A s a freelance journalist, I spend far too much time
ensconced in my festering paper mountain of an office, tapping away on subjects as vital to the world as the size 00 ‘debate’ and the imminent reunion of The Police. It’s always nice to get out, so a visit to the opening of ArtFutures was very welcome. An annual show curated by the fantastic Contemporary Art Society, and staged at Bloomberg, ArtFutures is packed full of buyme-now pieces by artists who are poised to be something big. The idea is that the work displayed is affordable and portable, so you can snap it up and whisk it away to show to your accountant. ArtFutures is a big art shop. Early-evening Wednesday, there was a vast and dazzling selection of work. And a vast (the men) and dazzling (their wives) selection of buyers. Art attracts such cash! Much more so than fashion, and far more than pop music. The Brit Awards are populated by corporate lawyers and money-men (it’s almost impossible to find your mates, your eyes are so blinded by hi-gleam bald pates); yet they are but sad pauper mice compared to the big gold-plated gorillas of the art world.
Ionce went to a party held in a west London townhouse in honour of Gillian Wearing. The place was so swanky I thought it was a restaurant. When we reached the swimming pool in the basement, the owner blithely informed me that she’d told her husband that the only way she’d consider a move to London from Hong Kong was if they had an ensuite pool. ‘I couldn’t survive in the city without it,’ she announced, and we all made murmuring noises as though we quite understood, and hadn’t ever dismissed a £70-amonth gym membership as far too pricey. Anyway, at ArtFutures, there was a reassuring amount of big-bottomed bankers and their New York-slim wives. Mostly they were snapping up Karen Knorr’s stately photographs of Louis XIV interiors studded with wild animals. But I was heartened to hear that Ruth Claxton, whom I nominated for inclusion, had sold almost all her work in a matter of hours! I felt very proud, as though I were her mum, even though we’ve never met.
Not to be shallow, but what has happened to TopShop.com? It used to be my favourite way to spend an evening in (wine plus internet shopping equals lovely, if slightly unexpected, clothes parcel in just a few days’ time). Now, by the time you open your check-this-out email, all the best stuff is Out on Friday night in east London: a spot more art (I’m one of the judges of this year’s Turner Prize, which means a lot of popping into shows before going on to something else), and then a meal with a friend. We both got gently hammered, but were shown up as pathetic lightweights by the other diners, particularly a Russian chap who deserted his meal to twirl in the aisles with his lady friend. The soundtrack was the 1980s pop that’s the Muzak of choice everywhere these days. Out in the street, everyone was even drunker and more hilarious. A Hoxton night out is a riotous affair. On the way home, my taxi-driver told me he once took a woman to Watford, but she was so drunk she fell asleep before they got there. He didn’t have the exact address and couldn’t shake her awake for fear of being accused of assault. He had to flag down a policewoman to help, who just yanked the girl on to the pavement, swiped the money from her purse for the cabbie, told her off and sent her on her way. I can’t decide if this is a good or bad approach to community policing.
On Saturday afternoon at the ICA, I chaired what Mrs Merton used to call a mass debate, as part of the Birds Eye View Film Festival. The subject was pop videos, and the panel was mostly made up of female directors, as was the audience. We opened with 40 minutes’ worth of promos. One particular favourite was by Aleksandra Demonovich, to Jamie Lidell’s ‘New Me’. Check it out on YouTube: it’s brilliant. Dawn Shadforth, queen of the pop video scene (she did Kylie’s ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’), was meant to be on the panel, but she didn’t show. Apparently, she never does. Perhaps she’s really a bloke.
Listened to Broadcasting House on Sunday morning, which discussed whether calling someone ‘ginger’ was an insult equivalent to a racist slur of a black person. I don’t think it is, but as most redhaired people in Britain are of Celtic descent, and given ye olde English attitude towards the Irish, somewhere deep within the bullying of red-haired people there is perhaps an unacknowledged racial element.
Dim sum at the Royal China Garden on Westferry Road in Docklands is a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon, but my small son can’t cope with sitting still for longer than half an hour. Once the prawn crackers started flying, we left and went for a wind-whipped walk. Canary Wharf is amazing on a sunny weekend: glitzy, foodie, pedestrian-friendly. If you scrunch your eyes up and ignore the pollution in the Thames, it’s like ambling around the marina at Barcelona. Of course, when it’s raining, it’s like being chased through the old council estates of Hulme, but that’s cutting-edge architecture for you.