News from London: Artists turned thespians, gallery expansions, and Tate's sweet tooth

Comedian Tony Hancock is revealed as an artist, Tracey Emin makes movies and Anthony D’Offay does a film course


Nicholas Logsdail colonises Bell Street

London’s gallerists are not allowing stock market doldrums to deter them from their expansionist plans. Nicholas Logsdail is already famous for confounding economic expectations: he opened the Lisson’s main custom-built space without backing and in the midst of the 1991 recession, and now he’s continuing to colonise Bell Street by opening a new space in a former betting shop at Number 29. “I’m always a contrarian” declares Mr Logsdail, “I always believe that one has the opportunity to achieve more when things are down rather than up, because you have more time.”

The new 1,600 square foot gallery has been designed by architect Pip Horn who is married to Lisson artist Shirazeh Houshiary and will enable the Lisson both to put on a greater variety of shows and free up artists from having to fill the somewhat formidable 5,000 square feet of the existing space. “We represent quite a number of artists and we feel that, in some instances, the turnaround isn’t quite fast enough” Mr Logsdail said. “The programming of the new gallery will be focused mainly on younger artists but that won’t preclude artists from other generations, if they don’t want to do a large show or if they want to do something singular.”

A major priority has also been to ensure that the new space is fully equipped to accommodate the Lisson’s many artists who working in video. “When the existing gallery was built, video was just a twinkle in people’s eyes, it wasn’t really on the horizon as something important, now we’ve built everything into the structure of the new gallery: you just hook it up and it’s all there”

Peter Doig goes to Trinidad

Out East in Bethnal Green, Maureen Paley is also increasing her square footage. Now that Wolfgang Tillmans has moved down the street to a building of his own, she has taken over his former studio upstairs for more exhibition and office space. With La Paley’s famously fabulous taste, she’s furnished Interim’s new nerve centre with pieces from Flin-Flon, the Scandinavian furniture shop run by Bonnie Doig, although right now the entire Doig family has left their Clerkenwell home for a year’s sojourn in Trinidad, where Peter Doig spent part of his childhood. Be prepared, therefore, for a new Caribbean phase in his paintings...

Art Yardies take over West End

Jay Jopling may be expanding his White Cubes in Hoxton but he remains a West End boy at heart: no sooner does he close one space in St James’s (White Cube shuts on 14 September) than he acquires another far bigger one in the form of a disused electricity sub station just across the road in Masons Yard. Although he has only just completed on the purchase, J.J. is renowned for being a speedy operator and plans are afoot to open the new Masons Yard space (as yet untitled—but please, no more cuboid references) early in 2004.

On the other side of Piccadilly there’s more West End Yardie activity with former City man turned art dealer Harry Blain joining forces with ex-D’Offay director Graham Southern to take over the lease on Anthony D’Offay’s building in Haunch of Venison Yard. Although D’Offay’s costly Norman Foster makeover has been jettisoned for a more modest refurbishment courtesy of Renzo Piano protegé Nick Malby, D’Offay himself is still keeping an eye on the building that only a year ago was destined to be his gallery HQ. “Anthony is an advisor to the business, we’re grateful for the informed advice that he’s given and continues to give” states Harry Blain, who is, however, eager to stress that Mr D’Offay has no financial interest in the business. Quite who, if any, of D’Offay’s former stable is to grace Haunch of Venison Yard remains to be seen, while rumours that Charles Saatchi’s Rachel Whitereads will be displayed in the space remain so far unconfirmed.

Lights, camera, action for Anthony D’Offay

In any case, Anthony D’Offay probably hasn’t too much time for presiding over his former associates since his new incarnation as a student at New York University, where he has enrolled on the film course, is apparently keeping him more than busy. Sources reveal that Mr D’Offay has been somewhat surprised by the workload demanded by the course, but is determined to complete his studies. So is it the bright lights of Hollywood or the black boxes of the art world that tempt this budding cineaste? Given Mr D’Offay’s long standing love of non-Western cultures (his lingam collection is legendary) The Art Newspaper predicts that he will be pointing his camera in a more anthropological, documentary direction.

The rebel lives on

For those of us who feel that the oeuvre of comic actor Anthony Aloysius St John Hancock received shabby treatment during the course of “The Rebel”, vindication is now at hand. For the past few months a group of artists and writers from The London Institute of ’Pataphysics have been scrutinising the 1960 movie and employing the most painstaking methods to recreate the Master’s key “Infantalist” and “Shapist” pieces”, from his East Cheam period through to Paris, all of which were tragically destroyed or lost following their screen presentation. “We have made transparencies of the works and then painted them from overhead projections, as I believe one of the key strengths of the work is its rapidity of execution” says ’Pataphysician Andrew Wilson, who has taken time out from his duties as deputy Editor of Art Monthly to immerse himself in the project.

“Hancock famously declared that he would ‘knock off a few before breakfast’ and we want to remain true to the spirit of the work” states Mr Wildon, adding that “the paintings weren’t that bad; Tony Hancock was a very good artist.” Now, thanks to the efforts of Andrew Wilson and the ’Pataphysicians, we can judge for ourselves as the fruits of their labours go on show at the Foundry Gallery in London this month. Gallery dimensions, and structure, have made it impossible to resurrect Hancock’s most famously weighty piece, the epic sculpture “Aphrodite At the waterhole” (this is on show over the road at the newly opened bookartbookshop which is publishing the show’s sumptuous catalogue). However, by way of compensation, the ’Pataphysic painters are opening the exhibition with a “technical demonstration” of Hancock’s dramatic action painting “Aphrodite at the Waterhole On the Horizontal” memorably rendered by the artist in sou-wester and wellingtons with the audience of a single cow. Whether a cow will be present at Great Eastern Street remains to be seen.

Sugar and Sevenoaks at Tate Britain

Anyone familiar with the sculpture of Anya Gallaccio knows that it is often an olfactory as well as a visual experience, and nowhere more so than in her current installation in Tate Britain’s Duveen Galleries in which seven four-metre high trunks of freshly hewn oak are accompanied by a floor covered in caramel. However, Gallaccio’s sugary sideswipe at Minimal floorpieces and the pourings and splatterings of Serra, Long et al has proved to be a massive, and challenging, undertaking. The original plan to melt the stuff in situ, which conjured up the deliciously Dantesque spectacle of Tate curators boiling up vats of molten sugar, had to be jettisoned on grounds of safety and practicality, and now Gallaccio has had to harness the joint skills of seaside rock manufacturers and the pastry chef of the Great Eastern Hotel to melt and spread the half ton of sugar to the requisite colour and texture.

Ofili’s room too big for British pavilion

Accompanying the recent glad tidings that Chris Ofili will be occupying the British pavilion at next year’s Venice Biennale has been the speculation that his and David Adjaye’s triumphant collaboration “The upper room”, which attracted streams of visitors at this summer’s Victoria Miro show, may be part of his Venice show. But apparently Adjaye’s stunning, walnut, veneer-lined chamber, which houses Ofili’s 13 vivid “Mono” monkey paintings, is too large to fit into the British pavilion, and, anyway, let’s hope that by next June the “Upper Room” will be housed in a major institution, preferably Tate Modern, which certainly has enough space. Maybe the British pavilion could accommodate another of Ofili’s more modestly sized collaborations: the “Freedom one day” tee shirt, made in conjunction with designer Joe Casely-Hayford, which would look most fetching on the British Council’s Biennale team.

Tracey on screen?

The queen of the East End joined forces with the princess of the South Coast when Barbara Windsor attended a recent screening of Emin’s videos at the Genesis Cinema in Stepney Green. This one-off, big-screen airing of works normally restricted to the art gallery is part of Emin’s move into feature films. She’s currently developing a Margate-based movie with director Michael Winterbottom, and, judging by her comments on the night, it seems that Babs could be angling for a role. During questions afterwards, one of the 5000-strong audience asked if Ms Emin would ever want to work with any other actresses, and before the artist could reply, Ms Windsor, who was sitting next to her, piped up with the protestation “because you’re in all of them!” Casting directors, take note.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Thespian allure'