Time for cocktails at the cutting edge of art

Contemporary Art Market: Geraldine Norman discovers two exclusive worlds colliding head-on at a London nightspot

Geraldine Norman
Sunday 25 June 1995 23:02

Stringfellows, the London nightspot in St Martin's Lane favoured by the super-rich, is currently doubling as a work of art. Two young artists, Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane, have talked the club's owner Peter Stringfellow - a blond raver who sprang to prominence in the Sixties - into a collaboration. They have mounted photographs behind short velvet curtains on the mirrored walls of the club which are scheduled to remain there until 15 July unless they get knocked down by a drunken carouser.

The colour photographs depict Deller, Kane and Stringfellow exploring each other's pleasures during a single afternoon outing. They visit a degree show at St. Martin's, the local art school, drink beer in a pub, lunch off oysters and champagne, row across the Serpentine and dig a discarded sandwich out of a litter bin in order to feed it to the ducks. The photos, each in an edition of five, are for sale at pounds 100 each.

But the real art work is the linkage of two mutually exclusive worlds, cutting-edge contemporary art and celebrity night life. The photos are just props. "We could have put anything behind the curtains, really," says Deller. Stringfellow, who is listed as one of the three exhibiting artists in all ads for the show, is one of the few people who have grasped what it is all about.

A girl asked him last week: "Why have you got your photo behind those curtains downstairs?" and he replied: "It's conceptual art, dear." The concept is lifting contemporary art out of its gallery environment and putting it in a night club. Packs of "chat-up lines" invented by Della and printed on business cards are available from behind the bar - free.

In a similar spirit, the Cabinet Gallery in Brixton has hung its latest show in the pub across the road - the Prince Albert in Coldharbour Lane. It is devoted to charcoal drawings by the young American artist Elizabeth Peyton. The bar prints - pussycats, flowers, hunting scenes - have been removed from their frames and Peyton's drawings substituted. Peyton, like Warhol before her, is hooked on the concept of celebrity.

Her very competent drawings are mostly intimate reworkings of photographs: John McEnroe in 1981, Marie Antoinette choosing her clothes, Princess Elizabeth and Cecil Beaton, Rupert Brooke, Marlon Brandon as Napoleon ... They are priced between pounds 650 and pounds 800 (excluding the frame, which still belongs to the pub).

But Peyton's consuming interest is the late Kurt Cobain, leader of the pop group Nirvana - the hero-icon of the slacker generation and grunge personified - who committed suicide last year.

There are two drawings of him in the show and a slim artists' book is available behind the bar priced at pounds 2. It comprises 15 stills from a video in the course of which Cobain articulates a single word into a microphone and turns his head.

The book is published by Imprint 93, an independent press publishing artists' books run by Matthew Higgs. He photocopies them in his spare time and sends them out free to people he thinks "are doing something interesting and won't throw them in the bin". Anyone else who is interested has to pay pounds 2.

A show of works by all 23 artists who have made books in the Imprint series - including Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane, as well as Peyton - opened at City Racing in Vauxhall Street, London SE11, yesterday.

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