News from London: All the Turner prize gossip, while Lopez returns to Spain but Lisson gets bigger

Horsing around at the Serpentine doesn't hit the right spot for Wallinger collector


Turner Prize gossip:

Only at four o’clock on the afternoon of 28 November, after six hours of deliberation, was the jury able to reach the decision which the art market and the betting agent William Hill had already made as soon as the shortlist had been announced, and that was to award the prize to Damien Hirst. Mona Hatoum must have been within a whisker of pipping him at the post. Just how effective has been Hirst’s contribution to British art in the last twelve months was the tricky debating point and even the artist had admitted that it was not really his year.

An A-level in art and a twisted imagination...

How soon will it enter the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations? “It’s amazing what you can do with an E in A-Level art, a twisted imagination and a chainsaw”, the remark with which Damien Hirst accepted the Turner Prize and its accompanying cheque for £20,000 from presenter Brian Eno, is already a legendary statement, destined to be misquoted in art history classes as long as young British art warrants attention.

Who wore what...

Homage or plagiarism? Competing to win the other prize, less valuable but equally prestigious, for the costume of the evening were two rivals, both seated at Damien Hirst’s table: to the left, the artist’s girlfriend Maia Norman, wearing a creation of Rifat Ozbek, a trouser suit decorated with Hirst’s characteristic coloured spot motif; to the right, leading Patron of New Art, Mrs Penelope Govett in the Vasarely trouser suit designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier. With slim midriff revealed just months after the birth of Connor, the son whom Hirst described as the best work of art he had ever been involved in helping to create, it was Maia’s night by a fingernail.

Seen chatting to a contemporary friend...

Gone are the days when the winner of the prize would stay away to make a point, creeping into the museum the following morning to pick up his cheque. The new British artist is a party animal, as anxious to be fed at someone else’s expense as any critic, television personality or Member of Parliament. The Victorian gallery, where the prize’s seated dinner takes place, was filled to bursting point. In addition to the four finalists, artists tucking into Mustard Catering’s banquet of millefeuille of roast aubergine, quail and a buffet of puddings included Antony Gormley, Richard Deacon, Grenville Davey, Rachel Whiteread, Marcus Taylor, Richard Wilson, Anish Kapoor, Richard Wentworth, Michael Craig-Martin, Helen Chadwick, Cathy de Monchaux, Peter Doig, Michael Landy, Abigail Lane, Cornelia Parker, Angela Bullock and Georgina Starr. In the past, artists have not been the keenest supporters of the prize, so this turn-out does a lot to boost its credibility.

And what the papers said...

Since it is not a paying exhibition, no record of public attendance is kept, but there were occasions when the rooms of the four finalists were so busy that the museum was forced to close them. On the final two Sundays of the exhibition alone, an estimated 13,000 visitors defied The Daily Telegraph’s leader article which, on 29 November, had urged its readership “not to be cowed by the cows” and described the award of the prize to Damien Hirst as “an odious and disgusting scandal”. In prose worthy of Ruskin, it opined that Hirst’s work “had the artistic merit of a bucketful of spittle...flung in the face of the public”, but magnanimously admitted that the Turner Prize was “Britain’s most prestigious art award”.

Lisson opens Top Floor

Previously reserved for the buffet supper parties thrown by gallery proprietor Nicholas Logsdail after private views, the top floor of the Lisson Gallery has become Top Floor, a new space reserved for exhibitions of younger artists. It will be inaugurated with the large photographs created by the British partnership of Don Brown and Stephen Murphy (19 January-24 February), who have been working together since 1994, while the main exhibition spaces will be filled with new video projections by Tony Oursler (same dates). They include film of a woman throwing herself against a wall, to be projected onto a wall of flowers, and of a ventriloquist’s dummy being projected onto a suitcase.

A new East End Boy

Curator-dealer Dominic Berning has moved offices from his home in Lancaster Road to the artists’ cooperative in Underwood Street, one of several spaces to have opened in close geographic proximity in east and north London. Neighbours include Joshua Compston’s Factual Nonsense, The Showroom, The Coventry Gallery and The Agency. He launched his programme of activities with an exhibition of works by Jane Mulfinger, shortly to be seen at Los Angeles University (5 January-5 February) and, for his second exhibition, he will be presenting, in conjunction with Laure Genillard, the work of two Irish artists, Damien Duffy and Padraig Timoney (17 February-24 March).

30 Underwood Street, London, N1 7XJ Tel: 0171-336 6923.

An editioned echo by Alison Watt

Ridinghouse Editions has sold half of a new editioned two-part bronze sculpture by Alison Watt, retailing at £1,800. Its title is “For Echo”, relating it to “Echo”, a large construction of stainless steel strips concealing a polished brass ball which was shown at Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham, last autumn. Already sold to a collector who is proposing to lend it to a British institution, “Echo” will be presented to a London audience by Karsten Schubert in the spring. New editions being published by the partnership created by Thomas Dane, Charles Asprey and Mr Schubert (see The Art Newspaper No. 50. July-August 1995, p32) include a 16 mm film by Abigail Lane, to be titled “Voyage to the Moon”, and portfolio of photographs by Mat Collishaw.

An evening opportunity for Peter Chater?

On the subject of Ridinghouse Editions, Karsten Schubert’s gallery director Peter Chater provides a perfect imitation of the original Pathe News voice in his commentary on Michael Landy’s “Scrapheap Services” video: well-educated, reassuring and belonging to a time when the countries of the world were coloured in pink.

Yes he’s right behind you

The unidentified Swiss collector who purchased “Behind You”, Mark Wallinger’s clever comment on British homosexual tastes conducted beneath the disguise of a pantomime horse costume, was not amused to learn that another version of the sculpture has been created. The second version repeats the subject of a sexual encounter enacted in a brown, rather than the original grey, costume and has a new title, “Oh no he isn’t, oh yes he is”. Apparently the collector is considering legal action but is largely to blame himself for refusing to loan his acquisition to Wallinger’s recent survey at the Serpentine Gallery.

The Future is delayed

The plan to open the Eric and Salome Estorick Foundation of Italian and Futurist paintings in March has been postponed by at least twelve months while the trustees seek financial support from the lottery fund.

Will he or won’t he?

Michael Hue-Williams, who already has a stake in Cork Street with his street level window gallery, has been stalking the large space on the floor above Victoria Miro for more than six months. Renovation of the building’s façade has been completed, the scaffolding removed, and Mr Hue-Williams has, at last, signed a contract to lease this handsome room with high ceilings, large windows and a row of skylights. Architect John Pawson, responsible for designing the original Runkel-Hue-Williams gallery, will be making minor improvements before the new gallery opens on 14 March with an exhibition of four British photographers, Chris Bucklow, Susan Derges, Garry Fabian-Miller and Adam Fuss, with an exhibition of James Turrell scheduled to follow in May.

21 Cork Street, London, W1X 1HB (Tel: +44 (0) 171 629 1887)

Lopez is off

Less than six months after he opened in Foley Street as one of London’s new West End Boys (see The Art Newspaper, No. 50, July 1995, p.32), Javier Lopez is closing his gallery and returning to Spain. Situated on the top floor of the building occupied by Karsten Schubert, his space had formerly been leased by Marc Jancou, who had come to the same conclusions which Mr Lopez appears to have reached: there is no audience, no business, and certainly no profit in bringing unfamiliar European or American artists into London, and paying hefty shipping charges and import duty for the privilege. Other new galleries have taken the more prudent course of building their programmes around local British artists where there is a current market fashion and a comparatively minor administrative and financial burden. But Continental dealers continue to make plans to open for business, with Lotte Hammer planning to launch a gallery in Cleveland Street in March, and partners Tommaso Corvi-Mora and Gregorio Magnani, with working experience in Cologne, intending to take a lease in Fitzrovia. As one senior London dealer commented to another, “When are we going to tell them the truth about London?”

New artists for Stephen Friedman

Proving that it is entirely possible to build a topical programme of exhibitions in London from the pool of local talent still unsecured by commitments to existing galleries, is Stephen Friedman, who opened in Old Burlington Street at the end of last June. New additions to his stable of artists include Kerry Stewart, recently showing her sculpture at the Saatchi Collection; and 1993 Turner Prize finalist, Vong Phaophanit, both of whom he will be presenting at his gallery in the next six months.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Lopez returns to Spain but Lisson gets bigger'