Review: Frieze Art Fair 2009

By Londonist Last edited 111 months ago
Review: Frieze Art Fair 2009

Statue of Norman Foster by Xavier Veilheimby shot by Orlando Gili

Following on from yesterday's preview, here's a review of the jewel in the crown of the artistic year: The Frieze Art Fair

Let's start with the negatives. It's intimidatingly huge, with an overwhelming number of galleries, and artwork on display. You'll either be exhausted by rushing round and trying to see everything, or have the dread feeling that you've missed something really good. We found ourselves virtually sprinting around stopping only when our eyes were caught by works. This strikes us as an especially rubbish way of viewing art, akin to trying to judge hundreds of music tracks by listening to a couple of seconds of them. We understand why someone wrote on one of our art scene contacts' Facebook status update about Frieze: 'I'd rather go to Whiteleys' even though we wouldn't, thank you very much. Our last criticism is the price, it's almost thirty quid for a day pass (admittedly if you didn't have the foresight to buy one before October the first). Twenty flipping seven quid: that's a whopping 35% increase from last year, and more than half the cost of a year's membership of the Tate gallery group. Is it supposed to be a corporate jolly, or an art fair? They need to decide and price accordingly, although, the sculpture park is free.

But against all of that remains the stark fact that it is one of the most important art fairs in the world, and you'll see some fantastic work (you'll also see some rubbish, but you can't like everything). You'll also get to see what curators, increasingly the most powerful people in the artworld, think is 'in'.

Here's the predictable almost list of the things that grabbed us.

We really, really liked Grayson Perry's Walthamstow Tapestry, a thing of intricate sewn brilliance, describing E17 in graphic glory, from hoodie to high street shops. Chernyshev and Shulgin's "Californian Ideology': CCTV screen that showed passersby with corporate logos in place of pixels, we liked even if it did seem a bit gimmicky. We loved Micheal Borremans 'The German' which was a tiny looping video of a man sat at a table being watched by even tinier models of people, but placed at right angles from the wall so you had to press your head up to the wall to see said loop. Jose Damasceno's huge picture of the world using only chess pieces should also be mentioned.

The oddest thing we experienced was the installation which appeared to be a New York Comedy club where you got a free drink if you got up and told a joke, which was improved or ruined depending by a ruddy faced drunk getting up and slurring a guttural howl into the mic (he wasn't part of the installation, we were assured). This is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

The bottom line is, if you've got the money, and the endurance for it, it's still worth going to see.

By Oli Gili

Frieze Art Fair is on from today until Sunday at the southern bit of Regent's Park (you can't miss it). Visit for details. Can't afford to go? Browse more photos by Orlando Gili and Chris Osburn.

Last Updated 16 October 2009