the centre of attention

Jane Gang 'The London Tour'

ZING Magazine 12 (Jan–Feb 2000)

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On Friday Jan 21st, I left NYC for London to deliver three paintings, collect the money, have a word with my new accountant and pick up some more health insurance. Arriving at 7.00 am on Sat, I headed to Parson's Green in a taxi. That ride cost about 60 bucks and this island is rockin, dollars won't take me far, so I better smile and act up.

The weekend went by, catching up on old family arguments and carefully nursed grudges, contacting friends and resisting calls to past lovers. By Monday morning I was on my regular shopping route, fully aware that right now wasn't a good time to be spending. I had arranged to meet my good friend Mark Lebon in the afternoon and was losing 50ps in the phone box calling his mobile (over there the person calling has to pay for the mobile phone call. Five quid will disappear before you've exchanged anything more than "hello" and "speak up"). We lost our connection. I walked through the park towards the Serpentine. A Yayoi Kusama show was being installed, the opening was that evening. I read magazines in the bookshop and decided to come back later. The line was huge when I returned, with a marquee set up for the bar area. I walked straight to the front and went in, my NYC attitude workin' out. The place was packed. The art crowd here was significantly tailored, black-gray stylish. Ancient members of Duran Duran posed for pictures and an old friend broke into a smile and greeted me warmly. A distinct pleasure after experiencing the high school mentality of the current NYC art scene. The art of Yayoi Kusama is refreshing to see at large, all the concordant elements of her work; installations, films, performances, sculpture, painting, drawing, poems and fiction. An artist comfortably using different mediums to carry out her vision. gentle are the stairs to heaven, an acrylic on canvas, '90.

Tues 25th: I'd worked out a schedule. There's more new galleries clustering around town.

Wed 26th: Delivered two of the paintings and annoyingly only got half the money. Went to The Approach over in Bethnal Green. Gillian Wearing & Michael Landy's handjobs; a Punch & Judy-styled video set up: A gormy Saturday morning children's TV shot. It was funny in parts if you knew the references. There was a steady flow of people who then hung out in the pub downstairs. I couldn't find Anthony Wilkinson on Cambridge Heath Rd, another new space. It didn't matter I was enjoying wandering round part of my old hood, past the public toilets where I shot Ange on Super 8 spewing up in the bowl, down past a bad fish n'chippie to have supper with my old friends and neighbors Jasper Morrison & Ruth Donaghey. We laughed heartily about my 'love life' and over a photograph of a prominent friend in a compromising position. Good food too, you know, the things that keep the world turning.

Thurs 27th: Virgin seems to be blanketing the island. There's Virgin advertising all over . . . cell phones, trains, planes, pensions, banking, cinemas, music store . . . I wouldn't be surprised if on my next flight in I could see a small but prosperous island covered in a massive red & white logo. Is the union jack gonna lose that blue to red & white now?

A man lit up on the district line, someone freaked @ him, and others including myself all threw in a penny's worth over the course of a few stops, as he switched and twitched in seats. He didn't say a word like it wasn't even an act of rebellion. He managed to disturb us, maybe we all remember the Kings Cross fire. I looked around @ my fellow passengers and got reminded of a memorable thing on a NYC subway train. Two men, probably in their early '50s sitting next to each other: One gay and one hetero (can I write that?). They appeared worlds apart though dressed somewhat the same. The hetero type; out of shape, overweight, slow, blurry and tired looking. The gay guy; healthy and alert, trim and full of energy, a life still being lived consciously, vitally. A sign of the times.

Met with my new accountant. Round to Brick lane. It's blown up: Shops, galleries, cafes. Lots of young businesses cracking open. I couldn't find Modern Art Inc. It was probably too early. Swerved some bad art under the arches. Ate a bagel with salmon & cream cheese and drank coffee that only tastes like coffee @ 4am. Went back West to say hi to Pauline at Sadie Coles HQ. On show: A photo-story installation by Ugo Rondinone and a couple of his hilarious drag photos with a swirl painting in the back room, Went to Bar Italia, the choice coffee spot in the whole of London. Once fully loaded I went to the Malcolm Maloney opening @ Antony d'Offay. He's a hot painter/curator right now. Ran into Paul Benny outside making a rollie. He's just finished painting Jerry Hall and was meeting up with her for the evening. I spent some time talking to Jeffrey Camp and a few Slade peers. I was then confronted by the international ligger: Jonathan, who periodically turns up in NYC at openings or on the LES. This tiresome person just isn't getting the message. He rudely barged through the two people I was in conversation with and said 'Hello, Jane'. I'm gonna have to tell him straight: "Bog off you boring git." Down the road to the Nicki St Lee opening @ Stephen Friedman on Old Burlington St. Not many hanging out there, more people were squashed up in Asprey Jacques for the Jane Simpson show. It's an unusual thing she's got going with all that freezer frost.

Fri 28th: I take the train to Old St. A new Gallery on Rivington St, Vilma Gold. A group show: "These Epic Islands" looking fresh out of, or still in, art school. Full of potential particularly the pieces by Klega and Sam Basu.

In Shoreditch Town Hall they now have art; Steve Reinke's "The 100 Videos". I stood reading about his idea then went to check out The Centre of Attention, on Cotton's Gardens, actually Winston Branch's old industrial space. Franko B's wild style. His bagged 'drawing' fragments presented on a clothes rack was a nice touch. It almost got me shopping again. Went to say hi to Joe at the Lux he said I owed 50 quid. This supposedly pleasant greeting & meeting was fast deteriorating as I was refusing to pay any such thing, when Sophie from the now defunct Omsk Film Club appeared and took me to tea.

Visited a new Sainsbury's on Tottenham Court Rd, open til 10pm. I buy English mustard, PG Tips and Marmite to take back as gifts and supplies. Next door a new business hummed aloud. The Easy Everything: A huge internet access room for travellers.There must have been over 100 stations, it was busy.

Milch was gone from the Denmark St area. Making way for clubland. London looks small from the top of the Number 14. Tiny crowds of people in the Haymarket. Fortnum & Mason's window display is sumptuous. Harvey Nichol's is a Yayoi Kusama. At one point the bus roared past a woman with her hand out at a stop. There's still some of that good ol mean ass London spirit around.