Frieze is less then a week away with the monster galleries of contemporary art barreling in from around the world to sell, sell, sell. I am excited for its arrival. The spectacle of the contemporary art market is an extraordinary one: a seductive, beautiful and mysterious world. I have dabbled in it occasionally, but I must admit, I often feel like an outsider as I walk the corridors of the fair. It is as if there are secrets that are only revealed to those that are “in”. If I could live more than one life, I would infiltrate this world on my own. But contemporary art is my pleasure, not my business, and as a thirty-something I do not have the luxury to spend my days trolling the art galleries for the next artist to make a splash on the scene or take hours determining which new contemporary museum exhibitions are worth a visit on a Saturday. Fortunately, Fernanda Gilligan and Saara Pritchard have the knowledge and access to the contemporary art world that the rest of us dream about and they are willing to share.
Gilligan and Pritchard have joined forces (one formerly worked in a London art gallery, the other is in the contemporary department of an auction house) to start Artset. The group inducts its members into all levels of the contemporary art world by organizing private gallery openings, cocktail receptions, curator-led walkthroughs of museum exhibitions, artist talks, art film screenings, and studio visits. They also offer art consultancy services for both new and practiced collectors. But Artset is not intended to be a classroom. Gilligan and Pritchard are not only sharing what they know, they bring along with them their bulging addresses books of engaging and interested people from all sectors to create a fun and inspired atmosphere at their events. And on top of that, a portion of the proceeds from Artset’s membership fees gets donated to furthering arts education in the UK.
I had the opportunity to meet with the ladies of Artset about their launch party (which is during the week of the Frieze art fair) and it will not be something you want to miss. They are showcasing the work of Nicole Cohen, an artist who I last saw at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Although I viewed the work at the Getty in 2007 my appreciation and understanding of the artist and her craft is much more secure having chatted with Gilligan and Pritchard. Cohen’s medium is primarily video, which she uses to manipulate notions of time, scale and environment. At the Getty Museum in Please Be Seated, she created a virtual game of musical chairs in the eighteenth-century French decorative arts galleries.
Cohen created all-white versions of the period chairs in the Getty’s collection and placed them in a gallery on their own in front of video-monitors, which show footage shot in France and at the Getty and utilized live video surveillance. The viewer was invited to sit in the chair (one based on a chair formerly owned by Marie Antoinette, no less), step into the installation and the footage itself. Sitting in a reproduction of the Getty’s eighteenth-century chair in Brentwood, the viewer was surrounded by French interiors more than six thousand miles away.
I enjoyed the experience of sitting in the chair back in 2007, but I didn’t realize that I was actually part of the artwork itself until Gilligan explained it to me. She told me that the museum and historic interiors have come to represent fantasies of either a museum curator (as in the case of the Getty) or the original owner (such as Marie Antoinette at Versailles). Cohen in Please Be Seated interjected manipulation and her own artistic vision by filming, fragmenting and mixing the interiors. The viewer, when seated in the chair and projected into the footage of historical settings interposing their own personal response, which in turn completes the work of art.
Artset is not revealing what Cohen plans to exhibit for their launch in London, but I have no doubt it will make a splash, and I am just glad that I will have Gilligan and Pritchard there to explain it all to me. For more information visit www.artsetintl.com