CONTEMPORARY ART MARKET:Magnetic attraction that puts art on a pedestal

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The Independent Online
The Mona Hatoum sculpture showing at the White Cubegallery is a potential killer. A notice warns: "People fitted with pacemakers should not enter the installation space."

The work, priced at £20,000, is a 2m cube of steel, densely packed with powerful magnets, the surface covered with iron filings. The magnets attract and disorientate the filings so they take on the texture of fur.

Hatoum, a Lebanese artist who has lived in London since 1975, is riding a wave of popularity among international curators. This is her first London show since she hit the big time. Last year she had a solo exhibition at the Pompidou Centre in Paris and was included in group shows at the Museum of Modern Art (New York, United States), the Reina Sofia (Madrid, Spain) and the Kroller Muller (Otterlo, the Netherlands). Jay Jopling, who runs White Cube, is her agent.

Hatoum uses performance, video and installation to explore the underside of reality, including impermanence and death. Her work obsessively reflects her identity as a woman and an exile from Lebanon.

Her cube is titled Socle du Monde (Pedestal of the Earth) as a homage to the Italian artist Piero Manzoni who made a cubic sculpture with the same title in 1961. The Manzoni, now in a public park in Denmark, is a steel cube with "Socle du Monde" written on it upside down - implying that it should be seen the other way up, supporting the Earth.

Hatoum has played further with the concept, using her magnets and iron filings to highlight the transitory "unreal" quality of reality. The invisible magnetic field is an important feature of this message.

There are two other Hatoum creations on view. A mirror engraved with the words "You are still here" comes from an edition of 10 and costs £1,500. A wooden box filled with sand that is constantly furrowed by a rotating saw-tooth blade and smoothed by a flat one is titled + and -, is from an edition of 14 and costs £2,000.

Hatoum's work is primarily oriented towards museum exhibitions. The small abstracts by Jeanne Masoero exhibited nearby in the foyer of the Economist building, however, would embellish any modernist interior. Hatoum and Masoero both studied at the Slade and both are originals.

Masoero's abstracts are worked in dots of red and green on white. She builds veils of dots into forms reminiscent of crystal structures or moon landscapes. "There is no such thing as purely abstract art," she said. "I am trying to create forms that are concrete but not figurative."

The paintings range in price from £400 to £2,500; small drawings cost £250.

n The Mona Hatoums are at White Cube, 44 Duke Street, St. James's, London W1, open Friday and Saturday 12-6pm or by appointment. The Jeanne Masoeros are at the Economist, 25 St James's Street, W1, every day this week, 10am to 8pm.

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