I'm somewhat fed up with the escalating costs of exhibitions at the major galleries in London. Blockbuster shows now command a steep 15 pounds entry fee, and this doesn't always guarantee access to a particularly impressive show. Hadrian at the British Museum was a very expensive disappointment, for example.
The latest example of pricing art back out of the public domain can be found at the National Portrait Gallery, where the Annie Leibovitz photography exhibition, which I would love to see, is 11 pounds! Now I know these shows are not cheap to put on, but American Express, Bridgepoint and Gap are sponsoring already, and surely a reduced price will encourage more to visit, thereby broadening the reach of the art, which is surely one of the goals of the gallery?
So it is in this vein that I have switched tack slightly in where I go for my artistic daily bread. After trawling through the TimeOut online art listings, I collated a list of shows I would like to see, sorted by finish date. Lovingly programmed into a Google Apps list at http://art.samuelcrawley.com/, I now need never miss a show through incompetence (being busy or broke are still valid excuses).
Now, out of this list something interesting emerged - specifically, an awful number of galleries I'd never heard of... Helly Nahmad, Grosvenor Vahedra, Transition, Rollo, Rochelle School, Sprueth Magers, Faggionato, Alexandre Pollazzon... Where on earth were all these places?
Well the answer is that they are all commercial galleries, i.e. places where people go to buy art. They tend to be smaller than the public galleries, and can be somewhat offputting, but they are free, are usually empty (contrast the dreadful packed blockbusters), and in my limited experience are generally staffed by really friendly nice people who are prepared to spend time with you explaining what you are viewing and guiding you very gently (if so required) to opening your wallet and parting with ten grand or so. Which is clearly never going to happen!
If you want a starter for ten on the commercial gallery front, go down to Cork Street, just behind the Royal Academy. Lined with at least a dozen galleries, this place is a treasure trove of every kind of art. The main problem.. most only open weekdays from 10 till 5, but there are exceptions, especially when they are hosting specific exhibitions - check individual websites for details.
So recently here's some of what I've caught recently (some of which I've already blogged about), and I must highlight that visiting the following did not cost me a penny:
Les Années Folles: Paris in the Twenties at Helly Nahmad
Jia Jia Wang, Home, Home Again at Alexandre Pollazzon
Awopbopaloobop at the Transition Gallery
30 Years of Solitude at Asia House
Oleg Vassiliev at Faggionato
Edge of Arabia at Brunel Gallery
Mark Shields - Colloquy Grosvenor Vadehra
Thomas Demand - The Oval Office Sprueth Magers
Cupboard Love 3 Greenwich Foot Tunnel
Tom Wesselmann: 'Journeys into the Landscape' at Bernard Jacobson
Turmoil and Tranquility at the Queen's House, National Maritime Museum
Go enjoy art for free in London! Down with the blockbusters!!