To state the obvious, one of the good things about having an art fair stand is the enforced leisure. You really can’t do very much except talk to people. And for us, so far, that has been a real pleasure.
- Florin Ungureanu, Lost Memories, 2011
Yesterday we spent a lot of time in conversation with the artists who have work on the Axis stand. I was intrigued to hear about Florin Ungureanu’s education in Ceauşescu’s Romania, David Webb’s passion for colour, Canadian Trevor Kiernander’s experience of living in London, Will Woon’s interest in Gothic architecture and the propensity of caretakers at the Slade to dispatch anything vaguely resembling scrap material to the rubbish bins, as Sonke Faltien discovered to his cost while doing a BA there.
Two items in the media over the weekend got me thinking about the perennially contentious subject of what the arts are for and whether or not they should be subsidised.
- Jason Gibilaro, Red Flag, 2009
I found myself listening to a programme on Radio 4 about the folk singer Ewan MacColl, whose pioneering role in the revival of British folk music in the 1960s was closely informed by his Marxist beliefs.
MacColl was famously abrasive, dogmatic and hostile to the ‘élitism’ of the arts establishment. But like many of us perhaps, he was also inconsistent in the application of his principles.
An obituary for the artist Adrian Berg stopped me in my tracks the other day, for I’ve loved his paintings ever since seeing a touring exhibition of his work in 1986.
- Leighton Hall, 10 July, 1991 Courtesy Gillian Jason Modern & Contemporary Art
At that time he painted the view from his window over Regent’s Park with all the obsessive, investigative intelligence of his hero Claude Monet, whose ‘series’ paintings of haystacks and cathedrals were Berg’s single most important source of inspiration.
A day spent at Frieze is not exactly (forgive the rhyme) a breeze. It requires a lot of organisation, concentration and stamina – and in our case plenty of pit-stops for coffee and cake. It’s also expensive: £27 this year.
- Victoria Miro, Frieze Art Fair 2011, Photo by Linda Nylind. Courtesy of Linda Nylind/ Frieze
Nearby London Zoo is cheaper and offers just as much entertainment, though the people-spotting at Frieze is a spectator sport that’s every bit as enjoyable as the big cats and penguin pool on the other side of Regent’s Park.
I’m not the first to observe that it’s a strange way to look at art: there’s so much visual clutter and so little information about the art on show. This year many of the exhibitors took the minimalist interpretive approach to a new level, with no labels at all on many stands. I guess you’re just supposed to know what you’re looking at.
- Original AXIS logo
Here at Axis we’re thinking hard about our new visual identity, which we’ll be launching alongside our new web platform in the early part of next year. One of the things we’re also pondering is what we call ourselves.
In general, we’re somewhat dubious about the wisdom of re-brands. Remember Consignia, the disastrous re-branding of our much-loved Royal Mail? We certainly don’t want to go down that route. So, whatever happens, we won’t be calling ourselves something completely different.
- Art in Sheffield
It’s been a busy couple of weeks at Axis, with two new iPhone apps arriving in the iTunes store and websites for Ways of Looking and All Points North going live.
Followers of Axis will know that as well as promoting artists and provoking debate about contemporary art, we also build web platforms and create new digital products. Recently, this has led to some exciting new developments, among them a website and iPhone app for Art in Yorkshire – supported by Tate.
The news last night made me ponder – yet again – how universities are going to make the case for Arts & Humanities degrees under the new fee regime.
Listening to David Willetts insist that universities should give students more information about contact hours and employment prospects (as if they don’t do that kind of thing already), I found myself additionally wondering about the future of our art schools.