GalleriesFairs 18-01-2017

Condo | How London’s new art festival is circumventing the domination of the art fair

Through merging resources and mobilizing a collaborative effort, Condo art festival is repurposing the staid formulations of the contemporary art world. Diffused across London’s urban diaspora from South-East London to central North-West this mutual exhibition involves the convergence of 36 galleries across 15 of London’s hidden creative spaces.

Moving against the commercialism of the contemporary art market, Condo provides an alternative economic framework where each visiting gallery pays a £600 fee to cover basic costs and in return gains all the profit from art sales. The hosting galleries install and supervise the works in exchange for a swelling nexus of artists and galleries. “It's a support to young galleries” says William Jarvis of Peckham’s Sunday Painter “it generates some of the hype usually reserved for art fairs but at a fraction of the cost.”

This innovative construction is becoming increasingly significant when the conventional art market erects financial barriers which marginalize emerging artists from participation. To exhibit at an event like Frieze or Armory, fledgling galleries are forced to pay participation fees of anything from £10,000 to £80,000 and with artworks costing around 1/5 of this figure they are fighting against an unsustainable mathematical formula for growth.


Wojciech Bąkowski @ The Sunday Painter


As well as providing financial support, Condo constructs a sense of community across London’s sprawling postcodes. Whilst in the technological epoch connections are harder to mobilise except through the two-dimensional screen of an IPhone, Condo moves through the physical landscapes of the city. As you follow people through the galleries you become bound together a diverse rhizomatic movement which does not take place in cyberspace but on a physical plane.

There exists with Condo a geographical tension between the locality of the exhibitions as they communicate across London’s concrete expanse and the internationality of the galleries as their diverse cultures converge upon the city. Featuring pieces from Zurich to Shanghai, Oslo to Guatemala City ‘Condo is an opportunity to sample a cross section of emerging to mid-career artists from around the world on show within a single city’ says Jarvis.

Whilst art fairs often segregate works from one another using blockaded compartments, the majority of Condo’s resident galleries employed an integrated curatorial approach in order to mobilize a collaborative dialogue.


Alongside the resident pieces of Emma Hart, condensed on the walls of The Sunday Painter were the works of Adriano Amaral and Daniel de Paula from Jaqueline Martins gallery in São Paulo, New York’s Seventeen gallery brought work by Justin Fitzpatrick and Stereo gallery in Warsaw presented pieces by Wojciech Bąkowski whose slow-paced rhythmic music framed the tone of the exhibition, integrating the artworks into a collective mood.

At The Sunday Painter de Paula was on his knees erecting the remaining sticky plastic lettering from his piece onto the walls. Rather than corrupt the narrative of the exhibition this organisational diversion illustrated the informality which lies at the heart of Condo’s ethos. Once complete, de Paula’s Networks of Power chronicled the economic effects of a speculative electrical blackout occurring on the 07/02/17. The event is analyzed through the context of our physical reliance on industrial mechanisms of production, our insatiable consumption of the material world and the devastating political rupturing provoked by England’s exit from the EU.

Spilling into the space of de Paula’s logical formulas was Emma Hart’s ceramic installations. Manipulating clay in a corporeal manner Hart’s Bad Form portioned off pieces of human flesh and body hair into fluttering pieces of paper. The physical body appeared as a fragmented organism, dismembered by contemporary modes of existence.

The voracious critique of the modern was continued in Fitzpatrick’s paintings where nature appeared colonized by consumerism. Behind his image of a swan there lurked the plasticity of an Evian bottle, whilst in Bąkowski’s self-portraits a codified landscape of geometric shapes chronicled the rabid disconnect of a virtualized mind.

A similar curatorial mode was employed In Arcadia Missa where work by Emma Talbot was submerged into a dialectical framework with the pieces brought along by gallery Oslo VI, VII under the railway arch that houses the gallery. The centre of the space was dominated by Talbot’s large silk structure which was smattered with eerie supernatural images of domesticity. Blood and fire was matched by a dissenting womb and an overstretched brain pumped full of distorted dreams and fantasies.

Also crammed into this shrunken exhibition space were Than Hussein Clark’s ceramic lamps which interweaved earthy tones with clean modernist curves in a mash up of luxurious modes; Eloise Hawser’ holographic canvas’ and Brad Grievson’s mixed-media constructions of oil paint and black tape which provoked a foreboding sense of isolation and burial.

Combining the theatricality of Clark’s lamps with Talbot’s morphing structure, Arcadia Missa became both difficult to navigate. Bodies, art pieces and skin rubbed up together in an intimate fricative embrace which moved against the clinical perfectionism of the art fair.


Emma Talbot @ Arcadia Missa — photo via Instagram @pierrebeucler


By choreographing a space which encourages artistic experimentation Condo has challenged the notion that artists must leach off big commercial institutions in order to survive. As a generation facing debt, increasing cuts within the arts and soaring London rents, Condo provides what may be the only feasible long-term model for small-scale art galleries and artists.


Condo Festival will be on until February 11, 2017.


photo : Emma Hart @ The Sunday Painter Gallery

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