Even as a regular attendee of international art fairs, I looked forward to this year’s Frieze Art Fair, on 13–16 October because I have such fond memories of the last time I attended Frieze week in November 2008, when I had the pleasure and honor of going to both Anthony Gormley & Tracy Emin’s studios in London. I also remember quite vividly the strained but exciting buzz at the art fair, as it was right after the economic collapse, leaving everyone in a quandary as to what to expect. Nevertheless, the champagne flowed easily, and the tempo that year was downright festive, an all around much needed respite from reality outside the art world.
Flash forward to this year, to the ninth edition of Frieze Art Fair, the last year that this leading contemporary art fair will remain an event exclusive to London’s Regent’s Park. Starting in 2012, Frieze will have an ancillary Frieze in New York City. The overall mood was one which, while defiant to giving into economic doom and gloom, remained mindful of taking too many risks. Dealers often chose brightly coloured and /or two dimensional (primarily paintings) works this year. Sex, politics, and economics took secondary positioning to the comforting and collector friendly livable art. Of course there were several unfriendly works, such as the Madonna & Child by Jake & Dinos Chapman at the White Cube or morgue piece by Elmgreen and Dragset at Galerie Perrotin, and the Yacht by Christian Jankowski, but I tended to see these works to be not unlike irritating flies at a pleasant picnic. Of special note to Sang Bleu readers was the life sized bronze of Rick Genest—aka Rico at the White Cube Gallery by YBA Marc Quinn. The detail was astonishing with the tatoos perfectly replicated and etched into the cast.
Pierre Huyghe’s work for Frieze Projects, Recollection, 2011 caused quite a stir when the original hermit crab for his aquarium installation was stopped by US customs because it was believed to be inhabiting the shell of an endangered species. Huyghe had to coax a replacement crustacean into a replica of Brancusi’s Sleeping Muse, 1909-10. “Brancusi is a well-known symbol of culture and modernity,” says Huyghe.“[The reference] is also about reactivating the head or a particular psychological state.” Fish tanks are a recurring theme in the artist’s work. He says: “They are about constructing situations; they become an equilibrium of a situation that we find ourselves in.”
As usual, most of the fun at the fair was to be had in the aises, where fair goers were apparently having more conversation than usual with each other than gallerists, although sales were reportedly good, they were not stellar. A Gerhard Richter, entitled “Strip” was on reserve at Marian Goodman for £1.5 million, although my favorites by him were the smaller painted photographs in the same stall. With a career retrospective currently at the Tate Modern, Gerhard Richter was on everyone’s consciousness.
I never neglect to stop by Sadie Coles HQ, who was the winner of the “Best Booth of the Frieze Art Fair 2010”. I consistently find the quality of her artists’ works and presentation above the fray, and at any art fair.
At Alison Jacques Gallery, there were two works which I took particular fondness to, one by Hannah Wilke of 48 separate pieces of porcelain, which immediately evoked memories of making homemade wonton’s, and “Lighthouse”, by Catherine Yass, whose lush colors were simply magnetic.
This year’s Sculpture Park presented work by some of the most acclaimed international Sculptors, including the piece “Seer” by Kiki Smith. Her triptych work “Reminiscent” inside the fair was also stunning.
Serious collectors, art advisors, and fashion flock were visible. From the fashion tribe namely, Valentino Garavani, Giancarlo Giammetti, Alber Elbaz, Dasha Zhukova, Elle Macpherson, Natalia Vodianova, Phoebe Philo. Fashion and art are by no means strangers to each other, and one of the first things one notices approaching ANY art fair, is the proliferation of all things current in the world of fashion, not unlike being outside a fashion show. The most obvious collaboration between art and fashion would be Louis Vuittons’ success with Murakami’s designs, and even more importantly, “Savage Beauty” at the MET, which has forever changed Alexander McQueen’s status from fashion designer to bonafied artist with a capital A. Cindy Sherman is soon appearing in a MAC cosmetics campaign, and one of my all time beloved photographers, Nan Goldin, is shooting for Jimmy Choo (!) following Marilyn Minter last year. Acne is teaming up with artist Daniel Silver to create a range of clothes…. The list of collaborations are endless. Creativity breeds creativity, and fashion and art have in common, the borrowing and elaboration of ideas from each other as well as certainly sharing like-minded clientele.
One of the things which I appreciate most about Frieze, is its’ manageable size, which allows one to take in such a diverse array of art without becoming overwhelmed. And while it is not easy to pick out trends in art, this was the first time that I was at an art fair to report not just on the art, but also on the style outlook. I found that the fashion / style / art quotient oftentimes coincided, in fact, it tends to seamlessly merge as can be seen the following photographs: the Alexander McQueen scarf wearer with the Wilhelm Sasnal “Untitled” painting of a pregnant headless figure, the wildly dressed woman carrying a Chanel bag juxtaposed with the sexually explicit phallic Franz West sculpture at Gagosian Gallery, and the head to toe wearing fan of Brunello Cucinelli observing the rustic beauty of the Tacita Dean pieces “Rosenbett” at Frith Street Gallery.
Lastly, any report on Frieze Art Fair this year would not be complete without mention of James Brett and the “Museum of Everything” at Selfridges whose presence was all pervasive. To imagine that only three years ago, I attended a private viewing of Mr. Brett’s “La Collection Bretanique” in his home and did a reportage on his collection is nearly unfathomable considering the drastic personal transformation he has undergone from passionate private collector to talk of the London art world. That just goes to show, three years is just enough time to entirely change ones’ life and universe to encompass everything.
See you at Frieze New York 2012!
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