While many connoisseurs call it “the art circus”, thousands of avid collectors and art enthusiasts keep traveling to London for the most significant art event in the London cultural calendar. This year, Frieze art fair took place from 5 – 7 October (with two preview days on 3rd and 4th October).
Frieze London was presenting the best of international contemporary art, with a selection of around 160 galleries. The fair was divided into various sections, offering numerous side events such as talks, live performances, and themed tours.
The new themed section “Social Work” is an invitational section of Frieze London featuring eight monographic presentations by women artists who se work emerged in response to the global social and political divergences of the 1980s and 90s. The works pay homage to a selection of artists who challenged the status quo and explored new forms of political activism. Including both established and less-known feminist artists, this section also highlighted the role that galleries have played in the support of female artists. Another focus section, entitled “Emerging Talents”, brought together 33 galleries representing young artists from Cape Town to Los Angeles.
Some of my highlights at Frieze London included:
Tatiana Trouvé: Placed right next to the main fair entrance, this installation stood in the spotlight of attention, without any doubt.
In ‘The Shaman’, a new work presented at Frieze London, the Italian artist interrogates the position and the status of the subject placed before or within art. Whereas in her earlier work, the dramaturgy of her practice has privileged the attitudes of the witness or the traveller who has renounced all forms of property, here the artist’s self as it’s embodied in the work, lose its pure human traits and takes the unexpected form of a tree that transforms itself into a fountain. A shaman is not only a traveller in the geographical and spatial sense. It is also someone who is able to travel from one identity to another, from one biological species to another, translating one language into another.
- The artist lives and works in Paris (France); represented by Kamel Mennour.
Athena Papadopoulos: The very young and successful directors of Emalin Gallery have opted to dedicate their whole booth to a new work series by Canadian artist A. Papadopoulos. While connoisseurs may recognise the artist’s handwriting, some will discover completely new aspects in the works. At the centre of Athena Papadopoulos’ presentation for Frieze, a group of beds made of wrought-iron curlicue sit facing each other, perched atop a selection of cocktail and medical trolleys. The beds represent a confessional and performative space. As a site of vulnerability, angst and fantasy, the bed has been a platform across which discursive and political practices have been negotiated. As materials Papadopoulos deals with media such as glitter, hair dye, false eyelashes, make-up and hairspray. On the walls, sculptural paintings made of reconfigured second-hand bridal gowns flank the central installation, containing birds’ nests, which for the artist provide a vehicle for exploring the more intricate manifestations of societal gender conventions.
- The artist lives and works in London (UK); represented by Emalin Gallery.
Sandeep Mukherjee: Another eye-catchy work is ‘Tree Skin’, featuring a topography that hybridises organic matter such as flesh, skin, and stone to consider interactions between physical dimensions of material and historical experience. The work invites viewers to consider nurturing as well as violent aspects of our relationship to nature.
- The artist lives and works in Delhi (India); represented by Project 88.
Cinga Samson: The oil paintings of self-taught artist Cinga Samson address themes of youth, masculinity and spirituality against the backdrop of post-colonialism. Figurative self-portraits, the works depict the artist in casual dress, posed in front of surreal landscapes – composites of his own fantasies and the rural scenery of South Africa. The dislocation between subject and background lend the paintings a traditional, almost anachronistic feeling. Recalling the marble of classical sculpture, empty white eyes gaze out at the viewer – as if they were in fact turned inward – suggesting the pre-eminence of the interior life of the artist-subject over the external world.
- The artist lives and works in Cape Town (South Africa); represented by Blank Projects.
Mark Manders: Since 1986 the Dutch artist Mark Manders has been making a ‘self-portrait as a building’ – a declaration that seems uncharacteristic of the work for which he is best known. His play with these two systems – rational constructions in space and resonant, quasi-mythic forms – suggests that he is trying to use the former to contain the latter, and much of his works’ bathos lies in his evident failure to do so.
Before Manders embarked on his artistic career, he worked in a graphic design studio. This is where his fascination for design and language, and particularly poetry, originated. Attempting to write a self-portrait in an unconventional manner, he soon hit the boundaries of language and translation. Words were substituted by visual elements. According to Manders, drawings, sculptures and installations are freer and can, just like poetry, incorporate different sounds, colours, rhythms, rhymes and interpretations.
His work shown at Frieze London 2018, entitled “Dry clean head” (2015) is made out of painted bronze, rope, plywood and offset print on paper.
- The artist lives and works in Ronse (Belgium); represented by Zeno X Gallery.
Ouyang Chun: Shangh Art’s display this year focuses on a body of work by artist O. Chun. “Detritus 1999/2013” is comprised of garbage assemblage, a group of 62 individually framed photographs documenting lost objects, and volcanic ash, 973 individual bronze sculptures that feature everyday objects such as keys and small toys. The name “volcanic ash” hints at natural disaster and utilizes an ancient crafts technique. The work is reminiscent of the images of ocean plastic and the detritus of today’s throwaway culture. The idea that they could have been discovered amid volcanic ash, swept up along with butterflies and fish, leaves viewers with an unsettling feeling.
- The artist lives and works in Beijing; represented by Shangh Art Gallery.
Vlassis Caniaris: With several major international exhibitions, retrospectives as well as participations at the Greek Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (1964, 1988, 2003, 2012) and Documenta 6 (1977), V. Caniaris is ranked as one of the pioneers of post-war art in Greece, contributing and influencing the emergence of a new artistic climate. Like other Greek artists of his generation he worked in Italy, France and Germany during the 1960s and 70s when he developed a personal distinctive style, experimenting with modes of expression that strayed from the mainstream.
With echoes of Arte Povera and the trends that had developed since Marcel Duchamp, he began to experiment in the 1960s with humble, everyday materials such as plaster, wire mesh and other found objects. Deriving inspiration from his deep understanding of and sensitivity to the socio-political issues of the day, Caniaris addressed political realities in his work that generate a forum for debate on questions related to contemporary society and force the viewer to an awareness of issues encompassing immigration, identity and cultural differences.
The largest work on view at Peter Kilchmann takes the form of an installation called “The Urinals of History”. The artist explores the impact of contemporary culture on Greek heritage, traditions and background. This piece unites two of the key themes identified at this year’s Frieze: traditional craft techniques and political discourse.
- The artist died in 2011 in Athens; represented by Galerie Peter Kilchmann.
Frieze Masters: Besides loads of established artists at Frieze Masters, I have also discovered the works of lesser-known yet equally skilful artists.
Avigdor Arikha: Arikha started drawing as a child, not childlike drawings, but what he saw around him; flags, people in groups, flowers, people working. His father had taken him to see an exhibition of Chinese paintings when he was six and the impression it made on him was so strong he never forgot them and throughout his life the influence of Chinese art remained rather severe. During deportation, in his teenage years, his drawings caught the attention of an overseer in the concentration camp. The camp’s manager, Jägendorf, helped to save a few of those early drawings and Arikha was sent to the “Bezalel School of Art” in Jerusalem. Before the 1948 war, he managed to escape to Paris. Next to visiting museums, he lectured in universities and organized exhibitins, as well as writing articles and making films. Arikha is known for working only in natural light and for producing each of his works in one day. His work is part of several public collections including the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Denver Art Museum, Galleria degli Uffizi, Musée du Louvre and many more.
- The artist died in 2010; represented by Blain Southern.
Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: After their acclaimed retrospective at Tate Modern, Kabavo’s show travelled to Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. The installation at Frieze Masters features works from the 1960s and 90s such as “The rope of life”. The long rope (8 meters) has pieces of garbage attached to it in the middle, together with pieces of paper where we can see the dates and different events – the fragments of a biography. In the middle of the room is a crate with garbage. Each piece of garbage has a piece of paper attached, which has written on it a ‘dirty expression.’ Every piece, using this kind of language, is trying to force the visitor to ‘leave it alone.’ The last piece in the big space (the floor in this room is also covered with white paper), is the crumpled up piece of paper which is lying in the corner. Next to this paper there is an explanation – also a strange association, connected with this paper, which was thrown into the corner.
- The artists live and work in Long Island; represented by Galleria Continua.
More impressions from Frieze London and Frieze Masters 2018 below. Stay tuned for my London autumn exhibition guide!
Photo credits: Judith Bradlwarter. ©