Urban Masters pop-up exhibition at Factory 7, Shoreditch

Until 18th November there is a fabulous pop-up exhibition called Urban Masters at Factory 7 in Shoreditch (13 Hearn Street, EC2A 3LS). The exhibition, organised by The Opera Gallery, showcases street and urban art by some of the greats, including Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Blek le Rat, C215, Sweet Toof, ROA and Ron English, to name just a few of the 33 artists involved. Urban Masters attempts to capture the feelings and experience of the artists who were invited to give their personal interpretation on the marks left by art history-makers. Proceeds from the show’s catalogue go to Anti-Slavery International, the world’s oldest human rights organisation.

Here are some of my favourite pieces in the exhibition:

C215

C215

Rone

Rone

Zeus

Zeus

Banksy

Banksy

Rone

Rone

Blek le Rat

Blek le Rat

Nick Gentry

Nick Gentry

Nick Gentry

Nick Gentry

GRIS1/DMV

GRIS1/DMV

Shepard Fairey

Shepard Fairey

C215

C215

Joe Black

Joe Black

Here’s a video of the exhibition’s installation and opening night:

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Paul DON Smith @ Graffik Gallery

Despite my general dislike of exhibitions of street art in galleries, I’m always curious to see if it can work and was quite excited to hear that Paul DON Smith had an upcoming exhibition. I’ve been a fan of DON’s work for a long time now, and walked to the gallery yesterday with my fingers crossed, hoping he wasn’t going to let me down.

Graffik Gallery

I needn’t have worried. Although DON’s work on the streets often works because of the location or surface, his art work is actually perfect for the gallery too. DON paints the most outstanding portraits, and his work really is the kind of art I would want to buy and hang on my walls.

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON’s famous ‘Banker’ image was also in abundance in the gallery…

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON @ Graffik Gallery

As well as DON’s usual portraits, there was also a series of star sign themed pieces, with small lights inserted in them:

DON @ Graffik Gallery

I prefer his portraits but I can see how these pieces could be popular.

The centrepiece of the exhibition was this curious cupboard which I just couldn’t stop peering in…

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON @ Graffik Gallery

DON @ Graffik Gallery

I’m not quite sure what the meaning of this piece was, and felt a little self-conscious in the tiny gallery staring into it on my own, but I loved looking at it. I wonder if this is what it looks like inside DON’s head…

My only criticism of the exhibition would be that there wasn’t enough space. I’d love to see DON’s work spread out a little more in a slightly bigger space, like perhaps the Pure Evil gallery or Stolen Space. But other than that – wonderful! DON is one of the hardest working street artists I know of, and he never disappoints.

DON’s solo show at the Graffik Gallery is open for another week – check it out while you can! For more information please visit graffikgallery.com and pauldonsmith.com.


Exhibition: Pablo Delgado at Pure Evil Gallery

Every time I’ve come across a piece of Pablo Delgado’s art on the streets I’ve felt excited, because it’s like discovering secrets. His work is tiny, and so easy to miss, which is such a contrast to a lot of street art which seems to be about being bigger and better than the last piece. When I heard that Pablo Delgado was going to be having an exhibition at the Pure Evil Gallery on Leonard Street I wasn’t sure if it would work. I like his art because I have to discover it, so I wondered if having it presented to me in a gallery would take away some of the magic.

I needn’t have worried.

Pablo Delgado’s exhibition is wonderful. In the ground level part of the gallery the work is nicely presented and fun to look at – I love these monkeys:

Pablo Delgado

And the display in the window is pretty cool:

Pablo Delgado

There are cardboard boxes scattered around the exhibition – make sure you look inside them!

Pablo Delgado

But it’s not until you step downstairs into the basement that the fun really begins.

Pablo Delgado

It’s like stepping into a magical world where little people really exist, and they’re everywhere.

Pablo Delgado

Pablo Delgado

A lot of the work retains the feeling of being on the streets, but there are also pieces in different styles, which work perfectly in a gallery. Like these people in vases of water:

Pablo Delgado

Pablo Delgado

And these wonderful reflection pieces:

Pablo Delgado

Pablo Delgado

I was quite fascinated by this dark room containing people in illuminated jars, too:

Pablo Delgado

Pablo Delgado

Delgado has used the gallery space really well, playing to the rough, urban style of the small space and its exposed brickwork. This isn’t an exhibition that would necessarily work in a big, shiny gallery like the Tate Modern, but it seems perfect for the space it’s in.

Pablo Delgado

Pablo Delgado is at Pure Evil Gallery, 108 Leonard Street, London EC2A 4XS until 28th October. For more information visit: pureevilclothing.com. It’s so good, I might go back for seconds…


Exhibition: Ross Watson @ The Gallery, London

The big bonus of working in Shoreditch is that I get to pop out to exhibitions in my lunch break. Today I visited The Gallery at 50 Redchurch Street to see the new Ross Watson exhibition.

I have to confess, the main reason I wanted to visit this exhibition was to see one picture – the crowning glory of the exhibition:

Ross Watson

Stephen Fry (after Vermeer, 1670)

The wonderful Stephen Fry is, of course, the star of this picture. The ‘King of Twitter‘ (with 4,822,845 followers at the time of writing), sits clutching his iPad with an intriguing expression on his face. Has he been interrupted while composing a Tweet? Or is he thinking about the scene behind him, in which a young girl receives a letter she most probably had to wait weeks for. In this spectacular picture, Watson makes a comment on today’s technology, and the way in which we are now communicating. Fry, in his eyes alone, adds his own thoughts.

If this had been the only good picture in the exhibition I wouldn’t have minded but, as it turned out, they were all absolutely gorgeous! Here’s a selection:

Ross Watson

Untitled 18/09 (after van Ruisdael, 1670)

Ross Watson

Untitled 19/09 (after Caravaggio, 1596; featuring Marco Da Silva)

Ross Watson

Ross Watson

Untitled 04/11

Ross Watson

Untitled #05/11

I do heartily recommend checking out the exhibition for yourself though, if you’re in the area, as the pictures look even better in real life.

Ross Watson was born in Brisbane, Australia in 1962. He has exhibited in many solo and group exhibitions since 1984, including important surveys of Australian and international contemporary art at the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, and in the Toronto and Melbourne International Art Fairs.

Ross Watson’s exhibition, which is in aid of the Terrence Higgins Trust, is open until 7th October 2012, 11am – 7pm (closed Monday). For more about the artist, please visit: www.rosswatson.com.

Ross Watson

The artist, Ross Watson, who kindly let me waffle at him about how much I liked his work. Thank you.


Brainwashed in London

Although I had the chance to check out Mr Brainwash‘s London show on Wednesday night, the official opening wasn’t until today. I heard on Saturday that the exhibition was opening at 2pm today, and that the first 250 people would receive signed prints. When I went on Wednesday, people didn’t start queuing until about an hour before, so this morning I got up and spent a lazy morning, thinking I would aim to get down to New Oxford Street at about 1pm. However… I was browsing Facebook while having my breakfast, when I noticed a picture on Mr Brainwash’s Facebook page showing that people were already lining up! It was only 9.40am…

I hesitated, but then figured I didn’t want to miss my chance and decided to get moving. I got to New Oxford Street at about 11.30 – two and a half hours before the doors were due to open.

Mr Brainwash

The Old Sorting Office, New Oxford Street

As I was leaving my house there was an almighty clap of thunder and it started to pour down. By the time I got to New Oxford Street it was raining really heavily and the weather was quite grim. I couldn’t believe people would really be waiting outside the Old Sorting Office in that weather, but they were, and they went right round the building! I followed the queue round and finally found the end, where I waited patiently, read, and chatted with the girls in front of me.

Just before 2pm Mr Brainwash came round to check out the queue:

Mr Brainwash

Mr Brainwash

He then Tweeted that there were at least 1,000 people in the queue!

I had no idea if I was in the first 250 or not, but people kept counting and saying 182, 210, 266… It seemed like the number of people in front of us was going up, and I really hoped the waiting was going to pay off.

Finally, at about 3.20pm, I got in… and I was number 237! Each person got given a Mr Brainwash spray can, which they could later exchange for a print (once Mr Brainwash had finished signing them all!).

Mr Brainwash

Mr Brainwash

I absolutely LOVE my print, and it was well worth waiting about four hours for! People are already selling them on ebay, but mine’s not going anywhere.

There were more pieces on display today than there were on Wednesday night, and the lighting was a bit better so I took a couple of hundred photos in the end. I don’t care what anyone says – I love Mr Brainwash’s work! Here are my top ten pieces, in no particular order:

Mr Brainwash

David Bowie

Mr Brainwash

David Bowie

Mr Brainwash

Starbucks spray can

Mr Brainwash

Salvador Dali meets McDonald’s

Mr Brainwash

Follow your dreams…

Mr Brainwash

Mr Brainwash’s Banksy

Mr Brainwash

Art for Dummies – a take on Banksy’s famous ‘man throwing flowers’

Mr Brainwash

Life-size London taxi souvenier

Mr Brainwash

This is a clever twist on a classic painting by Edward Hopper (thanks ypldn for reminding me of the artist’s name!)

Mr Brainwash

Mural

Mr Brainwash was around the whole time, signing posters and postcards (and pretty much anything you put in front of him), but I just couldn’t bear to queue any more.

Mr Brainwash

Mr Brainwash

I hadn’t eaten, and they’d taken my water off me at the door (they also asked if I had any pens in my bag when I was searched at the door, but luckily they didn’t spot the ones I had stashed at the bottom – hey, I’m a writer!), so after a good look around I decided to call it a day. I think I’ll go back for another round when it’s a bit quieter though, as the exhibition is on until the end of August. You can see my photos from today here, and photos from Wednesday night here.

For more information about Mr Brainwash and his London exhibition, please visit: www.mrbrainwash.com.


Rave Art: Mr Brainwash & David Guetta know how to party

If Andy Warhol is the king of pop art, I’d like to declare Mr Brainwash the king of ‘rave art’. I know this will be an unpopular opinion, but I really like what Mr Brainwash is doing, and his new exhibition at the Old Sorting Office in London is unmissable.

I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the opening night of the show – a collaborative event by Mr Brainwash and musician David Guetta. I had no idea what to expect. Was it going to be an exhibition and a simple private view with a bit of music in the background as I wandered around with a free glass of wine? Or was it going to be a full-on rave in a warehouse?

I’m still not sure what it was but, whatever it was, it was incredible (and my ears took a whole day to recover).

The entire ground floor was filled with huge Mr Brainwash artworks, ranging from “life-size” Star Wars figures made out of tyres to huge spray cans that looked like Campbell’s soup.

May the art be with you

Tomato Spray

As I entered the exhibition when the doors opened at 8pm, the first striking piece was a massive set of Olympic rings, made out of paint cans and stuck on the wall. Standing by the rings were men dressed up as members of the Queen’s Guard, and further along were more people dressed as Stormtroopers. Everyone was clutching Burn energy drinks, and judging by the dancing I saw from one of the soldiers later on, I expect they had quite a few! (The event was supported by Burn.)

Olympic Rings

Soldier

Stormtrooper

Club music was playing, and before long the DJ switched and Nicky Romero came on. People started to pay attention to the stage, but everyone was clearly waiting for Mr Brainwash’s co-star for the night, David Guetta, to take his place.

Nicky Romero

Nicky Romero

It was after 9pm when David Guetta came on – I lost track of time a bit actually, and it might have even been closer to 10pm – but he played right through until after midnight, when the event was supposed to end, playing just one more, and just one more – the crowd was relentless, and even I (not used to clubbing or staying out past 11pm) could have kept going.

David Guetta

David Guetta

Having been born at the beginning of the 1980s I was too young to appreciate ’80s pop and still slightly too young for the early ’90s rave scene. Instead I got stuck with the late ’90s and early 2000s – not the best period of music history. If I could choose to be 18 at a different time, I would almost definitely go for 1992 – the heart of the rave scene. On Wednesday night I felt I had come the closest to attending a real rave that I probably ever would. Even though the event was all aboveboard and commercially sponsored, I couldn’t help getting a rush of excitement and imaging I was doing something really underground. Not everyone got in – I heard there were around 1,700 people waiting to get in around 9pm and they were operating a one-in-one-out door policy – and I felt like I had been chosen to take part in something really special.

David Guetta, The Queen, Prince Philip & Mr Brainwash!

The whole event was filmed for David Guetta’s latest music video which I’ll be keeping an eye out for. I’m not sure when it will be released, but I do hope I might catch a glimpse of myself and my friends (we were at the front all night). Mr Brainwash was, of course, also filming and taking a lot of photographs. I actually saw him on the street before the event and took my picture with him.

Me & Mr Brainwash

Me & Mr Brainwash

I get irritated when people so easily dismiss Mr Brainwash’s work and say it’s rubbish. Often, the reasoning is based on the fact that he doesn’t produce a lot of the work himself (he has an army of people who do all the actual design and making – he’s just the ideas man), but I could name a lot of other artists who have teams working with them in the exact same way he does – Andy Warhol certainly did. The other thing people always say is that his work shows no originality, and that his ideas are clichéd, but that doesn’t bother me. His work is a bit clichéd I guess, but I like his messages – “life is beautiful”, “follow your dreams” and “you’re never too young to dream big”.

You're never too young to dream big...

For me, right now, this art is relevant. Mr Brainwash is telling us not to take our lives so seriously and to have a bit of fun while pursuing our dreams – what’s wrong with that? As for his images of famous people, such as the massive Kate Moss picture on the side of the Old Sorting Office , what’s not to like:

Mr Brainwash on the corner of New Oxford Street and Museum Street, London

Or a bit of David Bowie:

David Bowie

Or Obama dressed as Superman:

Superman Obama

Mr Brainwash’s work may not be the most original or groundbreaking art of all time, but it certainly gets your attention, if only due to the enormous scale of many of the pieces.

Mr Brainwash - David Guetta

This Artlyst review is worth a read, calling Mr Brainwash’s work “so bad it’s good” and “kitsch multiplied by twenty”. Whatever you think of Mr Brainwash and his art, I think you’d be a fool to miss this much-hyped exhibition, open from 5th – 31st August at the Old Sorting Office,  21-31 New Oxford Street, London WC1 (you can’t miss it – the whole outside of the building is covered in his work!)

Life is Beautiful

And, when you’re feeling cynical and judgemental about what Mr Brainwash is doing, just try to keep one phrase in mind: life is beautiful…

Elephant heart


From graffiti to gallery… Part 2

I recently wrote a post about how I wasn’t convinced that street artists ought to exhibit their work in galleries. I’m still not entirely convinced, but I saw an exhibition today which helped me to see that it can work for certain artists. The exhibition I went to see was The Mr Brainwash Summer Show – a pop-up exhibition at the Opera Gallery on New Bond Street, London.

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Mr Brainwash, real name Thierry Guetta, is the kind of artist that people either love or hate. There are a lot of negative thoughts out there about him and his work, but personally I’m becoming quite a fan. The first Mr Brainwash pieces I saw “in the flesh” were his recent pieces on the corner of New Oxford Street and Museum Street in London (here & here). These murals are huge, and at the time I couldn’t have imagined seeing them in a gallery, but somehow it works. I think Mr Brainwash’s work is very accessible, and quite commercial. Much like Banksy’s work, Mr Brainwash’s work is suitable for posters, postcards and other items one might buy in a gift shop. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, although I know some people would see it as a negative. But I think it’s this commercial aspect that makes Mr Brainwash’s paintings (and sculptures) work so well in the gallery space. Some artists work well in the wild – I think Mr Brainwash works better here in the gallery…

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Mr Brainwash Summer Show at the Opera Gallery, London

Here’s some more about the artist, from the Opera Gallery:

Thierry’s love of art and film led him to follow the lives of some of the most prolific street artists of our time as he made it his mission to shadow, record and question those who dominated the streets. This led to an unexpected collaboration; the elusive Banksy utilised Thierry’s street art footage and eventually turned the camera on the only man who had ever filmed him.

Their collaboration resulted in a remarkable documentary coined as part personal journey and part exposé of the art world with its mind-altering mix of hot air and hype.

Now an artist in his own right – his very alias ‘Brainwash’ suggesting a tongue-in-cheek jibe at the street-art world he has seemingly so easily and successfully infiltrated and mastered, Thierry has adopted a pop-art style which is now coveted world over.

Approached by Madonna to create the cover for her greatest hits album, Celebration, Thierry then went on to be commissioned by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers to direct the campaign for their latest album. Future collaborations are tipped to be none other than Justin Bieber! And with Kate Moss, The Beatles and Queen Elizabeth amongst his loyal subjects, it seems that the UK has offered Mr Brainwash some of his greatest muses to date.

Personally, I would like to own art like this. What do you think?