LONDON — For four weeks, eight of London’s youngest galleries are hosting 15 like-minded spaces from around the world as part of CONDO, a collaborative project that’s been proven to be very successful with the public.
The concept behind CONDO is not too far from that of an art fair. The organizer, Vanessa Carlos, also the co-founder and director of Carlos/Ishikawa, got the idea from independent projects that target young galleries, like A Petite Fair, for which dealer Jeanine Hofland hosted a small fair with four galleries in her space in Amsterdam over a weekend in 2012.
Carlos didn’t want to set up another art fair — London has plenty already — but rather to create something truly synergetic on a small, almost domestic, scale.
“I was thinking about the excessive travel/fair circuit, how the pace of conversation in the build-up of an exhibition and the conversation with the audience once the project is complete have been accelerated, how we spend a lot of time looking at blogs and fairs and perhaps not enough in gallery exhibitions,” Carlos told Hyperallergic. “I was also thinking about the financial models that young galleries have inherited, which don’t really make so much sense for us; about the regressive relationship between art fair costs and prices of artworks for young galleries, and how we could propose something that suits our generation better.”
CONDO’s formula is simple: each visiting gallery pays a small fee to cover basic costs, while host galleries share their spaces for a month, taking care of installing and supervising the works.
Carlos approached the majority of the international galleries personally. “Once I had them on board, I then took the idea to the London galleries and asked them to host. Some of the London galleries also suggested a few other galleries they’d love to collaborate with, and we invited them also. Each gallery listed where they’d like to show or which gallery they’d like to host, and we just married them up like that. The only sense I had in my head was that I didn’t want it to be cliquey, and I wanted it to be galleries who are active on the international circuit.”
For the displays, which continue through the middle of this month, some hosting galleries have divided their spaces between current exhibitions and CONDO projects, while others have curated shows around the CONDO artworks. The latter results in unexpected interactions, as in the case of Southard Reid, where sculptures by Lea Cetera live next to graphic wall pieces by Tessa Lynch (represented by Frutta in Rome) and some printed carpets by Bruno Zhu (from Jeanine Hofland, Amsterdam). The works share a set of formal affinities: the cutout quality of Zhu’s carpets seems to echo Lynch’s playful and linear pieces, which engage Cetera’s grills on the walls. The mix-and-match logic behind the setting up of an art fair booth is here replaced by a smarter integration of the artworks, leaving them more open to interaction and interpretation.
“It’s supposed to encourage feasible ways for galleries to exhibit their artists abroad that encourage experimentation,” said Carlos. Showing artworks represented by other galleries does indeed feel experimental.
Turnout on the day of the opening, January 16, was remarkable. Gallerygoers, critics, collectors, and artists responded to CONDO enthusiastically, crowding into all the spaces, and Carlos is now thinking about taking the project to other cities.
We’re long past the days when galleries represented artists exclusively and one gallery could pretend to be disengaged from the work of the others. CONDO strengthens an international network, which is vital to artists, especially young ones; connections and exchanges of opinion offer constant points of comparison that help sharpen critical sensibilities. The young spaces participating in CONDO — which represent some very promising artists — remind us of the importance of authentic collaborative spirit.
CONDO continues at various locations in London through February 13.