A Saturday stroll has never been quite like this! Following art historian, author and TV presenter Richard Stemp through the streets of Mayfair and Soho, members were invited to to explore the two sides of the upcoming Art Fairs, Frieze London and Frieze Masters, as part of a tour by ROSL ARTS and Art History UK. All the visits were planned to look at both the contemporary side of the art world as well as the historic that has come before and set the scene.
Beginning with a cuppa amongst the exhibition NO PLACE at Over-Seas House, the group got to know the work that goes on at ROSL and see the fantastic artwork which was created as a reaction to the member’s club in which it resides. Richard then took the group just a short walk around the corner to the Simon Lee Gallery where they were introduced to the work of Jeff Elrod. The New York and Marfa-based artist experiments in digital and print technology on a large scale and his work prompted a conversation about modes of production and the different levels within a ‘flat’ work of art.
Following this, the group strolled to Soho and Sadie Coles HQ where the exhibition Zhongguo 2185, curated by Victor Wang 王宗孚 had only just opened days before. Richard had chosen this location as it had rebelled from the Frieze norms and staged a group show of ten young artists from China, whose works address the shifting cultural contexts of the country – past, present, and future. This is unusual, as many galleries use this important time in the London art world to present their ‘blue chip’ artists but Sadie Coles has gone against the grain with artists they do not represent and half of whom have not exhibited in the UK before. This visit invited discussions about censorship, the art market and the international reach of art, with the gallery staff Emma and Matt, who welcomed the group into the vast gallery space. Exiting to the next gallery there was time to do some shopping in the interactive work XUZHEN Supermarket (2007/2017) by Xu Zhen, which was an interesting talking piece looking at the value of art in relation to commerce.
From Soho a short walk to Golden Square and Frith Street Gallery. The immensely helpful guide made recommendations about places to see on the way, reassuring us that the imposing façades boasted by many of these organisations are misleading and that visitors are very welcome. Frith Street Gallery has one such façade and entering through the double height door is quite daunting, but the group were welcomed by the Director, Cornelia Behr who introduced the work of Thomas Schütte. The German contemporary artist works in a range of media but in this space were ceramics and glass works on an impressive scale. The conversation examined interpretation of art, as Schütte presents his work with little justification as to what it represents, offering the audience blank spaces to fill in.
Moving from the contemporary art in these white cube spaces, the group visited the National Gallery to examine what has come before with three works looking at the art market in relation to historic works of art and top tips on what to add to a good collection. Filled with milling tourists and historic works on the rich wall coverings, the space was quite the contrast from what we had already seen, but Richard juxtaposed the contemporary with the historical, rounding off an insightful and enjoyable afternoon of art.