A Collaborative Exhibition by 36 galleries across 15 London Spaces

Last weekend, the second edition of Condo opened up in London with 15 London-based galleries providing spaces all over the city for 36 international galleries. Condo was founded last year by Vanessa Carlos, the director and founder of Carlos/Ishikawa, who, according to a previous interview, wanted to create a platform outside of hectic, commercially-focused art fairs. Condo aims to foster a more accessible and public gallery culture in London by increasing public presence at art galleries and allowing international galleries, who may not otherwise be able to afford spaces in art fairs, to exhibit in London.

Condo 2017

If, however, Condo is neither an art fair nor an alternative to an art fair, what exactly is it? One can describe it as an experimental platform that functions as a large-scale exhibition. More specifically, Condo emphasizes collaboration and generosity as it consists of London galleries offering their spaces, and therefore their networks, to international galleries for the duration of a month for free. The visiting galleries are only expected to help with the costs of the website, the ever-so notorious maps, and the opening party, while Condo itself makes no profit off of its month-long art extravaganza. Condo also adopts a laissez-faire policy (without all the economical connotations) regarding the terms of the collaboration between host and visiting galleries—the galleries themselves negotiate this and decide whether or not the collaboration includes co-curating or merely hosting.

Initially meant to focus on younger galleries, this year Condo also opened up to more established and prominent galleries such as Sadie Coles HQ and Maureen Paley. Rather than shift away from its objective of accessibility and supporting emerging galleries, this move has allowed Condo to be taken more seriously by the greater art world as a force to be reckoned with.

CONDO 2017: Maureen Paley hosting dépendance. Exhibition view. Maureen Paley, London 2016.

The most striking exhibition this year was conveniently at Carlos/Ishikiwa and hosting galleries Tommy Simoens from Antwerp and ShanghART from Shanghai. The exhibit Flying Moths consists of a collaboration between artists Oscar Murillo, Ouyang Chun, and Yutaka Sone, made especially for Condo 2017. One couldn’t help but feel immediately impressed by Murillo’s Human Resources, a nod to Colombian working-class culture, with a large wooden stadium seating bordering the perimeter of the gallery and filled with both seated papier mâché effigies and interactive art fans or merely tired gallery visitors alike. The exhibit, which highlights spectatorship and interactivity was also accompanied by a performance of a Colombian ballad, performed by a friend of the artist.

Courtesy Herald St, London. Photo Andy Keate

Another stand out includes The Sunday Painter’s massive exhibition with Condo, which includes galleries São Paulo’s Galeria Jaqueline Martins, New York’s Seventeen, and Warsaw’s galeria stereo, as well as artwork from The Sunday Painter’s own Emma Hart. Jaqueline Martins’s Adriano Amaral’s minimalist and site-specific installation of deteriorated UV lamps examines the fungibility of the functions of practical objects. While the exhibition at Herald Street, a more established gallery and host to Tanya Leighton (Berlin) and The Modern Institute (Glasgow), examined movement and the geometry of objects through a purely aesthetic lens, Amaral’s work at The Sunday Painter shows a far more interesting appreciation and exploration in the values and nature of objecthood.

Installation view, Martine Syms, The Easy Demands, Condo: Sadie Coles HQ, London hosting Bridget Donahue, NYC 13 January – 18 February 2017. Copyright the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London

Over in West London, prominent gallery Sadie Coles HQ is host to Bridget Donahue of New York showcasing The Easy Demands with works by Martine Syms. Syms, a Los Angeles-based artist whose first solo show in the UK was at the ICA last year, often explores media and textual representations of black womanhood. Syms’s show consists of intimate photographs and a video of a black woman dripping a white ooze-like substance.

At Condo, unlike most art fairs and galleries, the pressure to sell artworks is secondary, if even an objective at all. While moving around from South London to East and North is not entirely convenient, Condo does get points for accessibility with its free admission and the opportunity to see art from a handful of countries such as Guatemala, Norway, Poland, and China in one city. Instead of booths competing for your attention, you get a nice, brisk walk or train ride from one gallery to another allowing you to digest what you have seen. While it may not prefer to be called a substitute for art fairs, in terms of its values and objectives, Condo is a far more recommended option.