Zoo Art Fair 2009

Archives: A review of the 2009 Zoo Art Fair

The weekend roadtrip I hastily put together to see Ant Macari’s installation at Zoo Art Fair was almost doomed from the start by problems of traffic. The A1 from Newcastle to Leeds contained so many roadworks—incidentally without a trace of workforce or plant—that one would be forgiven for thinking that the government had given the sum of its recession stimulus entirely to the cone industry. But I pushed on, suffering for someone else’s art, and arrived at the flat of my Newcastle-emigrant tree surgeon pal in Marlow-on-Thames boggle-eyed and in poor time. He pours whisky as tall as the trees he likes to cut down and so I was somewhat distracted when introduced to the high street the next morning. I was, however, struck by the unashamed parading of good genes by its inhabitants: At home I feel fairly unobjectionable. On the streets of Marlow I felt like I should have been carrying a bell.

The tree surgeon and I car shared into London to avoid colliding with each other on the A40 again, grabbing a mutual friend (a private chef with disposable to blow on artworks) from Paddington on the way to Shoreditch. Ant’s (I’ll skip the formalities: he is my friend) pieces were game-changers, but aside from that Zoo lived up entirely to my expectations: dank building, lighting as poor as the smell, Laurent Perrier champagne bar, gallerists kneeling on the floor pulling unframed drawings from the sort of nylon portfolios carried by A-level students. So much for creating the illusion. Ant had pulled an all-weeker to install his show and wasn’t his usual self as we escaped with him to take in the coinciding Vyner Street openings, so without the usual mutual face-pulling about the work I decided to chiefly review the booze:

—Madder 139 Gallery, 1 Vyner St.

Nessie Stonebridge’s paintings could have been quite interesting, had the gallery supplied us any drinks with which to accompany them. However we all agreed that their running out was off-putting, and so left pretty sharpish.

—Kate MacGarry Gallery, 7A Vyner St.

I met Dr. Lakra, whose new work was presented here, when we had the misfortune of having to stay in the same damp house in Belfast. The work seemed like a backward step to me (his altered film posters from a while back were notable), but then the room was again alcohol-free.

—Artists Anonymous, 32A Viner St.

This gallery finally came up with the goods in a highly original way by charging two pounds for big, cold, perfect bottles of Chang beer. Cleverly capitalising on being the first gallery on the street that could actually supply us with some, the charge was paid eagerly, especially as a percentage of the profits was apparently spent heating the gallery. The chef was so excited that she almost bought a rather nice drawing/collage piece by an artist whose name I can’t remember. It was a half drawing, half tracing paper assembly with a subtle colour wash. Like an old architectural impression but if the building was represented mid-gas explosion.

—Nettie Horn Gallery, 25B Vyner St.

Featured amongst other things was an installation of ten or so sculptures roughly of trees constructed of real bark, real chicken wire and real cable ties. The tree surgeon spotted that one of the trees had different bark to the rest, a detail that made me feel proud to have brought along a tree surgeon. The beer was warm but complimentary, and served by gallerinas of typical sweet earnestness.

—Gooden Gallery, 25A Vine St.

I was initially eager to enter this gallery in order to pet a very handsome dog that was being led around the works. But then I noticed that it contained a trapezoidal painting in a trapezoidal frame and couldn’t bring myself to it.

—FRED Gallery, 45 Vyner St.

The beers were definitely cold as we had to plunge our hands and arms into deep bins of iced water to retrieve them, only to find them to be Carling. How can art galleries be at once so expensive and so cheap?

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13 August 2015

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