While Wednesday was the big day in the London art calendar – for me Thursday was always going to be the marathon; Zoo Art Fair, the Hayward Gallery, Stephen Friedman Gallery, Whitechapel Gallery and finishing at an artist’s studio for a party. Much caffeine got me through it.
Having not managed to go to Zoo last year, I headed down to Shoreditch in great excitement to see what the fuss was all about. There were art-whisperings in the air about the change of location for Zoo this year. In 2008, the fair was held at the Royal Academy on Burlington Gardens, opposite the vastly commercial Abercrombie & Fitch – this year you couldn’t get further from their old West end digs. Now located off Shoreditch High Street, walking down a cobbled alley to the entrance I could sense that Zoo is making a point of no longer being the baby of Frieze, but standing out as an established fair in its own right.
Spread out over three disused warehouses, there is none of the disorientated panic that is all too easily found at Frieze. The logic is simple: Zone A: Editions, Zone B: Curated Exhibitions, Zone C: Prize and Award Exhibitions and Stand Presentations. Within two hours I had managed to look round the entire fair and see and appreciate the work on show without feeling I’d rushed through like a tornado. If you haven’t got two hours to spare, then make sure you see the Curated Exhibitions, and visit the Aracade and Riflemaker gallery booths. I would strongly urge you, if you haven’t yet managed to see anything this week – to spend the time you do find at Zoo, in my eyes, Zoo wins.
Next up: a major retrospective of the work of Ed Ruscha at The Hayward. For such an established artist, this exhibition was never going to be poor and so it was no surprise that it was full of his classic works - instantly recognisable as Ruscha. Curated so that one glides through – easy to digest, which was certainly a positive when we only had half an hour to enjoy it.
With a slight change of mindset, we made our way from the calm of the Southbank Centre, to the busy commercial world of the Stephen Friedman Gallery for the new Yinka Shonibare exhibition, Willy Loman: The Rise and Fall. With Shonibare’s hugely successful career, it was to be expected that this exhibition would be a magnet to visitors; the gallery was packed, with even the street taken over by the turnout. The exhibition does not disappoint. The entire front gallery space is painted black, with the photographic work hanging in gilt frames; this exhibition goes beyond the ornate. Shonibare spent the evening signing copies of the Financial Times whilst the flurry of waiters and cameramen scampered round the gallery – all the stops had been pulled out for this opening.
The Whitechapel was next on the list, for the opening of Sophie Calle: Talking to Strangers. By this point I did start to feel spoilt by the amount we had seen so far and the Calle exhibition is a wonder world of work that demands your attention. Showing over twenty years of work, it is rich with photography, text and film – a great find when often exhibitions are all too sparse.
It was at this point that we did make a slight error in judgement, thinking it was best to walk from Whitechapel to the edge of London Fields. Almost an hour later, and we made it to Yinka Shonibare’s studio, feeling the cold and exhaustion with our art marathon finally catching up with us. However, the studio was full of warmth and energy and we soon perked up. Being offered ice cream of either Peach Leaf, or Pumpkin was perhaps slightly eccentric, but I couldn’t help but feel that this was the best place to end our day – having been rushing round all parts of London, we ended it in the East End, the home of much of London’s art scene.