REVIEW of "Tomorrow, Today, Yesterday" Exhibition
The group show "Tomorrow, Today, Yesterday" features six London-based sculptors – Amba Sayal-Bennett, Billy Fraser, Florence Sweeney, Grace Woodcock, Jesse Pollock, and Tom Ribot – curated by Billy Fraser and presented by Modern Forms.
November and December of the 2023 year were filled with very disappointing shows. They left me tired of seeing objects that I couldn't fully access. I thought I needed to escape London and stop looking at art. Finding a show that will make you not want to leave this gallery is difficult. Finding an exhibition that will open your eyes to new things you haven't thought about before and will take your breath away aesthetically is difficult. So when I saw "Tomorrow, Today, Yesterday", it turned out that I didn't need time to open up to the world of art again, but I needed something that would ultimately bring me to my knees. That's what this exhibition did. In fact, I regret not spending more time there. However, it wasn't only about the artwork or the space but the way it was all presented to me. To a large extent, it was the space's and artists' histories that made me feel connected to it. The way Billy moved smoothly between topics and the language he used made me feel like I could understand these works, even if a big part of them was research and artists' personal experiences.
That's something that all the exhibitions I visited in November and December were missing: the tangible passion of the artist. That's why I love talking one-on-one with artists. Without a large audience, they feel more comfortable talking about their memories, experiences, and obsessions. Often, no matter whether I like what the work looks like, when I hear the excitement in the artist's voice, it's as if I was falling in love with their practice.
The consistency throughout the show is remarkable. Every aspect, from the context, colour, and material of each artwork to the curator's approach and the exhibition's intent, comes together to form a coherent and insightful whole. It feels like assembling a puzzle, with each room and sentence gradually revealing the bigger picture.
As I often mention, it's this extra level of care that makes the show/artwork EXTRAordinary. Of course, it all can come with the experience. After some time, the artist knows how to present their work to look super polished. Even though presented on a temporary white wall in such an ornate wooden room, Billy's works looked incredibly elegant and perfectly contrasted with the richly decorated interior. It was about how he arranged them in the niches and what stands and light he used. Each element was well thought out, and its use had a reason.
The reason why I also enjoyed this exhibition so much is because I love sculptures. I guess at this point it's very evident to everyone. I believed you could do so much more with them - you could present them in so many ways... but Billy proved that one could also do it with paintings. You can make them playful and engaging, and they can really activate the space. Also, when I looked at all these fantastic sculptures, I thought that these artists had the same approach as me: "Everything or nothing" and "Perfection or nothing". If you do something, do it the best you can, or as Billy said, "Do whatever you have to do to survive and make money and then invest it all in your art."
Okay, I've written enough about how great these artists and their works were, so now let's talk about why this exhibition was even possible. The space was super exclusive. It's only 2 minutes from Sadie Coles and Gagosian, so it's a dream location. And let's be honest, only frickin rich people can afford that.
I can hear you, my reader, wincing. Yuck! Rich people! But is investment in our art by such money-making-oriented businesses a bad thing? This show is not for the ordinary public. It's predominantly accessible to an elite audience, but hey, where else such an exhibition would be possible? Where else could these artists display works that don't fit through regular doors?
We often talk about how to make the art world more accessible and inclusive for the public. But what about the artists? What if money is the answer?! I know, I know, suffering for art is still a thing, but why? Is it because our parents told us we would never make money as artists? Damn, it's hard. It's worse than just hard. But if creating art is not a choice but a necessity, sometimes you must compromise. Although this exhibition does not have a large poster in front of the entrance and can not be seen without a guided tour, it was accessible for participating artists. They presented works that actually made me think WOW. And not just a tiny wow, but a big WOW! The space didn't limit them, but put them on a pedestal and told everyone who entered, "Look at this! This is art! Soak it up and admire it", and I am sure they did.
As a curator, I always wonder how works presented in a specific place influence the audience. How has this new environment affected the business that happened in these rooms? Did it make these businessmen more willing to make bold decisions, or were they more distracted? The contrast between the wooden, masterfully handcrafted walls and almost alien-looking works is striking, but it also forces the visitors not to ignore whatever is happening there.
So, I encourage you to message Billy and arrange a tour because, as I wrote earlier, hearing the passion in the artist's voice and their story makes you fall in love with what you see. Oh, and his eyes shine when he talks about art - extra bonus :D