News from London: Whitechapel gallery celebrates its centenary with a new director while Michael Landy has a breakdown in Marble Arch

Meanwhile, Tracey Emin pushes up the bids in Islington, and there are rumblings at the Royal Academy


Iwona Blazwick goes East to the Whitechapel

It’s all change at the Whitechapel Art Gallery as it limbers up for its centenary celebrations next month. After much speculation last month it has been confirmed that Iwona Blazwick, Head of Exhibitions and Displays at Tate Modern, is to replace Catherine Lampert as Director of Whitechapel on 1 June. The announcement of Ms Blazwick’s departure has reportedly caused consternation at the Tate, especially since it was made public just before the opening of Century City, Tate Modern’s 2001 blockbuster, for which Ms Blazwick has been largely responsible.

“It was a long shot for the The Tate to take me on, and I will always be grateful for that” says Ms Blazwick, but a directorship was something I just couldn’t turn down” (for a full interview with Iwona Blazwick on her latest career move, see page 26)

Academicians up in arms at prospect of more Brit Art

There have been rumblings at the Royal Academy with the announcement that this year’s senior hanger Peter Blake plans to invite some of the leading names of Brit Art to spice up the 2001 Summer show. Back in 1997 four academicians proffered their resignations in protest at the likes of Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Marcus Harvey storming the RA citadel in the throat-grabbing “Sensation” and now its the turn of Leonard McComb, former keeper of the Royal Academy Schools and Elizabeth Blackadder to express concern at what they view as another blow to their traditional artistic values by what Mr McComb describes as “the dominant Turner Prize syndrome.” Peter Blake, however, is unrepentant. “There’s always some fuss about the Summer Exhibition” he says, adding that “I will invite some of the young British Artists. I’ve always been sympathetic to and supportive of them. Damien, Tracey, Sarah Lucas, Angus Fairhurst, Gary Hume, Gavin Turk are all friends of mine.” Whether Damien, Tracey et al. will accept the Senior Hanger’s invitation remains to be seen.

Artworld ephemera supports South London Gallery

The artworld’s love for the South London Gallery was amply confirmed at London’s annual art fair, Art 2001, when a charity auction of often highly personal items donated by artists, curators and dealers realised £32,500—nearly three times the expected amount—for the Peckham-based Gallery. Tracey Emin was in fine voice as her felt slippers made the evening’s record price of £5,500 and prices were also kept buoyant by a virtuoso performance by auctioneer Jussi Pylkkanen, Deputy Chairman of Christie’s UK, who even went as far as to treat himself to “Deputy Dawg”, a framed photograph of a dog turd taken by comedian Vic Reeves for £110 (see auction report on page 75) “I’m overcome by everyone’s generosity” said South London Gallery David Thorpe. However, whether it was generosity or some other emotion that motivated Marjorie Allthorpe- Guyton, Head of Visual Arts at Arts Council of England, to pay £800 for Sir Nicholas Serota’s personalised hard hat, worn throughout the construction of Tate Modern, is open to speculation.

Michael Landy has the love of a good woman to get him through his artistic Breakdown

It now emerges that the first Times/Artangel commission, Michael Landy’s “Breakdown” is precisely that. In the two weeks between 10-24 February Landy is sorting, cataloguing and then pulverising all his possessions in the name of art, and—appropriately for this assault on material goods—he is using the former flagship C & A store in Marble Arch in which to perform what he describes as a“live event”. ( full interview with Michael Landy, page 28)

However, it is not only the sponsors Artangel and The Times who are making his epic and extreme feat possible. As Landy’s existence is pared down to increasingly bare essentials (among the items already dismantled and poised for the big crunch are items F2-4 headboard, struts and baseboard for bed, and F1, a Big Table luxury double mattress) at least he has access to the worldly goods of his partner, artist (and 1999 Turner Prize winner) Gillian Wearing. “She’s a pivotal element in the whole thing” says Landy who, on 24 February will only have several containers of dust and granules to his name and, we hope, the love and sustenance of a good woman...

o Michael Landy, “Breakdown”, C & A Store, 499-523 Oxford Street, London W1 (10-24 February)

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Whitechapel gallery celebrates its centenary with a new director'