Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Exhibition

I don't usually write very much on here but I have to put down my experience last week because it was so odd and has left me feeling sad and deflated;

I arrived on Tuesday after a 6 hour drive having navigated my way across London using google maps on my phone, the sat nav refused to work. After ringing the bell at the gallery for twenty minutes I eventually got lucky as someone was leaving and was able to deliver my pieces to the gallery. I then had a long and difficult journey to Enfield to drop off my car, then it was public transport to my friends house in Camden. I got to the gallery on Wednesday for 11am and tried to get started but much of the previous exhibition was still up, my agent still hadn't arrived and the gallery guys were putting a boxing ring up upstairs... Boxing and fine art?? Downstairs the toilets were scruffy and leaking and the director was painting the walls. I gave up and went for lunch. Found a gorgeous skirt in Mary's Living and Giving Shop http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/en/1134_9818.htm, which has just turned one year old, a high point.

When I got back Sophie Dare, founder of Sensation Modern, and some of the other artists and helpers from http://www.sensationmodern.com/artists.php had arrived and the friction was beginning. We were all trying to put work up but the gallery walls had no exhibition boards or hanging systems so this was not easy and required a power drill, plugs and screws for each painting or sculpture. For the big artists the boys jumped but for the ones they did not know or who weren't so BIG (literally larger size gets more attention) they couldn't give a hoot. The staff complained they weren't given enough time to put away the previous exhibition, the SM one was starting the next evening. The director complained the walls would be 'like cheese' because there were 'too many paintings'. The SM team complained that the basement was still full of work, when they had been told they would have all three floors at their disposal, and that the walls had wet paint on them.

OMG, 'I want to run away' I thought while my sculptures still sat carefully packed in their boxes. One of the co-owners of the gallery kicked one of my boxes out of the way (the one containing four masks and 'Concentric Dreams') and had to dodge a death threat from me!! Thank goodness I was there. The same guy had earlier been remarking on Anthony John Gray's work; 'this has done the rounds hasn't it, you just wonder who is going to buy this stuff'. I headed back to my friends @ 9.30 very worried and exhausted.

The next day I turned up for 12.30 to help out, I wanted to get my pieces up but Sophie told me she would decide where to put them after all of the canvasses were up. That didn't make me too happy but I thought it was probably wise since mine were some of the smallest pieces but very colourful. I spent the afternoon drilling holes and putting up canvasses then changing them as needs be till it all looked right, the gallery director had gotten sore arms after doing the same for most of the day. We found spaces for my stuff which looked great and after getting a terse word from the gallery director, who seemed very stressed, we went to get changed. I had a lovely relaxing drink before the opening with the artists, Jessica Suarez http://www.jessicasuarez.co.uk/ and Julius Lewandowski, discussing life the universe and everything in between.

Opening night was a private viewing attended by some very interesting people but it was not crowded, Jess Suarez got some great pictures. The first thing one of the gallery guys said to me was 'not many people here'. Negative I thought. I had a great chat with a really smart lady called Juliet who runs Juice pr consultancy http://www.juicepr.co.uk/blog/ and a lovely Indian chap who is a financier advising and buying for investment portfolios. I also got to talk with the great Anthony John Gray for a bit and felt a real connection with him about art.

The music did not materialise but the filming was happening and there were hosts and hostesses and us artists were schmoozing for all we were worth. Unfortunately the film guy, Gido Karow, forgot to interview me. I went home unhappy after hearing lots of negative comments about Sophie suggesting she didn't have enough backing, someone even suggested I should have a solo exhibition. Under normal circumstances this would have been flattering but by now I felt my agent was being undermined in the extreme by the very people who should have been trying to make it all work. One of the gallery people also said he was a bit worried about my smaller pieces because they were unprotected and that someone could pinch one easily, I found this alarming, 'don't they have insurance, aren't there going to be people up there watching it?' I thought.  Note on 15/6/11, the agency had not insured there would be staff there and have not manned it themselves.

On Friday I had a day off and went to see the Miro exhibition at Tate Modern which was marvellous.

On Saturday I went to the gallery with my friend and writer ChrissieBee, who had travelled from North Wales for the event to film me doing a live sculpture. This was to be influenced by the place and the people and was scheduled for 2.30pm. We arrived late @3.30pm not worried since no advertising had been done. When we got there the gallery was closed and Jess was outside, puzzled and worried, we phoned Sophie, she said she was coming. One of the gallery guys turned up after about an hour and opened the doors, he said they had demanded the hire fee for the first week up front on Thursday evening (opening night) and had closed the gallery until they received it in cash. Is this normal? Apparently the contract had said nothing of the kind and the gallery had been closed for a day and a half.  Note on 15/6/11; the fee was reasonably expected and it was in the contract, putting up the artwork and manning the gallery was not in the contract.  It was too late to do the live sculpture so I went home to change for the evening, we had made masks that morning for the evenings 'Gay Party' event.

We all looked great, me, ChrissieBee, my friend and designer Lilli and her boyfriend and dj Ben had all made an effort to dress fancy but when we got there nobody else had. This was OK though because we got lots of attention, had our photographs taken loads and I won the Julius Lewandowski painting for the best fancy dress (photo's coming soon). The event's publicist said he had received a phone call the night before saying the event was cancelled, so no music, no party but some very interested people and some amazing art on show with artists to take you through it. My friends loved it, Lilli even said she thought it was better than The Tate because the artwork was so varied and beautiful and because the people showing it were taking you through it all.

I told the gallery director I was worried about my stuff getting pinched and he told me that he had been so impressed by what nice people us artists were that he was going to do his best to sell our stuff. I wasn't sure what to make of that and it wasn't what I had asked about.  Note on 15/6/11: I have since realised that Tommy has done his very best by us under the circumstances.

I cannot paint these guys all black without saying that by Wed 8th June the names and prices are still not on the pieces. There is a tendency to expect peoples trust without showing them why they should trust and this is not good practice. Us artists are now trying not to be sceptical but waiting for sales to prove worth which puts the pressure on, perhaps more than it had to be. SM does however have a list of collectors and an amazing selection of art plus a collection of its own.  Note on 15/6/11:  none of these have materialised as yet.

On Sunday I had to leave, it took every ounce of strength I have not to panic and go and fetch all of my work from the gallery. When I got home (after a seven hour journey)and walked past my studio I nearly cried at the thought of my babies down there and me so far away.

Having spoken with Sophie recently I believe things have been resolved and all will pan out OK. The exhibition is on till 16th June and is well worth a visit. It will be manned occasionally by two amazing artists; Jess Suarez and Julius Lewandowski and Sophie will be holding some private viewings if you are particularly interested in any of the artists, email: sophie@sensationmodern.com.

For all that I have said the building itself is a fantastic location and a wonderfully kooky setting for such stunning art. After a year of hard selection the first Sensation Modern Group Exhibition is up and running, albeit with a shaky start. Thank you for visiting and for reading :)

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