrity Brooke Shields being an example - but its ability to connect with society on an accessible level is where Pop's power lies and it is this power that will affirm Pop's longevity in life and history.


East Coast Recap: Art Edition

Whenever I hit New York, SoHo is one of my first stops. I don't know what it is - maybe it's something in the air, but it always sets the vibe for the rest of my stay - Deitch Projects is always my first Art stop and this time it did not disappoint. Grand Street hosts works by Kurt Kauper with his portraits of America's number one family, the Obamas. These share the space with neon-grotesque paintings and photographs by Francine Spiegel. But it was HERE AND NOW/AND NOWHERE at Wooster Street that got me in the mood. Artist, Tauba Aurebach's mixed media installation explores themes of conflicting states such as randomness and predictability, the present and the past. I was attracted to the crumpled paintings series - large raw canvases, folded and painted subtlety (Untitled Fold Painting V, below) the result was what looked like a magnified alligator skin from afar. Aurebach invited you to walk back and forth and up close to all the works on display, yet as in some cases, the magic was not lost in either 'states'.

The month of October is important in the retail industry, tis' the season of holidays and we all know what that means: buying. But with times a' crunching new ways of making a buck is the name of the game and the creative Art world is no art-school-dropout. The new residents of 988 Madison Avenue is none other than Gagosian from Gagosian Gallery. Offering limited edition products such as books, prints, bone china Superstition plates by Hirst to Tom Sach's version of the Hermès Kelly Bag, the store is a feast of collectible cool. The basement is installed with Hirst's butterfly wallpaper on the walls, as well as his trademark dot paintings, Cathedral prints and several skull knock-offs. All of which can be purchased at the check out desk...


East Coast Recap: Garden Edition

New York has become my second home - and 104th Street Garden my sanctuary. The project has picked up pace and it was a pleasure to meet the resident gardeners and other green-fingered creatives in the such a short space of time. As you can see the garden looks far from the snow-covered patch in the Manhattan Valley the last time I was there. It was great to see it in bloom just before the Autumn kicked in and we were able to discuss the location for my wallpaper design, which we hope to install in several parts throughout the enclosure.

Over the summer, the much anticipated High Line, opened to the public. The High Line park is a section of the former elevated freight railroad located in the heart of Chelsea - paired with the natural growth on the disused tracks, soft planting shapes the landscape with height coming from mixed-species of birch. The project was inspiring and although initial plans were met with controversy, it is great to see green-schemes being supported by Mayor Bloomberg's administration and brings a whole new meaning to walking the line...

While in Chelsea, follow the line to 22nd St and be immersed in the god-like spaces of PaceWildenstein with works by Maya Lin (below) as well as one of my favourite shows I saw by Anselm Reyle - Monochrome Age - at Gagosian Gallery on 24th St. When in Brooklyn, check out the current large-scale organic installation at DAC and Smack Mellon, where artists compete with not only the beauty of the space but the views onto Brooklyn Bridge (above).

West Coast Recap

I've been in my home away from home, the US of A for the last two months exploring art, culture and design. While on the West Coast I was able to a produce an artwork that was on my mind all summer long - Made in California (below) is a hand-printed bandana on 100% cotton - the work is a first for my practice on the scale of 18" square and I hope to work more on this size and continue to screen print onto cotton and silk on my return to England. 

Made in California, 2009

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L.A. Times: The Getty name is synonymous with Los Angeles. The oil magnate left his collection of art and antiquities to form the J. Paul Getty Museum for the Angelenos to enjoy. Having already visited the breathtaking Getty Center, Brentwood, I made my way to Pacific Palisades west of Malibu, to the Getty Villa. Built on his estate where his private home still resides, this spectacular re-creation of the Villa of the Papryi at Herculaneum, Italy houses Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities - the collection only highlighted by the Mediterranean ornamental and herb gardens that look down to the Pacific Ocean. Although Getty himself died before the completion of the Villa, the J. Paul Getty Trust ensures that Getty's vision is as clear and magnificent as it was intended.

If L.A. gets too much for the soul, head for the oasis that is the Self-Realization Fellowship on Sunset Boulevard. The Lake Shrine provides spiritual prayer and tranquility, through the divinity of the human spirit intended by founder, Paramahansa Yogananda. This was an incredible experience - void of urban noise and digital toxicity - and a surprising find just off the busy West Sunset Boulevard. Namaste and thank you to my Angelenos friends for sharing this special corner of calm with me.

Getty Villa
17985 East Pacific Coast Highway
Pacific Palisades

The Lake Shrine
Self-Realization Fellowship
17190 West Sunset Boulevard
Pacific Palisades