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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

The new way to exhibit: ArtCircle's pop-up art concept

ArtCircle is staging pop-up museum standard shows assembled by superstar curators in the fleshpots of Mayfair

Herman de Vries, V71-122 (1971) Courtesy ArtCircle
Herman de Vries, V71-122 (1971) Courtesy ArtCircle

You have to be rich to buy art at the Frieze Art Fair, which opens in London this week. In fact, at an entry price of £45 (Dh219) – £65 if you want go to Frieze Masters – you have to be fairly well-off to attend, even if you don’t buy anything.

But don’t despair – there are plenty of other art events you can attend in the UK capital that don’t cost anything. Many gallerists are eschewing the art fair model – and the old fixed-space White Cube model – to create more cost-effective and imaginative ways of showing art. In times past, this would be edgy curators exhibiting equally-edgy artists in warehouses in the East End, or these days, Bermondsey and Peckham in South London.

ArtCircle, a new pop-up art concept, is taking a fresh approach. It is staging pop-up museum standard shows assembled by superstar curators in the fleshpots of Mayfair. Its latest exhibition, The Essence Of Things, which opened last Friday and runs until Sunday (blink and you’ll miss it) is a superlative display of minimalist art, including works by Carl Andre, Günther Uecker, Herman de Vries, Richard Tuttle and François Morellet, among others.

Richard Tuttle, Bottom of Summer (1971). Courtesy ArtCircle
Richard Tuttle, Bottom of Summer 1971 Courtesy ArtCircle

Minimalism began in the late 1950s, as artists in the United States and Europe sought to pare back their work to its essentials. Dominated by simple geometric forms and their interrelationships, the movement was often held up for derision in the popular press and the non-art world as the ultimate in ‘the Emperor’s New Clothes’ syndrome – when Andre’s Equivalent VIII (1966), a rectangular arrangement of 120 firebricks on the floor, was bought and exhibited by the Tate Gallery in London in the 1970s, there was a considerable hoo-ha.

Yet by only presenting you with the absolute essentials – shape, colour, form – minimalism encourages the viewer to think harder and to make deeper, more emotional and long-lasting connections with the works. Indeed, Andre’s ‘Bricks’ as the work became known, ended up as one of the most popular works at the Tate and has been on display for many of the intervening years.

Of the works on display at ArtCircle, Stephen Antonakos’s 8 Foot Blue And Red Incomplete Circle (1975), a neon work that does exactly what it says on the tin, emphasises this interactivity; there is a constant stream of gallery-goers lining up to take selfies of themselves in front of it, placing themselves within the piece. ArtCircle was founded by Natasha Chagoubatova, Elena Sereda and veteran Berlin gallerist Volker Diehl. It collaborates with museums, commercial galleries, collectors and artists’ estates to stage short-term selling exhibitions featuring works by leading artists. Central to its philosophy is to work closely with internationally-renowned curators and art historians, which enables it to produce scholarly shows on a more intimate scale than might otherwise be possible.

Sereda says: “Until now, pop-up exhibitions have largely been focused on young and emerging artists. Our intention is to revolutionise this format and present the type of shows that you might encounter either in blue-chip art galleries or in the collections of major museums, displaying them in unusual spaces that transcend the conformity of the White Cube.”

With this, ArtCircle’s second show, it doesn’t disappoint. Entering the doorway of 48 Albemarle Street, a white stucco building, is to be transported into another world. All that tells you something different is going on is ArtCircle’s logo highlighted in neon. Once you ascend the makeshift staircase, you enter a room of exposed brick walls and five-metre ceilings, around which are dotted the best of minimalist art. The quality of the works is indisputable – each looks like it should be in a museum, and all the work is for sale. As you would imagine, this sort of quality does not come cheap, with the most expensive work by Uecker coming in it at a cool half-million pounds sterling.

Gunther Uecker, Plus Minus Nul (1968). Courtesy ArtCircle
Gunther Uecker, Plus Minus Nul 1968. Courtesy ArtCircle

Curator, Berlin-based Daniel Marzona, comments: “The exhibition explores the essence of materials and forms, showing that the formal clarity and simplicity of a work does not reduce the complexity of its perception.”

The Essence of Things, 48 Albemarle Street, Mayfair, London, runs until Sunday. For more information, visit www.art-circle.com