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Peter Doig

News from London: Peter Doig the family man, Lucian Freud the party animal

Meanwhile, Mark McGowan gets a helping hand on his commute while Richard Wentworth loses his marbles

Doig’s mini VIPs

The notorious VIP room of The Café de Paris is usually reserved for all manner of back-room bad behaviour infinitely too lurid for detailing on these august pages. However, during the party to celebrate Peter Doig’s Tate Britain show, the same security guards may have been guarding the doors but the behind-scenes activities were of a very different ilk with the VIP room being given over to Doig’s five children and their friends. Although the four Doig daughters (Doigettes?) and his toddler son frequently hit the dance floor—especially when their Dad was DJ-ing—backstage it was strictly a junior domain, the bar stocked with flagons of juice and bags of crisps and only child-connected adults granted admittance. Proof positive—if any more were needed—of the ability of this most popular and humane artist to step back from Planet Art and occupy the real world.

Lucian Freud: party animal

When not burning the midnight oil in his legendary west London studio, Lucian Freud has never been averse to shaking a late-night leg or two. Jetsam remembers him as a regular at the Taboo club in the mid-1980s where he befriended Leigh Bowery, the club’s monumental front man, who then went on to become one of Freud’s most celebrated subjects. And age, it seems, has not diminished the octogenarian artist’s social energies: he was amongst the parade of celebs—which included Kate Moss, Tom Ford and Martin Amis—crowding into Locanda Locatelli after Marc Quinn’s White Cube show, even though he had never actually made Quinn’s acquaintance until National Portrait Gallery director Sandy Nairne brought them together over Giorgio Locatelli’s canapés. Then, just a few days later, the venerable painter was spotted out on the town again, this time at the Doig party (see above), where he seemed very much more at home, perhaps because this time he was squiring toothsome curator Flora Fairbairn, who in a past life had been one of his models.

Plastic protest in Brazil

He may be best known for such attention seeking stunts as rolling a peanut with his nose to Downing Street in protest against student fees or kissing a photograph of Tony Blair 100,000 times last election day, but more recently artist-showman Mark McGowan has been putting his exhibitionist energies to greener use. He was recently to be found at the head of this year’s Mardi Gras Carnival procession in Salvador, Brazil, not dressed in a spangly costume but dragging a massive fishing net filled with 300 kilos of plastic rubbish to draw attention to the plastics that are clogging oceans and killing wildlife across the globe. According to the artist, the festive locals all joined in with gusto, helping him to heft his load along the 4km route. However, McGowan’s eco-message was somewhat lost on the many Salvadorians who scavenge cans and plastics for their livelihood and to whom his stash represented wealth, not waste. McGowan’s marathon was commissioned by Global Ocean, the eco-charity and brainchild of art collector Melanie Salmon, who has also enlisted the likes of Gavin Turk and Tracey Emin to support cleaner oceans via the less arduous means of specially designed tee-shirts. (www.globalocean.eu)

Just dying to live there…

Attracting almost as much attention as the works on the walls at the opening of Tate Britain’s exhibition of Walter Sickert and The Camden Town Group (until 5 May) was a map in the show’s last room depicting the streets of Camden Town and the site of the notorious Camden Town Murder of 1907. This unsolved killing of prostitute Emily Dimmock in her bedsit provided the inspiration for several of Walter Sickert’s most controversial paintings and now it seems that a number of art world luminaries—including Frieze co-director Matthew Slotover, and artists Antony Gormley and Sir Anthony Caro—either live or work near the site of this grisly event which took place in Agar Grove NW1, formerly St Paul’s Road. What with another swathe of artists living in the Whitechapel streets stalked by Jack the Ripper, perhaps there’s a thesis waiting to be written on the strange way in which both artists and murderers seem drawn to the same sites…

Wentworth keeps his marbles

The chasm between the mind of the artist and that of the politician never yawned so wide as during “The Art of Giving”, a seminar at the Tate partly chaired by none other than Jetsam herself. The day-long seminar was devoted to the artist’s role in public and private funding. So far, so conventional as The Right Honourable Margaret Hodge MP, Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism delivered her meticulously typewritten treatise on the importance of artistic excellence and private giving. However, there was nothing in her script to accommodate the off-piste approach of fellow panellist, artist Richard Wentworth (above), who after rattling Ms Hodge with his declaration that “all money is dirty”, then did some more rattling when he produced what he described as some “toys”, namely a grey plastic plumber’s pipe filled with an assortment of glass marbles which he then tipped into a glass preserve jar. The broad proposition seemed to be that, released from an opaque and restrictively functional container and into another that was transparent yet still potentially useful, free agents can maintain their autonomy whilst at the same time showing themselves to be both collectively and individually special. However, none of this elegant symbolism made the remotest impression upon the Right Honourable Member for Barking whose icy stare indicated that she believed Wentworth to be someone who had lost, rather than found his marbles.

United by the avant garde

It was back in the USSR last month with a major exhibition of Alexander Rodchenko’s images opening at the Hayward Gallery (until 27 April), but this being the 21st century, the exhibition was backed by Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Chelsea FC. A rather more authentic revolutionary vibe was to be found when a lively crowd—including Outset’s Yana Peel, socialite interior designer Willie Nickerson and actor-singer Richard Strange—all hunkered down in the gritty surroundings of the tiny Theatro Technis in Mornington Crescent to view a rare staging of “Elizaveta Bam”, an avant garde work banned under Stalin by Daniil Kharms, who himself perished in a gulag. Adapted and directed by ever energetic cultural polymath Fedor Pavlov-Andreevich, and assisted by Maria Baibakova (who also helped to hang the Rodchenko show), the extravagantly-costumed actors presented a virtuoso mix of horror and humour which successfully managed to tear the audience’s eyes away from the rare sight of leading Russian art dealers and famous arch-enemies Vladimir Tsarenkov and Alex Lachmann seated almost next to each other in the front row. “They must love this play,” whispered an astonished onlooker. “They usually won’t even stand in the same room.” Above, a scene from Daniil Kharms’s play “Elizaveta Bam”.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Peter Doig, the family man'