Marina spills the tea...
Marina Abramović is the first woman in the Royal Academy’s 255-year history to have a solo show in its main galleries and on Monday she dealt a further blow to the patriarchy by staging Marina Abramović’s Extraordinary Women’s Tea. In attendance were artists Rachel Jones and Alison Wilding; actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge; fashion designer Roksanda Ilinčić; writer Bernardine Evaristo and vaccine pioneer Dame Professor Sarah Gilbert. Despite some disappointment that the spread was not served by topless men, as promised, most guests were mollified by party bags containing Marina’s Blend tea, created by the artist and experts at Fortnum & Masons.
...and Thom hits the heights
London is awash with glitzy parties this week, with one highlight so far being the Victoria and Albert Museum bash on Monday celebrating the 20th anniversary of fashion designer Thom Browne’s company. Browne, known for his jaunty jumpers and shorts, was also launching his lavish new monograph, published by Phaidon. Browne’s star wattage was reflected in the top-notch calibre of guests, including the Game of Thrones actress Maisie Williams. But top billing went to mega pop star Janet Jackson, a big buddy of Thom’s. According to Vogue, the singer calls the fashion supremo “Thom Up” because of his “ability to consistently elevate and innovate”. Bless.
Sugimoto's surprising inspiration
Visitors caught up in Frieze fair week frenzy should pop into the Hayward Gallery for a soothing display of photographs by the master of the art, Hiroshi Sugimoto. On the opening day of his largest retrospective to date (until 7 January 2024), the Japanese artist was spotted walking through the show listening to The Beatles’s Let It Be on his iPhone, while singing along. The song, something of a British anthem, apparently helps Sugimoto to tune into the ambience of his own images, each a sublime, intricate study of colour, light, water, horizon and sky. Indeed, photography that sings: “When the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me.”
Gilbert & George light up the West End
In a very public ceremony beamed live across the giant billboard in Piccadilly Circus on Monday, artists Shirin Neshat and Michèle Lamy presented the Circa Prize 2023 to the German artist Cemile Sahin for her film about a Kurdish family living between Paris and Istanbul. In front of a crowd that included luminaries from the art and music worlds, Sahin was presented with £30,000 to support her practice and create a work that will be presented on Circa’s network of illuminated billboards next year. She also received a new Circa Prize trophy fashioned out of Lego by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.
The ceremony included on-screen tributes from Circa Prize judges Marina Abramović and Pussy Rioter Nadya Tolokonnikova. A new “living sculpture” work made especially for Circa by the British artist duo Gilbert & George was unveiled, too—it will appear at Piccadilly at 8.23pm (20:23) every night this month.
Anonymous reporting from behind the scenes at the fair
Bonjour. I’ve been tasked with writing a little column for The Art Newspaper this week as an anonymous gallerist taking part in the fair. In our first (and only) meeting about this column, the team suggested I should probably avoid anything potentially libellous. They already know me too well. This will also be made easier by the simple fact that Gail’s has now put up glass screens, most likely a bygone Covid measure, meaning I am unable to eat my favourite chocolate chunk cookies and cheese straws for free all week long, or report on all the other gallerists with sticky fingers.
I always get nervous the few days before a fair as something inevitably goes wrong with shipping, or your booth neighbours could be unfriendly. Nothing beats the time the unnamed dealer at a fair in Basel asked us to draw an imaginary line between our booths and try our best not to cross it at any point.
We are now all installed, and beyond a few too many daddy-long-leg visitors, it all went rather smoothly. I haven’t got the whole picture of my neighbours properly yet; either we will be great new friends or I’ll have some wonderful anecdotes to share here—a win-win.
I’ll report back any sales or make some up if it turns out the collectors really are skipping out to head for the bright lights of Paris. (Insert a few inevitable bed bug jokes here.) Frankly, we need to sell loads or I won’t be able to pay the hefty extra booth lighting fees…