Trip to the Zoo
Art dealer extraordinaire David Risley has a pirate-like appearance with his missing front tooth. And his art fair is in a zoo, next to the monkeys.
The little brother of Frieze Art Fair, the overnight success that has made London the place to be ahead of Miami and Basel, Zoo is open to galleries, art organizations and publications on the scene for three years or less. It has quickly become the junior varsity team to Frieze’s state-championship varsity team, the best players moving on to Frieze swiftly.
All of the Zoo galleries are London-based, though, which is a shame, as it would have been nice to see what similar galleries in other places have to offer and to forge connections between young gallerists and artists in different cities. Save for the more polished and savvy galleries, many of these young galleries and gallerists do not have the money to travel to such networking meccas as Art Basel Miami Beach or New York’s Armory Fair. On the flip side of the coin, this could also be viewed as an opportunity for young London galleries to check out the competition and see where they are lacking. For people on the London art scene, to whom the galleries and artists are somewhat familiar, Zoo is still a welcome opportunity to see each gallery’s stable all out prancing together. The more established galleries at Frieze have stronger identities and it is easier to get a feel of them through the media and art magazines; it is harder to get a handle on the Zoo galleries. This is a chance for the galleries to feel one another out in some security, away from the sharks that they will face in coming years.
Yet, it is already painfully obvious who will be the big players. The music industry’s Tot Taylor backs Riflemaker, and their stand is polished and commercial, with their star Jamie Shovlin already showing his wares at Art Basel: Signature and the Tate. Museum 52 has a more subtle array of works and artists, with richer rewards–their John Isaacs sculptures are vulgar and voluptuous in a way that sticks with you. Zoo‘s David Risley’s own gallery shows works that are personal and idiosyncratic.
Only in its third year, Zoo has already spawned a supporting program, with an art prize awarded to the best work on paper, which went to Danica Phelps this year for her June 2005, with its computer byte-like red and green squares. Phelps, who lives and works in New York, documents her daily activities and interactions in her work and shows at Ritter Zamet.
Two works have also been commissioned for on-site placement at the London Zoo, among the animals- Simon Faithfull repopulates the deserted penguin pool at the zoo with drawings of penguins, and Oswald Macia has created a sound piece of animal calls.
A talks programme, portfolio of prints and catalogue rounds out the trappings.
To place the Fair at the London Zoo is a stroke of genius by organizer Risley and ensures that there will always be a cheeky thrill to visiting the Fair, just a short walk from Frieze. There is much room for expansion and we will surely see this in years to come.