Out of a conversation at LISTE Art Fair in Basel, a group of galleries decided to join forces and start Condo: an initiative led by Carlos/Ishikawa’s director Vanessa Carlos, through which 32 international galleries come together on London ground. The aforementioned art space along with Supplement, The Sunday Painter, Arcadia Missa, Chewday’s, Rodeo, Southard Reid and Project Native Informant –all based in the British capital –host works represented by 24 other galleries from around the world throughout a month, mimicking an annual project by dutch dealer Jeanine Hofland called A Petite Fair.
Rather than replacing something, Condo is a proposal in order to support the (art) community, promoting younger galleries through the networked London art scene. Its participants, which count with the support of some big institutional names, aim to highlight the fact that it is necessary to support one another in order to survive and succeed in the contemporary art ecosystem.
Like at any art fair, similarities between artists and works are mere coincidences, and while there is no thematic or aesthetic pattern to follow by the participant galleries, some analogies can be drawn.
In an era where humans are more aware than ever of their interdependence with other non-human entities, the relationship with animals seems to have become a focus of attention. Artists Lea Cetera, Phoebe Collings-James and Jala Wahid, or the trio composed of Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian work around these topics, like the projection of humanity onto animals or the metaphors drawn out of their features.
Some of Cetera’s works were left after her solo show at Southard Reid and seamlessly brought together with the works of artists Bruno Zhu and Tessa Lynch for Condo. The artist’s practice turns around the anthropomorphisation of pets and the circulation of domestic animal imagery through the internet. In her installation ‘Mirrored Gourd Triptych’ (2015), a glazed porcelain pumpkin-like vegetable ‘watches’ a three screen TV, while sitting on a fake fur carpet. The edible is a gourd: a sort of calabash often used in asian cuisine that Cetera recurrently includes in her work. The TVs show a series of Youtube videos about people’s pets getting miscellaneous care treatments, as if they were people.
In her installation ‘Just Enough Violence’ (2016) at Arcadia Missa, Collings-James develops an almost mythological imagery out of water-colors depicting cats and horses. They coalesce with A.L. Steiner’s Greatest Hits exhibition: a collection juxtaposed photographs and videos of pop culture figures, such as Madonna or Boychild. Here, animal and human bodies merge and colonise the gallery walls and windows.
AtThe Sunday Painter, Jala Wahid’s ‘Soft Weaponry III’ (2016) looks like two plaster bird talons coming out of the wall, near ‘Coco’: a sculpture shaped like two livers on top of a rosewater glycerin pedestal. The artist’s works are surrounded by an arte povera-looking landscape consisting of pieces by Rob Chavasse, Ana Mazzei and Debora Bolsoni.
At Rodeo, Iranian born artists Ramin and Rokni Haerizadeh, along with Rahmanian, present But a storm is blowing from paradise (2014-15), a series watercolours and collages, where identity is erased and eventually transformed into rabbits and other animals. It’s these crafty and DIY practices that seem to have taken over more sovereign formats and immaculate presentations. Small-scale works on fragile paper nailed on walls, or pieces of ceramics spread out over the place repeatedly emerge, whether it’s in Laura Aldridge’s coloured brick wall at The Sunday Painter, Cetera’s take away coffee pot tops at Southard Reid or in Ulrike Müller’s square painted tiles hung on the Rodeo wall. Multiple layers of watery pigment and more experimental materials such as dye, enamel or DIY jewellery take over the surface of Tom Humphreys’ ‘untitled’ (2015), Jeanette Mundt‘s painting series ‘Me as Patricia Arquette As the Femme Fatale’ (2015), Josh Kolbo‘s constructed photographs and Nicholas Cheveldave’s multilayered works, covered by friendship bracelet webs.
Meanwhile, Carlos/Ishikawa literally cut the space in three parts, in order to host its representative galleries: Essex Street, Matthew and Freymond Gruth. They reserve the hall for a sort of pop-up store where they sell “artists clothes”. Among other great commissions, including Puppies Puppies, Darja Bajagic and Stewart Middleton –Ed Fornieles’ virtual alter ego of a humanised cartoon fox wrapped by contemporary anxiety is brought to the physical world in the form of a disguise.
According to an interview with Vanessa Carlos, the art world is “a microcosm of the world at large”. That’s why she hopes the Condo initiative will be taken as a model by other cities and countries in promoting collaborative work that is beneficial to the art community and the people working within it. **
Exhibition photos, top right.