Thursday, 1 March 2012

A pop-up invite and a very posh dinner.

It started with a pop-up invitation the likes of which I'll probably never receive again.

Actually, it started a couple of weeks before that, when we interviewed the Scandinavian duo Elmgreen & Dragset for a film for the website. Thanks to a confluence of art world activities, all sponsored by the same luxury fashion brand (one of them: my job; another one of them: the Fourth Plinth Commission) I found myself in Trafalgar Square nearly a week ago exactly to witness the unveiling of Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset's newest work for the square, Powerless Structures, Fig.101.

This in and of itself isn't so special - there were camera crews, art critics, oddly dressed leftovers from London Fashion Week, a baby in a bear suit, council workers, security guards, Grayson Perry, school groups and bewildered tourists there as well. Not all of them cognisant to this once-every-18-months-art-world-moment.

On the ground and in the air everyone tried to get their photo

I was there with a work experience student shadowing a filmmaker making a film about the event while working with another filmmaker making a film about the filmmaker making that film. Follow?...

The sun was uncharacteristically generous that morning, Joanna Lumley was characteristically fabulous as she unveiled the work ("I've been asked to unveil buildings before, unveil things in Welsh, even unveil a mountain - but never before a sculpture!") And witnessing the building surge from quiet, empty square to media scrum then watching it all dissolve into what is just the everyday chaos of Trafalgar Square was just as exhilarating as seeing the bronzed boy on his rocking horse emerge from under the covers. Upon which the fountains in the square came to life. I think that last detail was entirely coincidental but I can't be sure.

Michael Elmgreen, Joanna Lumley, Ingar Dragset
Which brings me to the pop-up invitation. As is the way in the art world, a significant occasion means a champagne baptism. And so it was that a colleague and I found ourselves invited to a dinner in honour of Michael and Ingar. A dinner at the National Gallery no less. Or should I say in the National Gallery, like, right there next to the paintings. Despite a momentary adolescent-esque sook about the fact they hadn't seated us together and so, god forbid, we'd have to talk to other people, the night was incredible. I was about to say they could have served us jerk chicken buffet-style and it still would have been breathtaking thanks to the location but then I thought about it and realised, actually, no.

Long banquet tables, flickering candles, insouciant bunches of grapes for decoration, stemware that said matching wines.... all set amongst a collection of extraordinary paintings older than white Australia... well, it was all part of the total seduction. And an evening full of the kind of sparkling conversation that can only come after two glass of sparkling wine on a stomach of small starter canapes.

My colleague was seated next to Ingar's Norwegian relatives. I was sitting next to their Japanese gallerist and across the table from the sales director of their London gallery. Given the commercial nature of my dining comrades it's hardly surprising that the art fair was a prolonged topic of conversation. Having only been to Frieze once in my life I didn't have much to offer by way of insight or experience but what I did say was that going to Frieze for the first time last year and being overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of art on display was what I imagined taking LSD and being slapped in the face felt like. Putting my MA in Contemporary Art to good use as ever....

I'm reasonably confident it passed as charming.....

Michael and Ingar say their thanks
It wasn't a late night. The gallery were pretty officious at kicking everyone out at 11pm but after three courses, a lot of delicious wine, some fabulous "art world" people spotting and a lot of pithy conversation I was happy to head home, back through Trafalgar Square reeling somewhat giddily from the beautiful enormity of The Moment. It was part an "I've really made it" moment, the likes of which I first aspired to when I left for London with dreams of "making it" in the art world (whatever that means - I still don't know) but it was also just part "Oh my fucking god that was so impossibly COOL that I just got to eat a banquet dinner in the National Gallery thanks to a boy on a rocking horse."


1 comment:

tori said...

insouciant grapes. Yet another reason to love the way you write.... xx