Sprüth Magers in London is one of my favourite galleries with its quirky semi-industrial character (even though it is in Mayfair) from the days when the building was a clothing warehouse/showroom, hence the large windows allowing light to flood in (when they want it) – something galleries generally don’t approve of – and the views out into Grafton Street, currently relatively quiet while London gradually comes out of lock-down.
The last exhibition before the gallery’s August closure was focused on two artists, Hanna Darboven and Ruth Wold-Rehfeldt plus a room of the photographic couple Bernhard and Hilla Becher in the lower floor.
The similarities and the contrasts between the two artists in the main exhibition were fascinating. Both bring a discipline to their art, which is almost architectural, and then are given an extra oomph with the shadows from the windows as the summer sunshine flowed in through the gallery.
What is fascinating is that the two artists lived on different sides of the Berlin Wall and probably didn’t know each other. While Ruth Wold-Rehfeldt’s works are self-contained or interlink in a sequence of two or three, Hanna Darboven’s work becomes larger in scale with large scale works that have subtle changes between each image.
The correspondence, postcards and other personal items on show also highlight the characteristics of the two artists.
And then, a pleasant surprise, was a room with photographs by that great photographic duo Bernhard and Hilla Becher who brought industrial architecture into the world of art, given these buildings a presence which links back to some of the great 19th and early 20th century photographs of industrial buildings in the American Mid-West.
In the current environment, everything was well thought through for safe viewing. An appointment was booked in advance, the gallery has a one-way system worked out and you leave through what was previously a fire exit. Is there a lesson for galleries of the future – ensure you have the ability to have separate entrance and exit?