CONDO is a London-wide collaborative exhibition between 24 galleries with an international scope. Eight London gallery spaces in various locations each host a number of external galleries, which together represent the works of over 40 artists. Art film screenings also took place at Genesis Cinema throughout the first week. The project, initiated by Vanessa Carlos, director of Carlos/Ishikawa in east London, attempts to create an alternative model to the Art Fair. Lasting a month, Condo also responds to the current economic climate in mega cities, which have become increasingly stifling for small project spaces and young emerging artists.
Logistically each gallery pays a fee to the host gallery for the opportunity and is then entitled to all money resulting from the sales of the works shown. This sustainable business model proves a win-win for all parties. The financial benefits and possibility of broadening collector bases is an incentive for young commercial spaces. For artists, Condo’s attraction is in increasing social mobility and extending audience and client networks.
Installation view, CONDO: Southard Reid hosting Jeanine Hofland, Amsterdam and Frutta, Rome. Image courtesy Southard Reid.
The diverse sphere of artists allows for richer presentations and the financial incentive enables more experimental approaches to exhibition. Each gallery took on a different curatorial line to display the respective groupings of works. The Sunday Painter, Carlos Ishikawa and Rodeo defined clear spatial distinctions for each hosted gallery and their subsequent artists. However, Arcadia Missa and Southard Reid went for a more integrated methodology. Arcadia Missa hosted Deborah Schamoni and together presented a new series of work by A.L. Steiner and Phoebe Collings-James within a one-room installation resembling a collage form.
Tucked away on Royalty Mews in Soho, central London, is Southard Reid Gallery who provided some standout works by Central Saint Martins graduate Bruno Zhu (b. 1991, Porto, Portugal), Lea Cetera (b. 1983, Brooklyn, New York) and Glasgow School of Art alumni Tessa Lych (b. 1984, Surrey, UK). Zhu’s digital prints delicately handle photography in reference to obscene image manipulation within online popular culture. Cetera works across performance, moving image and sculpture utilising techniques taken from theatre and puppetry. Her work entails a fetishist quality, which examines constructed identities in an increasingly mediated world. Lynch’s work takes on a more sculptural form exploring the emotional and collective relationships to the built environment.
Carlos/Ishikawa’s “Artist’s Clothes Shop” as part of Condo also caught our attention. Various garments-come-art pieces are displayed in a concept store type set up in the entrance of the gallery space. The store comprises unique pieces and editions, which are all for sale at varying prices. Ed Forniele’s has re-worked one of his trademark animal character cartoons into a tailored furry suit (and performance). An embroidered silk jacket by Marie Angeletti is for sale as a unique archive sample, which was made in collaboration with paint factory workers in China. And a one-off screen printed T-shirt by Colombian-born artist Oscar Murillo is also on show.
It is safe to say that Condo has been successful in creating a space with room to “try-out” in an environment of prohibition. The project has contradicted the notion that young art spaces and emerging artists must leach off the institutions that dominate the market in order to survive. Instead they have identified resources already available and put into practice a spirit of sharing. However, it is not to say that this type commemorative collaborative spirit comes along with elements of compromise. Is this bottom-up and lateral approach the future to nurturing, identifying and protecting new artistic talent? Perhaps the participating galleries will reciprocate the generosity of the hosting galleries and we will see this network evolve as a way to support a new generation of artists and gallery spaces. And in the face of increasing cuts in the arts across Britain and the rocketing prices in London, they might not have a choice.
Text by Naomi Ellis
CONDO takes place in various locations across London until 13 February 2016