A First Look At Frieze Art Fair

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 18 months ago

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A First Look At Frieze Art Fair
Teamlab's animation of flowers is beautiful and is at the Pace gallery stand.

Frieze London has landed in Regent's Park, but what to make of this year's edition?

It would be wrong to call Frieze simply an art fair, because it's unlike any other in London — the size, the amount of money that exchanges hands, the sheer number of events — both at the hub and the satellite events across London.

We published a piece on all the things going on during Frieze week. Now here's our verdict.

Hauser & Wirth's carefully crafted yet chaotic looking booth.

The main space is where all the blue chip galleries are, and many have traditional booths — after all they're here to sell art. This is where you get the big names: Grayson Perry's sculptures at Victoria Miro, and a giant red concave mirrored surface from Anish Kapoor with Lisson Gallery.

Some big names have broken the mould, including Hauser & Wirth with their chaotic stall filled to the brim with works by their artists. Cleverly designed to resemble a single artist's studio, it feels seamless.

The stark white room by Hans Op de Beeck at Marianne Boesky.

Marianne Boesky has produced a totally white room by Hans Op de Beeck and it's surreal. Talking of single colours, a special mention has to go Portia Munson's work, a table so pink that it would even freak out Barbie. Munson has gathered every pink item she can find from toys to hairbrushes and piled it together into arguably the most kitsch and Instagram-friendly setup at the fair.

About as pink as anything will ever get in this work by Portia Munson.

But it's not all large scale fun works. Tomas Saraceno, for example, has created beautifully ephemeral structures out of spider silk. Brexit features in certain topical works, too. Michael Landy's fake red top newspaper headlines make the case for remaining in the EU while Various Small Fires gallery has a grey therapy room where a video alludes to anxieties associated with Brexit and the current US presidential election campaign.

Michael Landy's work takes on the vote to leave the EU.

The project section is where the experimental works are, and it doesn't disappoint with Frutta gallery from Rome having a live performer who seems halfway between a mime and a waiter, as he poses with paintings in a restaurant setting. Carlos Ishikawa has recreated a run down internet cafe complete with taped up signs with misspellings.

But the best bits of Frieze are always the performances and this year's are great. We watched two artists in a room where they were controlled by four robot overlords in a dystopian future. It touches on important issues such as immigration and population control, but with a dark sense of humour.

We snuggle up to and sink into some acoustic foam.

We also got the chance to lie down in a human shaped cut out in some acoustic foam. It's a strange sensation as it deadens all the noise around us, is warm and we could easily have fallen asleep — very comfortable.

Even one of the toilets is an art piece, and confused us as well as several other fair goers. The pink path leads to the mens and the blue to the ladies. The toilets even have music pumped in to make doing your business a slightly uncomfortable process.

A confusing route to the toilets put in place by Julie Verhoeven.

What about Frieze Masters?

We're devoting less coverage to Masters as it's more obvious what to expect: Old Master paintings, ancient marbles and rare artefacts. This isn't to say there aren't stand out booths here as well.

The Bowman Sculpture stand of Rodin's is marvellous.

After two years of spectacular installations Helly Nahmad is taking a break with a minimalist stand of three Picasso paintings and that's it — not even a table. This may seem a waste but each work is excellent and likely to sell for tens of millions. Blain|Southern has a great stand dedicated to the bestial sculptures of Lynn Chadwick.

But our top two are Jonathan Clark Fine Art's booth dedicated to Eduardo Paolozzi's sculptures (particularly his angular blocky heads), and the sublime selection of sculptures by Rodin at the Bowman Sculpture stand — spectacular.

A fantastic selection of Paolozzi heads.

Should I go?

Is the big question. Frieze is very good this year but costly to visit. If you add on Masters, the ticket price goes up to around £56 — a significant amount. You could see three blockbuster museum exhibitions or a top West End show for that.

There's no better place to get a complete slice of the biggest galleries and top artists operating today, all in one go. It's so grand that to really do both fairs justice would take an entire day and then you'd probably still miss a lot of things.

But if you decide it's money you can't spare, then our Frieze week guide has plenty of options that are cheaper or free to visit.

Frieze London and Frieze Masters are on in Regent's Park until 9 October. Ticket prices vary and may be found online.

Last Updated 06 October 2016