Review: The Verdict On This Year's Frieze Art Fair

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 28 months ago
Review: The Verdict On This Year's Frieze Art Fair
People can queue up and get a portrait of their genitalia drawn by artist Ken Kagami in 15-20 seconds; all without taking their clothes off. Photo Tabish Khan

In our guide to Frieze week we mentioned that the centrepiece is the Frieze art fair itself — but what is it actually like? Let's face it, it's never going to be worth the £50 ticket price. So whether you plan to go or not, here are some pictures of the artworks that caught our eye and our thoughts on the fair itself.

Frieze London

Frieze has critically been overshadowed by Frieze Masters the last few years, but this was the best edition of the original fair yet. It's got a lot of fresh new art from artists we'd not come across, this was definitely not the case last year. One memorable booth is Gagosian's, dedicated solely to Glenn Brown — a classy affair that pays homage to 19th century drawings and sculpture, a world away from last year when they had Carsten Holler's playground.

The best parts were the interactive works scattered throughout the fair. Visitors can climb inside a mini version of the fair marquee and relax listening to cheesy music, climb down on to the grass of the park and experience a strange wind tunnel effect and have an artist draw a picture of genitalia just by looking at you (fully clothed, we should add).

The one disappointment was the Focus section, which is for the young and emerging galleries. Last year there were daring installations like a nail bar and an underground bunker, while this year it was much more conservative with most preferring a traditional booth layout.

Frieze Masters

Frieze Masters has the advantage over its sister fair of having thousands of years of artworks to choose from, so it usually gets better reviews. Last year Helly Nahmad gallery was the talk of the fair with 'the collector', a recreation of a 1968 Paris apartment complete with artworks casually placed throughout. This year they have done it again with an asylum, complete with scrawls on the walls, as the inspiration for the artist Jean Dubuffet.

Aside from this stand we were a little disappointed with the rest as there were no standout booths dedicated to a single artist — usually the formula for producing something special. Marlborough Fine Art did it last year with a host of Francis Bacon's, they have tried to recreate this with a selection of Auerbachs, but it's not as compelling.

For the first time since the inception of Frieze Masters, we think it's been outdone by it's sibling at the other end of the park.

Frieze Sculpture Park

This is usually our favourite part of Frieze because it's not pretentious and access is completely democratic, i.e. it's free. However this year is disappointing as there are very few works that really grabbed us — the one exception was the deflated world which inflates during the day before being let down again.

The other works felt too formulaic with uninspired works by Conrad Shawcross and Tony Cragg, which look like the same works they churn out regularly.  A one nice touch is that some of the sculpture park will remain in situ until January.

All of Frieze is set within Regent's Park, Frieze London runs until 17 October, Frieze Masters until 18 October and the sculpture park until 18 October with six works remaining until 17 January 2016. Tickets are £34 for one fair, £50 for both; the sculpture park is free to visit.

Also check out our top openings for autumn and October, plus our most talked-about exhibitions for September.

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Seung Taek-Lee's deflating sculpture is a playful take on how we're treating our planet. Photo Tabish Khan
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If Frieze gets too much chill out in this mini marquis while listening to music. Photo Tabish Khan
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Stuart Shave / Modern Art won the award for the best stand at Frieze for this combination of planes and washing machines. Photo Tabish Khan
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Yes a giant inflatable version of Felix the cat is also at Frieze, towering over the booth walls. Photo Tabish Khan
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This sculpture has the appearance of litter but is supposed to be rabbits up close ... frankly it still looked like bags of litter when we got close. Photo Tabish Khan
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Carsten Holler gives us a giant pink bug, but it's still not as radical as his slides down the side of the Hayward gallery. Photo Tabish Khan
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A truck made from cardboard is hard to miss. Photo Tabish Khan
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Tom Friedman has recreated a cocktail party within Frieze, a nice dig at all the parties that will be held during Frieze week. Photo Tabish Khan
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One room from the Asylum by Helly Nahmad gallery, easily the best booth of Frieze Masters. Photo Tabish Khan
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Richard Nagy has created a living room setting with some fantastic drawings by Egon Schiele. Photo Tabish Khan
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A Louise Bourgeois climbs across the wall. Photo Tabish Khan
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A nice touch as Roy Lichtenstein sculptures stand in front of his drawings. Photo Tabish Khan

Last Updated 19 October 2015

Paul Gallagher

I don't really understand why you thought Tony Cragg artwork was formulaic?