There are two Gagosian galleries in London. One in Kings Cross and a newer one in Mayfair. I have been to the Kings Cross one several times (seeing excellent things there including Henry Moore, Rachel Whiteread and Anthony Caro). I have also been to one of the branches in New York where I saw quite a poor exhibition of Bob Dylan’s art (stick to music Bob).
The Mayfair branch is relatively new and until recently I had not been there. However there are two exhibitions I wanted to too see, Richard Serra at Gagosian KX (as I have decided to designate it) and Michael Andrews at Gagosian Mayfair.
Richard Serra is an artist, well an artist I had not heard of until I wondered into the gallery having 45 minutes to kill before meeting a friend for lunch. Massive steel and steel like structures are his things.
There were only actually 5 pieces on display but the Gagosian KX is a good space to display them in. It is large, quite and well lit. It gives these pieces a reverential air and makes it easy to wander round them all meditative from which I think they greatly benefit. How to describe them. One room was two large rectangular steel blocks, about chest height and 8 foot long. Mainly grey they have a subtly textured surface, mottled in flaky red (all photos are from the Gagosian website).
Similarly textured are, in a different room, two circular steel pieces. One is larger than the other, the smaller of which you just see the top if you stand on tip toes. I figure of eighted around them feeling strangely wistful.
In the centre room is a large brown structure. It looks metal but is not, is some kind of cork. It makes a sort of diagonal arch that you can work through in an S shape. The texture of the structure subtly changes as you go.
Michael Andrewshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Andrews_(artist) (now deceased) is very different. Oil painting was his thing. He was a contemporary of Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon. Gagosian Mayfair is located in a back square off Berkley Square. It is an impressive place, consisting of 6 different rooms. All of it was given over to Michael Andrews. I had been recommended to go here by Hugh Mendes and before this recommendation I confess I had never heard of Michael Andrews either. Mainly figurative oilpaintings are his thing.
You are greeted when you arrive by an L shaped painting called the Colony room (I think). It looks rubbish from the door but when you see it again leaving the gallery it looks much better. The works can then be divided into two types. His landscapes (which on the whole I liked) and those featuring people (which on the whole I did not).
There were two groups within the collection I found the most appealing. Near the beginning is a room of paintings of Uluru (Aires rock). Particularly the first of these was very good. He has a good soft focus style and creates this sort of coppery like wash, I suspect using turps, the is effective. The first was the best because it had a good use of colour contrast. I tried to see how he had done the paintings but could not detect any brush strokes.
The other group was fish portraits. Using a green and blue version of the coppery wash and the soft focus he created a very good sense of being underwater and the fish were very well rendered with flashes of iridescent. All of these are quite large, the smallest probably being about a meter square.
Actually the pieces I enjoyed most were small versions, probably studies, of the other pieces and were displayed in the fish room. I found this more intimate and relatable.
There are others, moors with deer on them, an airplane going over a city, a cruise ship at night and several paintings featuring hot air balloons (or their shadows). These did not chime with me as much but I could see that they were good and all the works were commercially viable. This is probably part of the reason he is not as well known as Freud and Bacon. Firstly he doesn’t seem to do people and people like people. Secondly his work is more conservative and in many ways accessible but some of them do lack depth a little. You can’t see these any more as helpfully the exhibition finished on 25th March but Richard Serra is on until 13th April.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.