Apollo Magazine

Frieze Week: Digby’s Diary (Friday)

When you’ve been to more than 40 shows in three days you start to feel a little…displaced

Park Place (1944), John Piper © Beaux Arts London

Friday, 17 October

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When last I wrote, I had just turned down an invitation for a party. I’ve just done the same thing again. A champagne brunch at the Pippy Houldsworth gallery on Heddon Street (where, incidentally, David Bowie was photographed in a phone box for the cover of Ziggy Stardust) would normally be the highlight of a week. This morning, though, I’m facing deadlines like the 300 faced Xerxes at Thermopylae. I’m also feeling like a haunted house, with all its windows broken.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Instead of going on to a party on Wednesday night, I ended up in Vauxhall, having not quite made it home. The next morning, I woke up to a panorama of London’s riverside construction boom. If you want to make yourself feel unwell, there’s no sight that does it better. Matthew, my host, stared at me in pity. To put things in perspective, he was having extreme difficulties making a cup of tea. The tube was heaving when I got to it, a vision of hell. I hopped off at Pimlico to visit the late Turner exhibition for the third time. I saw the Turner Prize show, too. Not, it has to be said, an awe-inspiring year.

Later on, I schlepped back to Frieze to see Phyllida Barlow in conversation with Luke Syson. My friend Robinson and I turned up at Regent’s Park to meet a writer from the Financial Times. We waited and waited. But there was no sign. Finally, Robinson received a call: ‘are you even at Frieze Masters yet?’ We weren’t. A farcical half-hour walk through the park got us to the talk in the nick of time. Phyllida Barlow is one of the most exciting artists alive, and if ever you get the chance to hear her speak, take it.

I hovered for a long time afterwards. When you’ve been to more than 40 shows in three days (a list of which I’ll drop into my final diary entry tomorrow) you start to feel a little…displaced. But I needed to find a show at a commercial gallery to cover for another assignment. I chose the John Piper exhibition at Beaux Arts, and bloody hell it’s good. I hadn’t yet been to Beaux Arts’ new space near Hanover Square. It’s great, but you can’t help but feel nostalgic for Cork Street. Robinson and I got a bit teary talking about it as we walked through Mayfair to St James’s. Cork Street was something truly special – not to sink into psychobabble or anything, but it really did feel like the spiritual home of the British art world.

I failed to get into the Christie’s auction at King Street, so I went down to their rooms in South Kensington where the opening party for the Multiplied art fair was taking place. By this time, though, my powers of observation were well and truly spent. I don’t really remember much after this, bar the fact that I ended up on the South Bank, clueless as to how I’d got there. I am feeling appropriately appalling today. Just one more day of this. But god I’ve got a lot to see.

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More from Digby Warde-Aldam

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Review: ‘Phyllida Barlow: Fifty Years of Drawings’ at Hauser & Wirth (Digby Warde-Aldam)

Disarmingly joyful: Phyllida Barlow’s ‘dock’ at Tate Britain (Lily Le Brun)

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