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Harry Pye


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Harry Pye’s Postcard from London

Not so long ago my friend Jasper and I put in a proposal for the Zoo Art Fair. We are both represented by The Sartorial Contemporary Art Gallery and we applied to put on a group show that would feature contributions from all the Sartorial artists. This year The Zoo Art fair is taking part at the Royal Academy. It was hard not to get a little bit excited about it because all the famous artists like Turner, Reynoldsand Gainsborough once exhibited at the R.A. The main art fair that takes place this time of year is the Frieze Art Fair which is held in Regent’s Park. Zoo is seen as Frieze’s little brother. All the established artists like Tracey Emin and The Chapmans show at Frieze and then artists represented by galleries who have been around for less than 6 years, show at Zoo. Everyone said they thought the application Jasper and I put together was a safe bet but alas, we got rejected.

A day or so later I got a call from a friend at The Guardian Newspaper saying that the editor there had seen a cartoon strip about Andy Warhol that I had written and that my friend Ed Ward had illustrated. The cartoon was like a children’s board game based on Warhol’s life. The editor like it and wanted to know if we could do another one, this time based on the Frieze Fair. It’s always fun to collaborate with Ed as he’s so good at what he does. And, I guess because I’d just been rejected, I was feeling bitchy and in the mood to make jokes about other artists.

Bob Smith and his piss bar.

Then, I got a call from Jasper Joffe saying he wanted to find a venue to have a Free Art Fair. He explained he wanted good artists to give away their best work for free. His idea was that the work would go to the person who wanted it most - whoever was willing to come on the last day of the show and quee up. It seemed a charming idea so I agreed to donate a new work, help him spread the word and gather more artists. I also gave a painting to Time Out magazine as a free gift. The painting was of Jasper on the cover of Time Out. The editors were delighted and said they’d hang it in their office forever. In the end 25 artists gave work including Rose Gibbs, my art hero Bruce McLean, Jasper’s sister Chantal, Matthew Collings and Stephen Farthing and Stuart Cumberland. The only person who didn’t give actual paintings, ceramics or photography away was Bob & Roberta Smith. Bob is a cheeky chap and so he decided to give away bottles of his urine instead.

At the opening party, which was very well attended with lots of nice and interesting people, Bob Smith told me that he was involved in fundraising for RESONANCE F.M Resonance is a unique radio station, that’s independent and very open to new ideas. Bob was looking for artists to donate works that he could then raffle off at the Frieze Art Fair. I’ve been on Resonance twice and so was happy to make paintings the next morning with my friend Rowland Smith and then take them to Regents Park to give to Bob.

Meanwhile two curators - Zavier Ellis and Simon Rumley asked me if I wanted to be in a show at The Atlantis Gallery in Brick Lane. Their show was called, The Future Can Wait and it featured 50 artists including James Jessop, Stella Vine, Gavin Nolan, Christopher Davies, Tim Parr, Gordon Chung and many others that had previoulsy shown at Sartorial and that Jasper and I had intended to include in our ill faited Zoo show. The opening night for The Future Can Wait show was packed with 100’s of people who had come to see “15,000 square foot of New Contemporay London Art” and enjoy free drinks provided by Stolichnaya Vodka. Although Simon and Zavier looked very relaxed and confident I’m sure putting up so much work must have been enormous hard work. I couldn’t help feeling I’d had a lucky escape.

There are websites for all the fairs I’ve mentioned:
www.thefuturecanwait.com, www.freeartfair.com, www.friezeartfair.com, www.zooartfair.com

I wonder what will happen next year?

However the big event for me this week was meeting my new nephew Albert. My sister Matty gave birth to a very handsome 8 pounder. It was very exciting to see him in the hospital and hold him while he slept. We’re not used to new arrivals in our family so there had been lots of frantic pacing up and down. But it was very much worth the wait and we’re all delighted with the new edition. I hope I’ll be a good uncle!


Harry Pye

is a writer, curator and artist who lives and works in London. See also his stories about the art scenery of London in previous issues of Epifanio. (1/2005, 2/2005, 3/2006, 4/2006, 5/2006, 6/2007) .


Frank Sidebottom, Harry Pye.
Brix Smith and Mark E. Smith, 2007