Handwoven Aubusson Tapestry,
146 x 226 cm. Courtesy CCA Andratx
We were recently reminiscing with a well-known London artist: Back in the 1980s, he recalled, you couldn't keep abreast of contemporary art by staying at home. The only way to find out what was going on in those days, he said, was to go regularly to Cologne.
How things have changed since then! In the 1990s, London suddenly became one of the centers of the art scene. It started with some energetic and enterprising young artists; collectors, galleries, and finally even a fair followed. But the breathtaking expansion of the London market should not obscure the expansive nature of the art being made there.
Today, London remains a vibrant center of production, a home to artists not only from around England but all over the world: It no longer makes sense to talk about Young British Artists because the London scene is completely cosmopolitan. Call them Young World Artists instead.
Nor does any single approach dominate. Language-based conceptual practices and deceptively traditional-seeming figurative painting rub shoulders with video installations, abstract painting, and détourned readymades in a hurly-burly of images, ideas, and objects. Here, visual pleasure and critical thought go on hand in hand. No matter what the style, there's always more than meets the eye. These are works that resonate in the memory and draw you back for a second look and a second thought.
Today, if you want to keep up with contemporary art, you can't avoid a trip to London. But M25: Around London, is probably the next best thing: a broad-based survey of recent work by twenty artists of the moment, ranging from recent graduates to more established figures who've made a mark on the present decade.
Barry Schwabsky, the curator of M25, is uniquely well-placed to offer an international perspective on recent art from London. An American art critic, curator, and poet, he has been living there since 2001. He writes regularly for The Nation and Artforum, for which he is also co-editor of international reviews. His books include Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting (Phaidon Press) and he has contributed to books and catalogues on such artists as Jessica Stockholder, Alighiero Boetti, and Gillian Wearing.