Frieze Art Fair 2014
Regents Park is currently playing host to the international art flocking that is Frieze 2014. In its 12th year, the Frieze franchise, founded by Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp, has established a second further art fair; housed in a neighboring white tent is Frieze Masters, and further afield still Frieze New York. Offering a number of talks in the Frieze Masters talks programme from key individual artists and industry practitioners, such as Phyllida Barlow and ceramicist Edmund de Waal, there is ample opportunity for involvement.
One only has to look at the guide with its marked map to get an idea of the notoriously colossal size of this event. With over 162 of the world’s leading art galleries being represented, from 25 different countries, the size is understandable. Equally impressive and overwhelming, to some degree Frieze feels a little like an art airport with every major city’s art representatives on hand to whisk you round their condensed portfolios.
The nature of the contemporary international art market is undoubtedly an eclectic one and is expectedly diverse. Abundant painting and two-dimensional works are disseminated with installation, sculpture, three-dimensional forms, found objects, film and performance, live and documented. In the current “everything is art” climate, this diversity is unsurprising, but what is very pleasing is the overall quality and polish of all pieces.
The range of painters this year was vast and with some impressive examples of artists with more minimalist leanings, both famous and less known. Callum Innes’ Exposed Painting Phthalocyanine Blue Lake, Frith Street gallery (plot B4) is a knockout, while Tim Eitel of Eigen + Art (A11), and Han Feng’s Waves represented by ShanghArt gallery (A15) had beautiful zen-like solemnity.
One of the magnificent things about this fair is that it is, despite the initial level of exclusivity, an equaliser. The ranks of the famous names and the lesser known are not articulated, so to see a Gilbert and George (A5) neighbour Anne Collier’s Questions (Supposition and Relevance, B3), past and present are brought forward for level consideration.
Frieze has a distinctly different feel to a gallery or museum matching it in size. It is first and foremost an art fair and thus has a commercial tone that underpins the reception of the art. Problematic for those there to simply view the work without the intention of making a purchase, the artists are crammed in and the marathon stamina required to get round it all demands the focus of a bargain hunter – the love of art may not be enough to carry one through to the end.
The innovative film projector installation and cheeky vibrating membrane from the stall of Rosa Barba (B2) was a refreshing interruption to the static. Her use of surprise and tactility in Conductor and the thoughtful serendipity of Mixing Colours is a definite highlight of the installation line up. Alongside heavyweights Anthony Gormely (A5) and Carl Andre with his 8 x 8 Cedar Solid (A9) were Marepe’s playful and satisfyingly fuzzy wire wool balls (A10). Water was a running theme that popped up in Oscar Tuazon’s Bathtub That Never Fills (D1) and the scare of the American food industry’s water butts of banana flavouring in Focus G15. They have a visually distinct blue hum and an overpowering odour of foam bananas; as much art as it is a health warning raising questions of mass food production. Focus is a new adition to the Frieze consortium that is aimed at fostering merging galleries, which has been curated by Raphael Gygax and Jacob Proctor.
A sculpture that stood out for very different reasons was Public Sculpture 2014 by Alexandre da Cunha (E6). The round cold form of a concrete ring encasing a huge disc of pink sponge had an aesthetically pleasing juxtaposition of soft and solid on an impressive scale. The digital side of things was fewer and farther between, but still very much present. A short but sweetly witty, and quenching of childlike temptations to take a hammer and chisel to a sleek black plasma TV, is realised in Hito Steyerl’s Strike video (film).
Pieces with overtly political or serious messages are arguably lost in the sea of stalls. Both Broomberg and Chanarin’s The Prestige of Terror (H1) and Meschac Gaba’s Bureau d’Échange: Cotton 2014 (E7) probably aren’t the quick sell type, however poignant.
The intimate drawings of Francis Alys hung in David Zwirner (B7) were totally enchanting. The gentle pastels and rough torn edges mounted and framed in white pull you in, and are random but sweetly suggestive of short stories. Similarly the details in the imaged poems of Beatriz González, particularly the delicate threaded tears in Llanto (Crying) (J5), share a quietness antidotal to the loudness of the event.
The market’s trending favour is for mass consumption of work, and capitalising on what seems like an unending conveyor belt of creations that have two options: to be sold or not to be sold. It leaves one feeling a bit bewildered and sort of numb to the latest haul of cool artists’ works. However, glancing and dismissing them as candidates for the hallway or token office artwork is not seeing it at all. Much of the work exhibited is worth far more space and attention than it is afforded; no one has the patience or mettle to appreciate each piece fully in one go. This argument of it all blurring into one could be applied to any large-scale exhibition, but Frieze has something worryingly temporary and wasteful about it. Having pointed this out, however, the quality of the work is not affected by this, merely the perception of the work by the viewing masses, causing it to be commoditised.
Whether Frieze is a concept that sits well with your art moral compass is personal; the tickets aren’t cheap and neither are many of the attending punters, but it definitely provides an insight as to the role of the modern art market in the art world.
Photos: Rosie Yang
Frieze Art Fair runs from 15th to 18th October 2014, for further information or to book tickets for Frieze Art Fair and Frieze Masters visit here.