Nick Hackworth

Paul McCarthy, Hauser & Wirth

Essays & Reviews Evening Standard

It is odd that the sight of an aging American hippy fondling his greasy balls and using industrial quantities of HP Sauce to fake defecation should bear witness to the increasing strength of London as an international art centre, but it does. For this delicate scene is one of many to be savoured in videos made by Paul McCarthy to inaugurate the London branch of the Zurich gallery, Hauser & Wirth. This launch, along with that of several other important new galleries, and the appearance of the Frieze Art Fair, opening tomorrow, proves that London’s art market and scene is expanding to rival that of New York.

The gallery has set up shop in a distinguished Edward Lutyens building in Piccadilly — until recently a bank — but has initially chosen not to play to the elegance of the interior, instead allowing McCarthy to turn it into something resembling a bomb-struck lunatic asylum.

McCarthy is, amusingly, internationally renowned for his championing of the aesethic of the abject in his obscene, carnivalesque performances. His enormous inflatable sculptures outside Tate Modern only hint at his true style, but here it is on full-frontal display. Amid a chaotic installation of debris from the old bank, he shows videos of performances in the Piccadilly gallery and a set of the space constructed in his LA studio.

McCarthy and three female assistants cavort, wearing huge masks, including likenesses of the Queen Mother, George W Bush and Osama bin Laden. They crawl around, give birth to long, horrible sausage things, take off their clothes, paint each other, destroy props and liberally spray around the sauce in puerile and symbolic fashion. Though one should not look beyond the entertaining surface for meaning, it is appropriate work with which to open a gallery since, after all, art has its genesis when infantile homo sapiens brought hand from arse to face and, in abstract expressionist fashion, smeared.

Until 20 December. Information: 020 7287 2300.