Gallery opulence and international drawing, London / by Doug Burton

A recent outing to London, with a long-time artist friend, gave me a chance to catch up on some new opulent galleries in the West End and a couple of excellent private views. Highlights included the excellent new Bruce Nauman artist room at the Tate Modern. I had forgotten just how cutting his work is, both repelling and reeling you in at the same time. The retrospective show of Fahrelnissa Zeid did give an insight into an artist I had no knowledge of. It was, in some part, an attempt to give this lesser known artist more prominence. I did feel that there was probably only a couple of paintings in the show that really stood out, perhaps this was because of her esoteric creative approach over her lifetime. Rachel Whiteread’s cannon of work at Tate Britain was very enjoyable. Not all of it worked, some material choices are highlighted as unsuccessful when grouped together like this, in particular a crystal-clear resin cast of a dolls house is just too much like a fox’s glacier mint. Perhaps using glass would move the material away from a sense of approximation.

The West End has seemed to go through a new era of colonisation by the big contemporary galleries. When I was doing my postgraduate at the Royal Academy in the early noughties the centre of the London art world was in Cork Street, it then moved to the East End with the advent of new gallery spaces from Modern Art, White Cube and Victoria Miro, and now its back in the West End with huge enterprises vying for space. I didn’t leave London that long ago but it did feel like I had returned to some new dimension, where galleries aren’t content with one modest space but huge opulent imaginings reflecting their inner desires.

Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac topped the list for sheer opulence, it’s not the biggest but the restoration and quality of the building really felt like I was in a movie set. I always enjoy the work of Robert Longo and this space was perfect for his hyper-real commentaries.  Other highlights included Lucas Arruda at David Zwirner, Thomas Schutte at Frith Street Gallery and Hernan Bas at Victoria Miro.

A final note on the work of Assunta Abdel Azim Mohamed whose PV I went to at Danielle Arnaud Gallery, curated by David Lillington. Her excellent drawings looked at me in a literal sense, as the many characters engaged, almost involving me in the theatre of their place. This aspect did work perfectly with the gallery, a more real taste and smell complimented the works that perhaps a large white cube might have washed away.

Images Doug Burton from top left: 1 Robert Longo, 2 Galerie Thaddeus Ropac, 3 Bruce Nauman, 4 Rachel Whiteread, 5 Thomas Schutte, 6 Hernan Bas, 7-8 Lucas Arruda, 9-12 Assunta Abdel Azim Mohamed