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Friday 22 October 2010

The Manchester Contemporary 2010: Q&A with Director John Dare

For 2010 the second edition of The Manchester Contemporary (28 -31 October) continues to harnesses cutting-edge and critically engaged contemporary art in the North West region. Taking place in a purpose built temporary structure, this year’s fair takes a flexible approach to the presentation of work and offers a platform for internationally exhibiting artists and those that are new and emerging.

Hosting 12 presentations from the following galleries: Arcade, Bureau, Ceri Hand Gallery, David Risley Gallery, Faye Fleming & Partner, Man & Eve, Mermaid & Monster, Nettie Horn, Seventeen, The International 3, Workplace Gallery, WORKS¦PROJECTS and Emin International.

Q&A with John Dare, Director of The Manchester Contemporary

What motivated you and your partners to start an art fair?The team have a personal interest in contemporary art, but we also couldn’t believe that a city as creative, diverse and vibrant as Manchester did not have its own art fair when practically every other city in Britain did. We felt that we should redress the balance.

Now in its 2nd year, how has The Manchester Contemporary developed, especially considering the current economic uncertainty?
The Manchester Contemporary is still developing and is steadily attracting more experiencing collectors from further a field through the quality of the exhibiting galleries and its educational talks programme.

Collectors and buyers tend to flock to well-known cultural centres such as New York, London, Basel and Dubai to purchase works of art; do you find buyers coming from further a field or does the fair attract more of a regional audience?
Buy Art Fair definitely attracts more of a regional audience who are either fairly new or brand new to collecting looking to purchase something for their home whereas The Manchester Contemporary certainly attracts more established collectors, curators and arts professionals from further a field. The fair represents a unique opportunity to see this calibre of galleries under one roof outside of London.

Could you tell me how the 12 galleries presenting at the fair function with regard to curatorial decisions?Laurence and Paulette from Manchester Gallery The International 3 have been appointed as curatorial co-ordinators for the fair and have been in constant contact with the 12 galleries in what has been a very democratic and consultative approach with regards to curatorial decisions.

This year the fair is taking a flexible approach to the presentation of work, with each of the galleries being given an open area with walls. Can you tell me about the thought process behind this deviation from the traditional booth space orientation?
As the fair is still developing there is no hard and fast rule as to what the format should be. Last year we went with closed individual booths so this year it was felt that a more open, curated style of exhibition would be an interesting development – a few other fairs around Europe have also taken this approach.

In such a dynamic city, how did you come to choose the Spinningfields district as a venue?
We attended a contemporary craft fair within Spinningfields last year and felt that the development with its massive footfall, central location, concentration of legal and financial businesses not to mention the wealthy residents would provide the perfect setting for the art fairs.

Can you tell me more about what audiences should expect from the events programme at Manchester Contemporary?Audiences can expect a unique curated exhibition of 12 leading young galleries from around the UK and Europe. Free guided tours of the exhibition courtesy of the Contemporary Art Society plus a two day talks programme featuring experienced collectors and collectives discussing their experiences of collecting and the journeys that they have been on through collecting contemporary art. Other talks will focus on collecting Chinese art in the workplace and the future of public collections.

The Fair opens 28 and continues until 31 October. www.themanchestercontemporary.co.uk

Work by Man & Eve’s Esther Teichmann:
Untitled from Mythologies
Photocopied c-type print, 21 x 30 cm, 2009
Courtesy of the artist and Man & Eve.

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Review: Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2010, A Foundation Liverpool

By Kenn Taylor

Bloomberg New Contemporaries is an open-submission showcase for art students and recent graduates, which takes emerging artists and their works out of the educational realm and places them within the framework of the “real” art world. The exhibition has a long-established pedigree, having been in existence in various forms since 1949, and it provides a rare opportunity for early career artists to get their work shown in a professional gallery context.

In 1996 the exhibition premiered in Liverpool, before touring to London and other venues across the country. Part of this year’s Liverpool Biennial, the show is once again airing at A Foundation, consistently one of Liverpool’s most satisfying contemporary art spaces.

Inevitably, with such a variety of work and artists on display, the exhibition feels like a graduate show, albeit a high quality one. This is however, not necessarily a bad thing, and it’s a refreshing exhibition. A Foundation’s huge Coach Shed Gallery is large enough to give generous space to each of the 49 artists featured.

A highlight is Sam Knowles’ series of works, which utilise the aesthetics of space. In Field (2009) star systems are painted over dozens of pages from books: novels, works of anthropology, philosophy and science. Elsewhere A Sectional View of the Endless Immensity (2009) is a complex map laying out an outline of both the mind and the universe. Reflecting on how we attempt to reduce the enormity of existence to technical diagrams and descriptions, it’s a complex, understated and arresting series of works.

Kiwoun Shin’s Dis_illusion_Coin_Faces (2010) features close-ups of various international coins being ground down. It is a particularly memorable piece, because it is simultaneously straightforward and yet uncompromisingly epic. Dis_illusion_Coin_Faces is continuously fascinating to watch, as symbols of power and wealth are repeatedly and relentlessly reduced to dust.

Another stalwart is the time-based work of Greta Alfaro. In Ictu Oculi (2009) unfolds as a static camera documents a flock of vultures descending upon and devouring a lavish banquet laid out on a table in barren countryside. The film is both engrossing and disturbing to watch, as domestic subtly is subjected to brutal animal reality.

Nick Mobb’s large photographs of sofas stuffed in doorways make the ordinary and industrial seem organic and uncanny. Elsewhere, Joe Clark’s mixed media piece Somewhere in West Virginia (2009) requires time in order to understand exactly how the “Mousetrap-like” set-up produces the image on view. Technical quality aside, the vision is atmospheric, but might have benefited from a darker, more isolated location.

Chris Shaw Hughes’ carbon drawings of aerial scenes, from petrochemical plants to housing estates are technical marvels, creating a shift in perception that makes the mundane monumental. At the opposite end of the drawing scale, Naomi Uchida’s Doodles on National Treasure Project (2010) is a surreal and finely drawn amalgam of fiction, fantasy and folklore, with the look of an ancient scroll created by an oddly contemporary hand.

New Contemporaries is a timely survey of upcoming talent, and it is encouraging to see the work of new artists given a decent platform, demonstrating that there are plenty of raw, talented artists to watch out for in the future.

New Contemporaries continues in Liverpool until 13 November www.afoundation.org.uk and then continues to the ICA in London (26th November 2010 - 16 January 2011)

(c)Greta Alfaro
In Ictu Oculi (2009)
Medium: Single channel video (HDV, 16:9, colour, sound)
Duration: 10'53''

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Gallery Update: TOM WESSELMANN at Haunch of Venison, London

TOM WESSELMANN: Works 1958–2004 opened earlier this month in London at Haunch of Venison, marking the most extensive exhibition of his work to date in the UK

Tom Wesselmann (1931-2004), the American painter, sculptor and print maker, is widely regarded as one of the leading figures of American Pop Art. Bringing together a selection of major paintings and drawings from across his career, the exhibition spans four decades, and examines the evolution of Wesselmann’s style, revealing his openness to a range of subject matter, scale and media.

Tom Wesselmann had planned to become a cartoonist, but while a student at the Cooper Union, the powerful work of Willem de Kooning provided both inspiration and inhibition as he attempted to find a new direction centred on a tangible subject. He rejected abstract expressionism in favour of the classical representations of the nude, still life, and land?scape. He created collages and assemblages incorporating everyday objects and advertising ephemera in an effort to make images as powerful as the abstract expressionism he admired. Among the works in the exhibition are several of Wesselmann’s iconic paintings, from the Great American Nude series which he began in 1961, including Great American Nude #53 (1964) an accentuated and sensual nude study against the background of a typical American interior.

In the 1970s, Wesselmann continued to explore the ideas and media which had preoccupied him during the 1960s. Most significantly, his large Standing Still Life series, composed of free standing shaped canvases, showing small intimate objects on a grand scale. He made Still Life #59 (1972), a canvas of five panels that form a large, complex dimensional, freestanding painting: here too the elements are enlarged, and part of a telephone can be seen. A nail-polish bottle is tipped up on one side, and there is a vase of roses with a crumpled handkerchief next to it, and the framed portrait of a woman, actress Mary Tyler Moore whom Wesselmann considered as the ideal prototype girlfriend.

In 1980 he embarked on the Bedroom Painting series, in which elements of the Great American Nude and Still Lifes were juxtaposed. With these works Wesselmann began to concentrate on a few details of the figure such as hands, feet, and breasts, surrounded by flowers and objects. He continued exploring shaped canvases (first exhibited in the 1960s) and began creating his first works in metal. In Bedroom Face with Lichtenstein (1988/9) he instigated the development of a laser-cutting application, which would allow him to make a faithful translation of his drawings in cut-out metal at a larger scale. For Wesselmann: “It was like a miracle, to be able to hold this unit of spidery lines, as though it were a drawing that had just been picked up by the lines and removed, intact, from the paper”. The exhibition will also feature works from the 1990s and early 2000s which saw Wesselmann creating abstract three-dimensional images that he described as “going back to what I had desperately been aiming for in 1959.” He had indeed come full circle. In his final years he returned to the female form in his ‘Sunset Nudes’ series of oil paintings on canvas, whose bold compositions, abstract imagery, and sanguine moods often recall the odalisques of Henri Matisse.

This fantastic show continues until 4 November. www.hofv.com

Tom Wesselmann
Great American Nude #53(1964)
Oil and collage on canvas
259.1 x 243.8 cm
© Tom Wesselmann
Courtesy Haunch of Venison

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