On the occasion of its second edition, Condo, London’s month-long gallery-sharing initiative, driven by the city’s younger and less centrally located galleries, has already attained the status of an adjective. “We say ‘Oh that’s SO Condo!’ or ‘he or she is very Condo’,” one participating gallerist enthused, perhaps a little short of sleep.
Condo is the London artworld’s dalliance with the sharing economy: a canny way both to pull focus to smaller galleries, and to cement the city as an important site for new art, even as rising rents make a foothold here prohibitive for many. Fifteen spaces in the city host 21 galleries from outside it, be they from Glasgow or Guatamala City. Host and guest galleries show work concurrently, either as a single show or separately. They may share friends and former colleagues, as is the case with Sadie Coles HQ and their New York guest Bridget Donahue. Some represent the same artist, as do The Sunday Painter and Warsaw’s Galeria Stereo. Others, like Greengrassi and Proyectos Ultravioleta, have been thrown together by happenstance, with the former picking the latter from a list of guest galleries.
Condo is the mindful and empathetic obverse to the telenovela world in which gallerists perform as ruthless kingpins, swiping one another’s artists and jostling for territorial supremacy. To be ‘Condo’, by implication, is to acknowledge others working in the gallery system as fellow travellers rather than competitors; to collaborate selflessly; to share contacts, collectors and artists; to engage in acts of mutual self-promotion.
Condo was hatched by Vanessa Carlos of Carlos/Ishikawa, so it is appropriate that this gallery offered perhaps the most ‘Condo’ of all the shows: an artist-led three-hander in which gallery artist Oscar Murillo, Yutaka Sone (represented by Tommy Simoens, Antwerp) and Ouyang Chun (with the China- and Singapore-based ShanghART) brought their respective galleries together like the cute-but-manipulative kids in a Disney divorce comedy. Murillo lined the gallery with bleachers populated by Colombian effigies (some made by the artist’s aunt) traditionally burned Guy Fawkes-style at the turning of the year. One wall was almost covered by Ouyang Chun’s triptych of exotic dancers spotlit on stage. The bleachers looked down on a sculpture by Yutaka Sone in which an Aztec ziggurat had become a fairground ride - or was it a fairground ride that had been rigged out like an Aztec ziggurat? Site of entertainment, exotic outsider practice, or cultural heritage: who could tell?
between the hour-long journeys to far flung galleries, the sleety wind and Google Maps suggesting after-dark tours through the unlit alleyways of Tower Hamlets, the experience is closer to a cultural Tough Mudder course
Such grandiloquent installations were thin on the ground, though. Condo charges some hundreds of pounds for participation (rather than the thousands demanded by art fairs) so is by definition attractive to galleries on a budget. While those based in North West Europe could bung everything into a van and catch a ferry, galleries making longer trips favoured smaller works, very little of it time-based or complicated to install. The tendency toward textile art – such as Sonia Almeida’s Weaving Code shown by Simone Subal at The Approach – was presumably even less likely to trouble the excess baggage allowance.
Berlin's Supportico Lopez at Rodeo showed Franziska Lantz’s superbly foreboding installation of oddments mudlarked from the Thames, suspended like flotsam zombies. Such are the advantages of choosing to show an artist based in London, rather than one whose works you need to transport from Berlin.
Casually scanning Instagram images of last year’s edition depicts Condo as a kind of art-scented pubcrawl. It’s bigger this year, and between the hour-long journeys to far flung galleries, the sleety wind and Google Maps suggesting after-dark tours through the unlit alleyways of Tower Hamlets, the experience is closer to a cultural Tough Mudder course. (Should they be pursuing sponsors for the next edition, Citymapper, Yorkshire Tea and Kendal’s Mint Cake spring to mind.) But the Condo-ish air seemed to stop griping in its tracks: galleries were being visited, art was being sold, alliances formed and beer drunk before lunchtime. “I tell you, this is the future!” said one visiting gallerist, beaming, at the end of Sunday. It was nice to have him in London, to meet him finally, and hear more about his artists. Perhaps he was right.
The participation of a number of more established galleries – among them Sadie Coles HQ, Maureen Paley, The Modern Institute and Tanya Leighton – alongside the young guns – suggests that Condo is more than an exercise in touchy-feely collegiality for its own sake. As larger galleries spread their influence over multiple sites around the world and maintain global representation of their artists, medium-sized galleries working a single territory are being squeezed. Meaningful alliances such as those forged through Condo suggest a way forward.
Condo runs through 11 February 2017. condocomplex.org
19 January 2017