On entering the doorway of 48 Albemarle Street and walking up its makeshift staircase of simple wooden boards you are taken into a world that couldn’t be more apart from the fleshpots of Mayfair. A neon sign bearing the letters ‘AC’ guides a visitor upward, with dusty exposed brick walls on either side making them question if they are in the right place. However, upon turning the corner one is reassured of their direction. ArtCircle’s inaugural exhibition, Focusing Space awaits.
ArtCircle was founded by Natasha Chagoubatova, Elena Sereda and Volker Diehl and has dedicated its first show to the Kinetic Art, Op Art and Zero movements of the 20th century. Focusing Space presents seminal work by some of the foremost players in these post-war artistic movements including Adolf Luther, Heinz Mack, Alberto Biasi, Nanda Vigo, Christian Megert, Nicholas Schöffer, Grazia Varisco and Peter Sedgley. Uniquely, ArtCircle is taking high art and making it accessible by staging pop-up selling exhibitions across the globe. These exhibitions, in turn, are conceived by some of the best curators and art historians the art world has to offer and are produced in collaboration with museums, artist’s estates and commercial galleries.
The main installation from which the exhibition borrows its name is Adolf Luther’s Focusing Room (1968). On loan from the Museum of Modern Art in Goslar, Germany it is constructed from twenty concave mirrors arranged on a wooden table to form a square shape. The mirrors are then spot lit from above, rendering the light visible as a medium of its own. Fog machines are turned on to further play with the light, an effect that was originally achieved through the cigarette smoke of viewers walking past.
Another standout work on show is Nanda Vigo’s Diaframma (1968), an almost Yves Klein blue neon light work that stands imposingly on the concrete floors of the back room. It is refreshing to see a neon work that is really about the light as opposed to spelling out a phrase; this reminds us of the exhibition’s core premise, a peeling back of the frivolous, leaving us with only that which is truly necessary.
This stripped-back approach to art is echoed in ArtCircle’s choice of location: an industrial warehouse-like suite. The location purposefully complements the artwork on view, much of which is constructed of mirrors, steel, light, aluminium and Perspex. Huge windows flood the space with natural light, though some of the work is even more magical once it’s gone dark; light is a crucial element of the exhibition and the artistic movements it highlights.
British art historian, curator and critic Lawrence Alloway describes Zero as “the first artists’ collaboration devoted to topics of light and movement”. Curator of the show Bettina Ruhrberg of the Museum of Modern Art in Goslar, Germany has incorporated this idea into Focusing Room, interspersing influential Zero works with installation and kinetic sculpture from non-Zero artists. The work exhibited relates heavily to ideas of light and space, creating a make-shift retrospective that spans from Arte Povera to Gruppo N. In Ruhrberg’s own words ‘the art of the 1960’s and 70’s was revolutionary art for a revolutionary age’, making the show especially relevant in today’s revolutionary climate, responding to the ever-changing nature of the 21st century.
Just as the chosen artists were responding against the abstract expressionism that came before them creating art that, instead, references the industrial materials with which the piece was conceived, this exhibition seems to be respond not just to the wider world, but specifically to today’s art world. In its use of the this exciting new space rather than the necessary evil of the polished white cube, viewers are reminded that great art can, and should, be appreciated in any space, on any wall and in any city.
By Anny Carpenter
Focusing Space will be on view at 48 Albemarle Street until 2nd July.