News from London: Wyn Evans lights up night sky while Koons goes green in the V&A

The Tate Triennial might be a critical damp squib, but the veteran artist Cerith Wyn Evans made sure the opening went with a bang


Sparks fly at Tate Triennial party

The younger contributors to the Tate Triennial may have been something of a critical damp squib, but there was enthusiasm aplenty for the more mature contingent—John Stezaker and Marc Camille Chaimowicz being singled out by many for praise. Plaudits reached a crescendo with a brief but memorable display of poetic pyrotechnics which were the result of a collaboration between two more of the British art world’s more venerable figures, visionary Scottish sculptor Ian Hamilton Finlay and the erudite Cerith Wyn Evans. A large crowd poured out of the lacklustre private view to jostle outside Tate Britain to witness Hamilton Finlay’s two-verse “First Suprematist Standing Poem” of 1965 being literally re-ignited by Wyn Evans, who had rendered its spare two word lines (“how blue?/how sad?/how small?/how white?/ how far?”) in flaring grids of fireworks (right). Hamilton Finlay himself was not present: he rarely leaves his southern Scottish home and famous garden, but despite his absence, his considerable age (81) and precarious health gave the event an elegiac tone, which seemed to sober even the more boisterous ranks of the art world.

Book comes into world in chilly London hospital

A lecture theatre buried in the bowels of Whitechapel’s Royal London Hospital was an inspirational choice for the launch of Artangel and Steidlmach’s book commemorating Die Familie Schneider, German artist Gregor Schneider’s disquieting walk-through of “twinned” terraced houses. In the 2004 piece, Schneider rendered the two identical down to the fixtures, fittings and even inhabitants. The Royal London’s shabby, subterranean corridors were almost indistinguishable from a Schneider work. But the most splendidly serendipitous Schneideresque moment was the arrival of wonderfully-named identical twins Gina and Tina Fear, who had wielded their washing-up brushes to such effect at their respective sinks in Schneider’s twin kitchens (below). They were wheeling Tina’s infant son, whose thin but insistent cries throughout the event were a chilling reminder of the sole auditory element that was also the only differentiating feature between No 14 and No 16 Walden Street.

Will Norman Rosenthal go green with envy?

Jeff Koons’ giant sculpture Green Diamond (right) caused a considerable stir when it was unveiled on Gagosian’s stand at the last Basel Art Fair, with a very ritzy price tag of £2.3m. In fact it so caught the eye of the Royal Academy’s Norman Rosenthal that he confided that it was better than anything he had seen at the Venice Biennale. Now the RA’s maestro need not travel so far to gaze upon his favourite bauble with the news that Green Diamond (or at least one of the edition of four) is to be installed for the summer in the V&A’s John Madejski garden. How its pristine surfaces will fare after four months’ assault from the capital’s sticky fingers, as well as regular dousings courtesy of London’s notoriously inclement weather remains to be seen. Let’s hope Gagosian has placed a minion on polishing duty...

Art for peace

The deteriorating political situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories has resulted in the Home Office advising against travel to the region. All of which makes the format of “As if by Magic”, the international art exhibition opening next month at The Peace Centre in Bethlehem, especially appropriate for this is an exhibition that does not require the transportation of either art or artists to the gallery. All of the artists, who include Damien Hirst, Laurence Weiner, Wolfgang Tillmans, Michael Craig Martin, Ceal Floyer (below, Needle, 2006), Isa Genzken and Jim Lambie, are either creating or adapting works that can be produced by others on site. Hirst is providing instructions for one of his spot paintings to be produced directly onto a wall; Michael Craig Martin’s wallpiece uses images of Palestinian musical instruments, cooking utensils and a football; while Laurence Weiner is offering one of his texts in both English and Arabic—the first time his work has appeared in Arabic script. For an audience that cannot easily travel to see contemporary art, this most versatile of shows, curated by Charles Asprey and Kay Pallister, presents an elegant and versatile solution. “As if by Magic” (23 May-31 July) is at the Peace Centre in Bethlehem. For info: www.artschoolpalestine.com

Feeding the 5,000 artists in the East End

What with his support of the Liverpool Biennial, as well as the John Moores’ Painting Prize, philanthropist James Moores has already made cultural waves in his home town. Now this scion of the Littlewood’s empire has been busy regenerating a neglected corner of London’s East End, with his purchase of the former Rochelle School building in the heart of the Arts and Crafts apartment blocks grouped around the picturesque bandstand of Arnold’s Circus, just to the east of Shoreditch High Street. Rather bizarrely, during the early stages of its renovation, the Rochelle School was the home to a flock of peacocks, the protégés of its idiosyncratic caretaker—artist Gavin Jones. But now both Jones and peacocks have departed, and this centre for learning is now a powerhouse of creativity. Current Rochelle residents include gallerist Kate MacGarry and her artist husband Luke Gottelier, it is HQ of Moores’ former flame, fashion designer Luella Bartley, and home base for part of the Marc Jacobs organisation. Meanwhile the old gym has been converted into a stunning exhibition space—which will play host to the 2006 New Contemporaries exhibition later in the year. But the crucial element that unites this new community is the presence of two of the art world’s favourite cooks, Margot Henderson (above, left), who is married to Fergus, of St John’s fame, and Melanie Arnold (right) whose swish new kitchens and company HQ double up as a canteen for all those living and working in the building. So delicious is the Nose to Tail grub that the clientele has expanded to the wider art community who now make a point of passing by around midday. You just need to know which bell to ring...

Timothy Taylor gallery shaken to the core

Art rockers Richard Wilson and Sean Dower rattled the windows of Timothy Taylor’s elegant Dering Street Gallery with a hard-core drumming dual, complete with lightshow, dry ice and a range of percussion instruments. Once the reverberations subsided, more conservative members of the audience were heard to remark that the gallery should have handed out earplugs with the drinks. There was much relief from the conservation-conscious that the previous show of Philip Guston paintings had been very prudently removed from the walls. But there was also consensus that Guston himself would have relished the catharsis of this auditory extravaganza.