Spear's has never known an artist to turn up in costume, and so it was last night at the Swarovski Whitechapel Gallery Art Plus Opera gala: while flappers and dappers in Twenties outfits chiced around the gallery, Tracey Emin, Jeremy Deller, David Batchelor were implacably themselves
by Josh Spero
Spear's has never known an artist to turn up in costume, and so it was last night at the Swarovski Whitechapel Gallery Art Plus Opera gala: while flappers and dappers in Twenties outfits chiced around the gallery, Tracey Emin, Jeremy Deller, David Batchelor were implacably themselves.
The evening hoped to raise £100,000 for the gallery, its director Iwona Blazwick told Spear's, and a charity art auction with works by Martin Creed, Howard Hodgkin (pictured above), Mona Hatoum and the Chapmans, hosted by Oliver Barker of Sotheby's, got at least halfway there. While Martin Creed and Mona Hatoum's pieces went below estimate, Janice Kerbel's black and white poster (pictured below), created especially for the evening, went for over six times its high estimate at £5,200.
Iwona Blazwick, who presided over the evening with Nadja Swarovski and Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst, said that Whitechapel had chosen the operatic theme to 'return the compliment' after centuries of opera and ballet composers and producers being inspired by artists. Among many others, Picasso designed for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and Hockney for Glyndebourne's The Rake's Progress in 1975.
Opera became manifest in performance by members of the Royal Opera Chorus, including a Vissi d'Arte by Melissa Alder which actually managed to silence the room. The opening piece was (fitly) the Auction Scene from The Rake's Progress, with Blazwick offered up as a lot in place of the bearded lady.
When Spear's asked why, in the current climate of cuts, it was particularly important to protect the Whitechapel Gallery, Blazwick said: 'Every great artist who has shown in the Tate has been shown at Whitechapel first. We're discovering tomorrow's artists.'
Art adviser Bettina von Hase concurred: 'It's the only gallery in London really doing innovative stuff. They really champion artists who are about to have their big break. Once you've shown here you've got it made.'
Jeremy Deller, hanging out by the bar with Alan Kane, who had provided a tea service artwork for the auction, said Whitechapel was 'one of the five best art galleries in London.' Deller's mid-career survey at the Hayward Gallery, Joy in People, was attracting huge numbers, he said: 40,000 so far.
When Spear's left, Tracey Emin was hanging out with Dave Bennett next to Josiah McElheny's abstract films projected onto mirrors, the Royal Opera Chorus were milling around with their giftbags and the dancing was just getting started.