The 18th and the 21st centuries come together at the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in London with the Swiss artist Sylvie Fleury (born 1961) and the Austrian/German artist Gerwald Rockenschaub (born 1952). The 18th century architecture of the former home of the Bishops of Ely with its moulded plaster, classical doorways, marble hallway and late flowing staircase is a fascinating backcloth for contemporary artists who can respond to the spaces in a much more interesting way than the normal white-walled modern gallery space.
Above the carved fireplace in the Ely Room, Sylvie Fleury has installed the neon sign ‘Hypnotic Poison’, designed specifically for this space and taken from the name of one of Christian Dior’s perfumes, while her other works, linking to the fashion and cosmetics industries, which is where department stores make most of their money, are carefully positioned within the plaster mouldings of the walls, with, surprise, surprise, a grey inflatable rocket in the centre of the room, linking back to her previous works which explored spaceships and the male dominance, power and egos involved in the exploration of space.
In the main hallway, the walls are spotted with metal plates which, to an architect, suggest that there are structural problems needing serious stabilisation, but to an artist relate to the black and white chequered marble floor of the hallway. Different works by Gerwald Rockenschaub run through the different rooms, but the most successful is probably the series of interconnected cuboid shapes which fill the first floor room with its neoclassical doorways and views out to Dover Street.
Rockenschaub is an international DJ with another career in music and it is interesting to see something of that in his work, especially the black and coloured plates on the walls, which could also have a musical connotations.