Contemporary Art Market: Modern feast of words, walls and light bulbs: Galleries' open weekend aims to give a clear view of the state of their art

Click to follow
The Independent Online
ANYONE looking for a feast of contemporary art should make their way to Cork Street, Mayfair, next weekend where the galleries are mounting an open weekend of exhibitions, from 10am to 7pm on Saturday and 11am to 6pm on Sunday. The diet this year is more conservative than last: there is more realist painting and more classic modern, but the cutting edge is also represented.

You will find Michael Craig-Martin's wall paintings at Waddington's - Craig-Martin, now a trustee of the Tate, used to teach at Goldsmith's, where he nurtured the kind of way-out art that wins the Turner Prize. He has painted 11 walls with different, bright colours and added a household item, such as a television or light bulb, in one corner of each. To have his wall repeated in your home costs pounds 8,000.

Across the road, Victoria Miro, a devotedly conceptualist gallery, will be showing words painted on canvas with sign paint by Kay Rosen while the Mayor Gallery salutes the 1970s avant-garde 'Land, Body and Narrative Art' movements.

Cork Street's second open weekend underlines the struggle contemporary art galleries face in the recession. Since last year the Cooling Gallery has closed down - its stock was dispersed at a Bonham's auction 10 days ago - while the Richmond Gallery, which belongs to Aspreys, will close on 30 November. William Jackson has given up his gallery at number 28 and moved to cheaper premises around the corner; he owns an 18-year lease on 28 Cork Street and is covering overheads by arranging short lets for temporary exhibitions.

Jackson has let the gallery for two-and-a-half months to David Messum, a startlingly clever operator. Messum's previous gallery in George Street, opposite Sotheby's back door, went into receivership in August 1992. The receiver tried selling off his stock at Phillips with such dismal results that Messum has managed to get it back to sell himself. He is using Jackson's old gallery until the new year when he moves into the Richmond Gallery's premises.

The newcomers to Cork Street are offering more conservative, figurative art than the dealers they are replacing. Messum is showing impressionistic nudes and interiors by Rose Hilton - Roger Hilton's widow - priced between pounds 850 and pounds 4,850. The Beaux Arts Gallery, which arrived from Bath two months ago, is showing Michael Taylor, who won first prize at the 1983 Player Portrait Award. The Cooling Gallery premises have been taken over by the Osborne Studio Gallery which shows contemporary sporting art.

Meanwhile, the Waddington presence in Cork Street is expanding once again - and getting more conservative. Leslie Waddington has moved Waddington Graphics to 31 Cork Street and closed his Clifford Street gallery - an economy dictated by the reduced demand for modern prints. His brother, Theo Waddington, has opened a first-floor gallery at 33 Cork Street. His opening exhibition is a tribute to Victor Waddington, their father, who started the family in the art-dealing business with a successful gallery in Dublin.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments