Words by Marissa Cox.
Judging by the private view at Phillips de Pury last night, the current economic climate has clearly bypassed parts of the art world. We hot-footed it to Victoria for the launch of ‘Fly to Baku’ to join Azerbaijan’s and London’s art’s elite, and members of the ‘Made in Chelsea’ cast (we’d love to hear their critique of the show) to check out a new exhibition of work by artists from Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, curated by Herve Mikaelof and hosted by the President of Azerbaijan’s daughter Leyla Aliyeva and Chairman of Phillips de Pury, Simon De Pury. Lacking an in-depth knowledge of the country (it’s tucked between Georgia and the Caspian Sea, for the uninitiated), we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Once we’d had our names checked off the list, dodged the photographers and had a cocktail securely in hand, we wandered around the giant gallery space, and were pleasantly surprised by what we saw. Apart from the extravagant decorations that included palm trees, purple orchids, aesthetically pleasing waiters wielding seemingly endless bottles of Nicolas Feuillatte champagne and the general lavishness of the guests, there was a carefully selected and overall interesting mix of painting, sculpture and video was on display.
After having a new mattress delivered to our flat last Friday, we were particularly interested in what we’ve labelled as ‘mattress art’ by Ali Hasanov. Two mattresses encased large TV screens displaying black and white films, while the third had its middle carved out. Perhaps not art we’d liked to adorn our Art Wednesday walls, but an interesting concept nonetheless. Altai Sadiqzadeh’s (the man behind the design of Baku’s Museum of Modern Art) vibrant abstract paintings, featuring text and numbers, as well as his series of welded metal sculptures entitled ‘The Mechanics of Space’ were particularly captivating – the kind of work that would take two or three trips to the gallery to fully appreciate them. Large scale realist paintings of couples on a beach or snorkelling in the sea by Tora Aghabayova evoked family holiday snaps and we decided that the sculptures adorned with decorative lampshades by Mammad Mustafayev should have been inspired by Mondrian’s cubist paintings of city grids, for the artist’s use of primary colours and lines created by offcuts of wood. Irina Eldarova’s series ‘Emotional Splashes’ depicting colourful canvases created with patches of acrylic colour and graphite reminded us of patchwork quilts and we were tickled by Aga Ousseinov’s quirky sculpture of what looked like a blue scuba diver, entitled ‘Driving Lessons’. The work was vibrant, thought-provoking and bold, and gave us a real sense of the kind of work coming out of Azerbaijan. But art aside, we couldn’t finish our write-up without mentioning the canapés circling the space, which were almost as good as the art on display. We particularly enjoyed the succulent lamb meatballs, and unashamedly sought out waitresses carrying plates of mouth-wateringly good marinated Black cod and warm organic apricots stuffed with walnuts and clotted cream.
Fly to Baku: Contemporary Art from Azerbaijan is on until 29 January. For more information [click here]