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News from London: Opening bottles and opening galleries

Leading dealer throws party for Tate’s Andy Warhol show

Gagosian wins the Party Prize

Andy Warhol would have relished the celebrity-studded Gagosian party held in his honour at the old Billingsgate fish market (now suitably sanitised by Richard Rogers) where guests—including Salman Rushdie (on the arm of perpetually youthful Marie Helvin) and Mick and Jade Jagger—cavorted in the cavernous space among bobbing remakes of Warhol’s helium-filled “Silver clouds”. No one in the art world likes to leave a party empty-handed, and later these unwieldy pillows became the party favour of choice, with some end-of-evening entertainment to be had from watching departing art-world luminaries trying to fit their mementos of the evening into their cars, while others—including Kay Saatchi—chose the sartorial option, and were to be seen wandering around like disaster victims, wrapped in deflated sheets of silver. Along with the balloons, other suitably Warholian tributes included live performances by John Cale (accompanied by Brian Eno) and Marianne Faithfull, although some guests evidently required a crash course in Factory lore: as Marianne announced her “song for Nico”, a voice, issuing from a table of Tate International Council patrons, was heard to protest, “but I thought Nico was a restaurant?” This memorable bash, with virtually no other dealers and very few artists outside the Go-go camp present, effectively eclipsed Tate Modern’s party the next night where (horrors!) there was a pay bar. It did, however, show up Gagosian’s disdain for playing art-world “Happy families”. It was therefore nice to confirm, by their toe-tapping presence, that both Howard Hodgkin and Michael Craig-Martin have made the transition from Dering to Heddon Street—but no sign of Rachel Whiteread. Enquiries as to whether she is follow the D’Offay-Gagosian trajectory have so far been met with universally tight lips.

Sophie von Hellerman gets her satisfaction

Andy would also have approved of the way that his party generated an instant image. On meeting Mick Jagger at the Gagosian bash, the young Saatchi-collected German artist Sophie von Hellerman—no slouch on the glamour stakes herself—was inspired the very next day to make a painting of Jumpin’ Jack Flash surrounded by an adoring posse of female admirers, which —with suitably Warholian business acumen—was sold to a German collector within the week.

Did Michael Landy’s breakdown of fellow artists’ work cost him a place on the Turner?

Many people felt that Michael Landy’s spectacular pulverising of his possessions in February last year should have earned him a Turner Prize nomination. Certainly this is the view of dealer Karsten Schubert, who was one of the funders of Landy’s “Breakdown” project, which was commissioned by Artangel. Speaking in the national press last month, Mr Schubert—who was not a member of the 2001 Turner Prize jury—made the revelation that it was Landy’s destruction of the works of art among his possessions that had scuppered his chances. “To certain jury members,” Mr Schubert told the Guardian, “destroying other artists’ works was completely unacceptable. It was an act of complete vandalism. Denying him a nomination was a way of putting this message across.” “It’s absolutely not true,” says Ikon Gallery director and 2001 Turner judge Jonathon Watkins. “Had this been an issue, I would have remembered it. I actually think that this was one of the more interesting aspects of that show, it was a very strong thing to do.” Stuart Evans, who represented the Patrons of New Art on the panel, agrees. “If that issue was there, it was certainly not articulated. A lot of people know that I’m a big fan of Michael, I was very keen to see him nominated, but it was not to be.”

Art takes to the water

With London property prices booming, one option may be to get waterbourne. Artist Richard Wilson is currently converting his vertically-sliced dredger moored on the Thames shoreline by the ill-fated and still-disputed Dome into studio and office space. “I like the idea of having my studio inside a sculpture” he says, and now, further up river at Canary Wharf, the hold of a Dutch barge has been developed into the Prenelle Gallery, which opens this month with a group show by artists from the nearby University of East London’s MA course. “We aim to have art shows, as well as dance and performance work,” says gallery co-director Amy Whitworth.

Alex Sainsbury opens new space

Along with the completion of his snazzy new house designed by Tony Fretton in Chelsea’s Tite Street, young art patron Alex Sainsbury has also opened up a two room project space Up West in Langham Street (38 Langham Street Tel: +44 (0)20 7323 5366). “It’s a project space-cum-gallery and its quite experimental,” Mr Sainsbury told The Art Newspaper. “I’ve no plans to represent artists, but the work that I show is for sale and without a rolodex of collectors I will develop that side of things very slowly. I’m not sure how I will develop.” The space opened with a show of works by little known Italian artists Francesco Lo Savio, followed by new work from artists from Spain and Scandinavia. This month he is showing site specific work by English artist David Batchelor.

Paul Smith, artist, indulges in some porno gender-bending

Battle-seasoned art world hacks are used to getting all manner of attention-grabbing exhibition publicity—inflatable, edible, ungainly, minuscule, we have seen it all—so the arrival of a vacuum-packed, plastic covered, missive declaring, “This is not pornography” only arouses a weary sigh as we know it will undoubtably be just that—or some kind of comment thereon. Paul Smith is an artist who has made good use of his computer to assume simultaneous multiple identities in photographs that rehearse time-honoured stereotypes, whether squaddies in training, mooning boozers on a lad’s night out, or action heroes parachuting through glass windows. Now he has morphed bits of himself with a porno model and in calling it “This is not pornography” claims the series is “a clear reference to Magritte’s ‘This is not a hat’”. Doesn’t he mean “pipe”, or is that maybe too Freudian?

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Now, the posh exhibition opening without the inconvenience of the art'