Well at least there weren’t railway tracks, none of that train yard bullshit this year – art fair season is upon us again here in good old London town, loads of loud American gallery interns telling us this and that when they clearly haven’t a clue where the real heart of it is, that couple of weeks where everything in the art world goes slightly mad and far too many things happen all at the same time is with us again, that mad two weeks where everyone desperately jousts for attention and well, here we go then, a whole lo lad of thoughts and a look at the first week as it evolved…
Not sure who’s attention everyone is actually jousting for but joust they do, Frieze, Anti-Frieze, Anti-Freeze, anti this, anti one, the Other one, the Anti-Other One – did we really see something called F**k Frieze Friday at some gallery or other over in South London this morning? It is tempting to just stay away from it all for a couple of weeks, go hide in a bunker or take to the seaside or just lock the studio door and paint until it all goes away again. No, like some giant paint-lorry motorway crash, we need to go have a look, truth is, as much as everyone moans, we love it, bring on Frieze, bring it all on, bring on the art, the fairs, the parties, the loud interns who insist they know everything about the art in a town they don’t live in, bring on the debates, the fights, the fairs and rest of it, bring it all on, well maybe not the fairs? Bring on the openings, where shall we start?.
bring on Moniker first then, we’ll start with Moniker before we fill our heads with the art at Frieze and the rest of it. Thursday afternoon press preview viewing thing ahead of the official Moniker opening later in the evening. The Moniker press people have been on to us, can you come please? Can you please write a preview? Can you do this or that or, no, hold on, let’s just go see, let the actual event do the talking rather than the press release – no we don’t want to do a preview, let’s see what you’ve actually got.
Well at least there weren’t railway tracks this year, those tracks were really embarrassing last time, really really really (really) embarrassing – the blue and white Lek and Sowat maze to the left as you go in is far far more encouraging, the blue and white ribbon-like maze that the guy on the door is desperately trying to usher people through is thankfully a lot less annoying than those damn rail tracks were last year (and, despite the valiant efforts of the gut on the door, you don’t actually have to walk through the maze-like thing to actually get in, it is good to explore on the way out though)
Is Moniker trying just a little too hard to be little more than just another Frieze? Surely no one can really seriously think they can take on Frieze? You can’t go toe to toe with the monster that is Frieze, you simply can’t. There it is over there, taking over Hyde Park, the size of several aircraft hangers – there it it, a bloated monster of a thing, Frieze, there, doing exactly what Frieze does. Frieze is just about the only honest art fair in town, you know exactly what Frieze is about, they don’t dress it up as something it isn’t, they don’t pretend it to be anything other than exactly what it is, a great big bloated money fest of a champagne drenched art fair, an obscenely honest hellhole that now and again grabs you with a glorious piece of art and dares you to deny you love it all, the only slice of art fair honesty you’ll find anywhere in this town this week while all around them the others flounder as they try to imitate. You know the makes, the this floundering art fair, the that art fair, the Other Art Fair, te let’s fleece the artists fair, they all want to be Frieze and none of them will ever get anywhere near it, A shame really because you do feel that if a fair like Moniker really had the courage to just go do their own way it could be so so much more than it actually is. Surely a fair like Moniker should be alive with danger, with risk takers, with attitude, with barbed edges? Surely a fair like Moniker should be saying f**k you, this is where things are really at, surely they should want to be a little more than just another polite “contemporary” art fair? .
And that is what Moniker actually is, just another polite “contemporary” art fair. A rather modest, rather intimate, rather small scale, rather polite, rather too slick, rather conservative art fair that tries so so hard to ape the big one with its booths and those signs and the hey look at us aren’t were so international and the rest of it, you can’t help but wonder if those galleries who have shelled out stupid money for a booth aren’t secretly seething about it all, as they wear their brave smiles and suck it up – “Was it worth coming all the way from Chicago?” – “Of course it was” comes the answer, can’t help but notice that not many of last year’s overseas galleries have returned this year..,
What we actually have here is mostly what you’d vaguely term “urban art” (don’t you dare mention street art now, no no no – you really do get the feeling the Moniker people really don’t want you to mention “street art” – street art isn’t serious art and Moniker really wants you to take it very seriously – this is, they insist, very much a contemporary art fair, a “Contemporary Art Fair with its roots in urban culture” or something along those lines is what the official strap line is. When you do get in then the Fair is a little smaller than the hype would maybe have you think, where Frieze takes a least a day to walk around, MonIker takes at best a half hour to walk around a couple of times before you go back around for third look just in case you missed anything the first two times. I guess the fact that participating artists and galleries are charged several arms and legs to take part, not to mention the extra fees for the use of an extra electric socket or a touch of paint on a booth or for coughing more the contractually agreed number of times during the four days shouldn’t really concern us visitors – no one forced them to pay to take part did they, no one forced anyone to take part. This is very much a business affair and frankly a rather soulless artless heartless one – as we already said, at least Frieze is honest about it. Why do the galleries play the game? Why do they let these art fair people get away with it time after time? Why do they just hand over the vast amounts of loot without ever questioning any of it? Why should we care? Like that bloke from that rather depressing “contemporary urban art gallery” said the other week, “art is just another business”
What about the art I hear you cry. Of course there’s one or two pieces of eye catching urban-style art in here, of course there is, not too much though, not as much as last year actually, and the pieces that do stand out are kind of dragged down by the whole spirit of the collective all, f**king hell, things are conservative in here!. Lots of slick art, lot of “nice” slick art, lots of “nicely” framed, nicely slick conservative urban art, some might say lots of very very over-slick art, mostly graphic art, it all seems very safe in here, very very very conservative, all very “nice” The usual suspects are here, (in the case of one gallery, they are actually flogging the Usual Suspects yet again this year – same spot in the fair as last year, same booth, same place and is that really all the same art as last year?), There’s one or two things, of course there are, there;s some usually decent galleries involved, Rocco and his Brothers are about the only ones who really do actually have a proper edge to their art, a real edge, a challenge – they always have an edge, but that’s mostly via a video screen or two on this occasion and who really has time to stand watching a video at an art fair?, Is the video up on line anywhere? “Not sure” comes the answer. Hey, Rocco and his band of subverting question throwers are genuinely exciting, they’re constantly challenging with their street art manipulations, their last London show at Dalston’s BSMT space a couple of years back was, it terms of challenging art, one of the highlights of that year, and here they are quietly subverting at Moniker with their videos showing in the BSMT Space booth and their clown and their NRA Kids Club with the plastic guns and thank heavens for Rocco and his Brothers.
Elsewhere Dale Grimshaw’s work always looks strong, 1963 gallery once again have something worth seeing, mostly though Moniker is just slick, some might say over-slick (did we say that already?) mostly framed in white, mostly all very “nice” coffee table urban art (well the Moniker press people did bug us to come back and cover it again, frankly I’m surprised they did!). Mostly it really is the usual suspects, no sign of many risks taken, how many more bits of slick Ben Eine circus typography can people actually need on their walls? Surely it isn’t that far off buying the same art as everyone else at Ikea now? Hey look, the press people chased us to cover it, to write previews to do this that and the other, I really do want to be positive about it, Organ is about finding the positive things, the exciting art, and yes there are one or two things – the “Budha Bites Into Forbidden Fruits” from Egle Zvirblyte easily wins the weekend, there’s a neat enough slice of our old friend My Dog Sighs over there, the Dan Rawlings pieces make for enjoyable enough eye candy, the Don’t Fret booth from Chicago is kind of interesting, but hey come on, surely there’s more? The bit of neon (yeah yeah more damn neon, enough of the neon now please, surely neon slogans have been done to death already? How many more neon slogan does their need to be? That neon slogan over there telling us “everything is going to be f***king awesome” isn’t exactly telling how it really is – a piece of neon that tells us how it really is, now that would be a radical departure Oh look, I really really really do want to be positive, I really want to find the good and well, we kind of need a bit more attitude, a bit more danger, a risk or two, a little more than a white frame and a street art colouring book if you know what I mean, Surely it should be about a little more than yet another painting of Kate Moss (at least we didn’t see a Bowie this year, did we miss the obligatory Bowie stencil?) I don’t know, it isn’t that Moniker is offensive or depressing (besides the obscene costs involved in taking part, do feel sorry for some of those galleries that have fallen for it, hope they don’t lose too much money).
Oh look, Moniker isn’t anything to get that worked up or angry about, it isn#t that important, kicking out at it is a bit like kicking a puppy,, Moniker is pretty much nothing more than a politely conservative urban art fair that mostly plays it very very safe – just another politely over-slick over-priced art fair for those who like it nice and slick. I imagine conservative street art types have been busy posting photos of the fair on their Instagram feeds and their Facebook pages telling us that Moniker is “smashing it again this year” or that “Moniker is the bomb” or whatever this week’s term of street art endearment is – “But you’d love to have you art in here” said one of the gallery people, no I damn well wouldn’t, this isn’t why I paint, I;d hate my art to be in here, I’s hate to think I fit in here, if you ever catch me taking part in something like this then please do feel free to take me out back and have me shot. Oh look, they invited us to come again, they bugged us to come cover it once more, we saw one or two decent bits of art, Rocco, Egle Zvirblyte and a few more, Doc was the star yet again, Doc was the star last year, Doc will probably be the star next year, wonder who Doc is? We didn’t see anything much that really genuinely excited us, we didn’t see anything that offended or angered that much either, it was mostly polite and conservative and playing it very safe and most of the decent art in there was brought down by the idea of the thing as one whole (and that neon piece telling is everything was going to be f**king awesome really was annoying), but hey I got a free sticker and another free tote bag full of slick glossy brochures to throw in the corner of the studio next to last year’s free tote bag. I don’t know, Shall we just politely say it just isn’t our thing, quietly move along and make a note in the diary to maybe go do the hair washing thing this time next year? Let’s get over Frieze and really is is there any point in going to any of this week’s art fairs besides Frieze?
Really is is there any point in going to any of this week’s art fairs besides Frieze? Actually is there any point in going ot Fireze again this year,? Part two of Frieze week will along in a minute, we need a pint after Moniker, back in a minute… (sw)
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