In: Tate Modern

On March 3, 2017, Turner Prize-winning photographer (and since 2013, Royal Academician) Wolfgang Tillmans live-premiered his sound, light and musical composition, “Fragile: Wolfgang Tillmans, Tim Knapp, and Jay Pluck,” in the South Tank gallery at London’s Tate Modern. Though this performance was billed online by the Tate as an “open-form music installation” that is “part rehearsal, part performance,” this reviewer experienced the event as more of a hybrid, twenty-first-century happening/sound installation composed of: light, sound, slide projection, video, spectator participation, spoken word, poetry, and original music –all of which were interlaced with political and social commentary relating to current global issues. “Fragile” —a reference to Tillmans’ alter ego— was as an immersive, full-body, and multi-sensory aesthetic and political experience that complemented, and extended, Tillmans’ parallel exhibition of photographs, video, musical, and other works, now also on view (until June 11, 2017) in the Boiler House at the Tate Modern.

Photo: Anke Schulz.

“Fragile” comprises a diverse variety of audio-visual media, including originally-composed, pre-recorded dance club music (perhaps a nod to the Berghain club in Berlin), audio field recordings (e.g., the voice of a Sainsbury’s self-checkout counter, and sounds of a Berlin subway train), a lightshow, dance videos, and photography projected onto the walls of the large, cylindrical space of the South Tank. Just prior to the artists’ appearance on stage, a rainbow-coloured light sculpture appeared in the near-dark space, the individual lights of which began to rotate and bathe the audience, and interior walls of the usually grey, concrete walls of the South Tank, in jewel-tones of light. The rainbow light sculpture seemed to symbolise both the identity of the artist, and that of the LGBTQ community, and Tillmans effectively used it to define the exhibition space as a queer, safe place for collective reflection, political consciousness-raising, and action.

Photo: Anke Schulz.

The full performance of “Fragile” (lasting 100 minutes) featured alternately-played, live and pre-recorded multi-media segments, ranging in length from approximately thirty seconds to ten minutes. Many of the live pieces were performed by Tillmans himself, who —in a departure from his still photography in which he rarely depicts his own image— began to tentatively, and intermittently, occupy center stage. Tillmans’ pieces mixed poetry and song to express his concerns about human rights and other global political, social, and environmental crises.

During the performance, Tillmans was accompanied by deep bass, techno, and house-inspired music played by his bandmates, Tim Knapp and Jay Pluck, as he sang texts, such as:

“Come out, speak out, for your life and for your rights!”

“Because it happened before, it can’t happen again.”

“Twenty-five years ago, I could never have thought that this could have happened.”

“His son had recently been angered by seeing two men kissing.”

Photo: Anke Schulz.

For this reviewer, “Fragile” seemed to articulate several themes of crucial importance to the artist. One of these was the concept of community, which Tillmans created through his all-welcome, free-of-charge admissions policy, and his use of the round, inclusive gallery space of the Tate Modern’s South Tank. A second important theme was LGBTQ and human rights, which Tillmans rightly interprets as subject to massive attack in our contemporary society. Lastly, the performance appeared to have an aesthetic purpose as well, namely to “blur the border between still and motion pictures” —a feat Tillmans successfully accomplished in both his live performance of “Fragile,” and his parallel exhibition at Tate Modern.

Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 is on view at Tate Modern until 11 June 2017.

There are two important events happening in the art world in London both connected to Alexander Calder. The Tate Modern showcases “Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture” until April 3rd and equally as important is PACE LONDON’s “Calder Prize 2005-2015” show that  acquaints visitors with the level of inspiration that this grand artist is still offering young artists from all over the world.

At Pace, Alexander Calder’s works such as “Still Life”1944, “Snag” 1944, “Fawn” 1944, “Untitled” 1953, “Trois pics (intermediate maquette)” 1967, “The Tree” 1960 are exhibited in conversation with 6 artists, laureates of the Calder Prize between 2005 and 2015.

A Maverick of modernist art, Calder completely revolutionized the landscape of art by insisting on introducing performance and kinetic qualities to sculpture, embracing industrial media including wire and sheet metal. Calder managed to change the most static materials into romantic pieces.

His work included not only sculpture but also paintings, drawings, and more than a dozen theatrical productions. Calder described his involvement in the stage sets as “dancers performing a choreography due to their rhythmic movement.”

This ultimate vanguard of modern art is still continuing to touch the art world by inspiring so many young artists.  Nowadays, Calder Prize and Calder Foundation, a non-profit organization, aim to collect, exhibit, preserve and interpret the art and archives of Alexander Calder. The foundation examines works attributed to Calder and catalogues the artist’s works.Together with the Scone Foundation in New York, the Calder Foundation sponsors the biennial Calder Prize, a $50,000 award to a living artist and it also facilitates the donation of the artist’s work to a major public collection. The laureates are also invited to complete a residency in Calder’s atelier in Sache, France.

Below is a brief presentation of the artists who have been laureates of the Calder Prize 2005-2015.

Darren Bader, born in 1978, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, lives and works in New York. Bader first started by wanting to be a film director and his first videos, composed of long takes of objects, inert and in motion, were a preview of what Bader the artist was going to do.

Everything can become an art object for this artist, from living beings such as live kittens exhibited for adoption under abstract names (MoMA PS1, 2012) to books, undelivered mail, boxes of paint, you name it! Bader’s book “Life as a Readymade” which is basically an open letter to anyone who considers himself an artist, includes the phrase “Art is a state of mind and experience understood by any number of people at any number of moments.”

Tara Donovan, Untitled, 2015 (left), Zilvinas Kempinas, Illuminator 24, 2015 (right), Courtesy Pace London

Tara Donovan, Untitled, 2015 (left), Zilvinas Kempinas, Illuminator 24, 2015 (right), Courtesy Pace London

Tara Donovan, was born in 1969, in New York and was awarded the Calder Prize in 2005. Donovan’s work uses everyday manufactured materials such as Scotch tape, Styrofoam cups, paper plates, toothpicks, and drinking straws to create large scale sculptures that often have a biomorphic quality. Her sculptures must be assembled and disassembled carefully, which sometimes involves an extremely tedious process. With regards to her artistic process, Donovan explained that she chooses the material before she decides what can be done with it. She noted in an interview that she thinks “in terms of infinity, of [the materials] expanding.” Her work has been exhibited in numerous important venues such as Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, Hammer Museum, University of California, MMOA in New York and many others. She is present at Pace London with “Cloud”, 2003 and “Untitled”, 2015.

Rachel Harrison, born in 1966, in New York, was a Calder Prize laureate of the 2011 edition and has had many solo exhibitions at institutions such as Bergen Kunsthall, Camden Arts Centre, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Migros Museum fur Gegenwartskunst in Zurich and SMAK, Ghent. She lives and works in New York and is present at the Calder Prize with “Avatar” ,2010 and “Silent Account”, 2004. Rachel produces sculptures that juxtapose a unique combination of found, purchased, and received items. Since then, her works have been fabricated using a wide range of materials, such as honey, cans of peas, papier-mâché, and trash bags. By using everyday goods and objects, Harrison frequently takes on the subject of consumer culture. She also often confronts popular culture and celebrities with her work. In the 2012 exhibition named “The Help”, her pieces featured the singer Amy Winehouse and the artist Martin Kippenberger.

Zilvinas Kempinas, Flux, 2009, Courtesy Pace London

Zilvinas Kempinas, Flux, 2009, Courtesy Pace London

Zilvinas Kempinas was born in 1969, in Plunge, Lithuania and he is the Calder laureate of 2007. He lives and works in New York and his works are kinetic and minimalistic. Kempinas employs non traditional materials to create active and dynamic exhibits, most commonly as installations. In many of his works, Kempinas utilizes his signature material, unwound magnetic tape. The use of the tape affects the viewer through various senses; visually, aurally and physically. “His art plays out on the bright side of the moon” and Londoners can see that in his work exhibited at Pace London “Illuminator”. His installation “Flux” shows as much of Calder’s influence and heritage as aimed by the exhibition. Similar to the rest of the laureates, Kempinas has had major solo exhibitions including the ones at PS1 Contemporary Art Centre, Long Island New York, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, Kunstalle Wien and many others.

Haroon Mirza, Lightwork 3, 2013 (left), Alexander Calder, Boomerangs, 1941, Courtesy Pace London

Haroon Mirza, Lightwork 3, 2013 (left), Alexander Calder, Boomerangs, 1941, Courtesy Pace London

Haroon Mirza is an English and London born artist, who became a Calder laureate in 2015. His installations made me think about what famous architect Xavier Corbero said: “when you choose the right scale, music sounds beautiful”. Mirza is close to an architect, creating a space where LED lights, speakers, vinyls, screens, and different music sounds interact and converse to the point of involving the spectator. His installation “Light Work iii”, is also an experience in itself.

Tomas Saraceno, Cumulus Filaments, 2016, and Trace G64 B213, 2015, Courtesy Pace London

Tomas Saraceno, Cumulus Filaments, 2016, and Trace G64 B213, 2015, Courtesy Pace London

Tómas Saraceno born in 1973 in San Miguel de Tucuman, Argentina, was awarded the Calder Prize in 2009 and he lives and works in Berlin. Trained as an architect, he is not only an artist but an environmentalist and he combines engineering, physics, chemistry, aeronautics and materials science in his work. Saraceno has had solo exhibitions at the Barbican Art Gallery, London, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, University of California, Hangar Bahnhof, Berlin, etc. It is an interesting fact to note that Saraceno holds a World record for the first, longest, fully solar-powered, certified, lighter-than-air vehicle tether Flight. He is present at Calder Prize exhibition with “Cumulus Filaments”, 2016 and “Trace G64 B213”, 2015.

The exhibition is open to the public up until 5th of March, 2016 at PACE LONDON.

It’s basically impossible to narrow London’s top modern and contemporary galleries down to 10. With the wealth and vibrancy of the arts scene in the British capital, there are too many to mention. Indeed, London has long been a global powerhouse in the modern and contemporary art world, so much so that this list simply sums up the starting points, merely scratching the surface of the city’s endless offerings.

We’ve created two lists examining galleries in London. This first one will guide you through London’s classic and long-established names such as the Tate and Serpentine, whilst the second will focus on London’s more recent additions to the modern and contemporary scene like Blain|Southern and Victoria Miro.

1. Tate Modern

In a nutshell: The Tate is one of the most famous art institutions in the world and, undoubtedly, a force to be reckoned with. Its neat “family” of four British galleries show its dedication to demonstrating the scope of the arts – old and new – and has thus become a household name across the globe. The Tate Modern is arguably its most impressive offering. Housed in the former Bankside Power Station, the building was repurposed into a gallery by architects Herzog & de Meuron who decided to reinvent the structure rather than demolish it. Now, with its chimney intact, the Tate’s commanding physical presence on the bank is symbolic of its prevalence in global culture. Its brilliant permanent collection includes world-class works such as David Hockney’s A Bigger Splash (1967) and Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917). The Tate Modern is known for exhibitions that spectacularly transform its interior such as Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth (2007) which took the form of a long crack in the floor of the gallery’s Turbine Hall. Don’t miss the Thames-view café and the superb bookshop.

Where: Bankside, SE1. Open 10am-6pm everyday with late closing at 10pm on Friday and Saturday.

2. Whitechapel Gallery

Whitechapel Gallery facade, with the Tree of Life by Rachel Whiteread.

Whitechapel Gallery facade, with the Tree of Life by Rachel Whiteread.

In a nutshell: Cited by the Independent as “the place to promote a new belief in the good of art”, Whitechapel Gallery was actually one of the first publicly funded galleries in London, and its history is one of education and outreach. What’s more, it organises exhibitions according to local interest. This loyalty to locale make it uniquely personal when considering its international renown. With a penchant for catching up-and-coming artists and catapulting them to recognition, the Whitechapel has premiered the likes of Frida Kahlo and Mark Rothko. It even brands its history as one “of firsts”, having also been the only British gallery to exhibit Picasso’s Guernica during the Spanish Civil War and the first one in the country to produce a major survey of Jackson Pollock’s work. So, you might see the next big thing, perhaps the polar opposite…or something completely unexpected. Such is the Whitechapel, and it is not to be missed.

Where: Tower Hamlets, E1. Open 11am-9pm, Tuesday-Sunday. Closed Monday.

3. Saatchi 

The Saatchi Gallery at the former Chelsea Barracks in London, UK

The Saatchi Gallery at the former Chelsea Barracks in London, UK

In a nutshell: As the urban legend goes, major British art patron Charles Saatchi apparently accidentally destroyed one of Marc Quinn’s legendary Self sculptures – consisting of the artist’s head cast and frozen in his own blood – when the freezer in his house was unplugged during construction works. Saatchi’s reputation precedes him, his name being one so powerful that an attempt to rename the gallery the Museum of Contemporary Art for London in 2010 completely flopped, ‘Saatchi’ enduring as before. Anyway, you must be doing something right if you’ve got a  in your freezer and Saatchi’s art empire is no weak feat; he opened a gallery in order to showcase his personal collection. The gallery boasts its temporary exhibits nearly always being by artists that no-one has heard of, providing a “springboard” to launch careers.  In a similar vein, the Saatchi is currently showing the rare effort of an all-female exhibit – Champagne Life.

Where: King’s Road, SW3. Open 10am-6pm everyday.

4. Gagosian Galleries

Gagosian

In a nutshell: Larry Gagosian’s art empire spans continents and, unsurprisingly, holds a firm base in London with no less than three galleries in the capital. While the galleries roots are in New York and Los Angeles, London was the first international location that was opened by Gagosian. Although that gallery on Haddon Street is now closed, three more have risen from the ashes including one on Britannia Street which started in 2004 with an exceptional opening exhibit of paintings and sculpture from Cy Twombly. Gagosian’s empire is publicly active and always expanding; in Sothebys’ recent Contemporary Sale, the gallery purchased Yves Klein’s Untitled, Anthropometry (1960) for a cool £1,025,000.  Expect a constantly evolving program of contemporary art in sensitively curated interiors from all three galleries which are all located within reasonable distance of each other. And, of course, all three galleries are commercial, so all the art is for sale…

Where: Britannia Street, WC1 // Davies Street, W1 // Grosvenor Hill, W1. All three galleries are open 10am-6pm, Tuesday-Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday.

5. The Hayward

Hayward

The Hayward Gallery facade, London, the Uk

In a nutshell: Located on London’s vibrant South Bank (as part of the SouthBank Centre) amongst many other major arts centres, the Hayward’s Brutalist concrete exterior looks like it popped straight out of one of Orwell’s dystopian narratives. The Hayward doesn’t house a permanent collection, however, it hosts three or four major exhibitions each year; one of its many iconic shows having been Martin Creed’s What’s The Point of It? (20140 and Carsten Höller’s Decision (2015). Whilst its output is largely contemporary, the Hayward brands itself as embracing visual arts from all periods and has, in the past, shown work from Leonardo DaVinci and Edvard Munch. The gallery is well-known for doing ‘survey’ shows of contemporary art, including How to Improve the World: 60 Years of British Art from the Art’s Council Collection. The SouthBank centre location sees it sharing a setting with some of London’s other cultural epicentres, such as the Queen Elizabeth Concert Hall, and these make the area the arts hub that it is. As if that weren’t enough, it is adjacent to the Thames and on top of the famous (and luckily still-standing) Undercroft Skatepark so you shouldn’t be stuck for things to do once you finish in the gallery.

Where: Southbank Centre, SE1. The gallery re-opens in 2017. 

6. Serpentine Galleries

Serpentine_Gallery

Serpentine Gallery facade, London, the UK

In a nutshell: With two galleries that are within walking distance of each other in the coveted Kensington Gardens of Hyde Park, the Serpentine Galleries are an extremely popular tourist destination. Named after the Serpentine Lake which separates the galleries, you have to cross a bridge to get from one to another if the romance weren’t already enough. They both showcase diverse contemporary art programs, and each space is housed in Grade II listed 19th and 20th century buildings: the original Serpentine in a former tea pavilion (it doesn’t get any more English) and the Serpentine Sackler in an ex-gunpowder store. Every summer the Serpentine commissions a leading architect to design and erect a temporary summer pavilion to be built on its lawn. Each building stays up for three months and, in previous years, has been designed by Pritzker Prize-winning names such as Jean Nouvel – famous for designing numerous iconic galleries worldwide – and Zaha Hadid to name a few.  

Where: Serpentine, Kensington Gardens, W2 // Serpentine Sackler, West Carriage Drive, W2.  Both galleries are open 10am-6pm, Tuesday-Sunday. Closed Monday.

7. ICA

ICA

Institute of Contemporary Art facade, London, the UK

In a nutshell: The Institute of Contemporary Arts is a cultural centre that houses galleries, cinemas, a theatre, a bookshop and a bar. And, located just off Trafalgar Square, it is as geographically central to London as it is to the city’s arts scene. It is a membership institute that promotes and encourages an understanding of radical contemporary art, initiated in 1947 by Londoners in an attempt to endorse an approach that went beyond the traditionalism of the Royal Academy. In the ’70’s the ICA was known for its anarchism, this period is marked by an attack on the director of exhibitions at the time – Norman Rosenthal. In a demonstration of their alternative spirit the ICA decided to keep Rosenthal’s bloodstain and it remains at the institute today, framed and preserved under glass and affectionately signposted ‘This is Norman’s Blood’. Historically, The Independent Group began meeting at the ICA in 1953 which ultimately lead to the launch of British Pop Art. The ICA’s association with events such as this, combined with its history of anarchy (and nonchalance) have made it one of the more exciting, forward-thinking institutions in London today.

Where: Pall Mall, SW1. Open 11am-11pm Tuesday-Sunday. Closed Monday.