From Isaac Julien’s political, poetic and utterly gorgeous show at Tate Britain to the equally powerful Carrie Mae Weems survey at the Barbican, Tomás Saraceno spiders and other species awakening us to our connection to nature at the Serpentine Galleries in conversation with Lina Ghotmeh’s delicate timber Serpentine Pavilion, and Leonardo Drew’s explosive installation at Yorkshire Sculpture Park Chapel, there’s been no shortage of excellent art and design in London and beyond this summer season.
Rolls-Royce’s Coachbuild La Rose Noire Droptail is the story of artistry, craft, skill and sheer determination. The dream of an unnamed customer, and inspired by the Rosa Black Baccara, La Rose Noire is the first of only four completely new motor cars Droptails, each of which will have its own unique character.
What happens to art and the artist when their work is exhibited outside a traditional gallery space? And do unusual venues and experimental curations set culture free to be explored and experienced in new and exciting ways, and by a public way beyond the original borders? What are the limits and the possibilities?
I put this to Neil Wenman, partner and global creative director at Hauser & Wirth, the leading commercial gallery which has been exploring unusual spaces to present art since opening the Somerset gallery on an old farm in 2014.
“It’s such a privilege to be part of this project. The pavilion brings architecture closer to everyone; it proves that architecture is a necessity and that beauty, rather than being additional, is something that should be essential in our cities and in our lives,” says Lina Ghotmeh, the architect of the twenty-second Serpentine Pavilion.
The much-anticipated annual commission sees a temporary structure built on Kensington Gardens by the Serpentine South gallery in Hyde Park, London. The building will remain here for the summer, with the space free and open to the public for a casual coffee, a spot of lunch, a moment of respite, evening events, talks, music and more. At the end of its park life (if sold to a private buyer — this one has), the structure is moved to its new home, where it begins its second life. Or, as Ghotmeh says, “Hopefully, it takes the memory of here to its next place.”
Lina Ghotmeh, ‘À Table’ Serpentine Pavilion © Iwan Baan for Serpentine 2023
At the entrance to “Tomás Saraceno in Collaboration: Web[s] of Life,” we are politely asked to surrender our phones. There is no apparent judgment; instead, the act is more performative as our gadgets are safely slotted in what appears like an old wooden shelving unit and exchanged with an oracle card, “Arachnomancy Card,” with a personalized message (mine read: “planetary drift”). We are free, of course, to choose not to give away our phones. Yet it seems a missed opportunity: to truly immerse in the lively and layered world created by Tomás Saraceno for London’s Serpentine Galleries requires this small sacrifice.
Later, I reflect on what a relief it was not to reach out for my iPhone at every photo opportunity (and there are plenty), to be in the moment and absorb the chapters that unfold in each room and onto the surrounding Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. As Saraceno’s first major exhibition in the UK, “Web[s] of Life” takes on a lot. Ultimately it aims to observe how different life forms, technologies and energy systems are connected in the climate emergency. Art, for Saraceno, has active agency.