Frieze Art Fair 2019: Our guide to London’s largest art fair
Frieze London: it’s an overwhelming art-world extravaganza where over 160 galleries from 35 countries compete for attention in an enormous marquee in Regent’s Park. Our guide will hopefully help you to pick your way through the madness.
Without doubt, the most interesting booths focus on only one or two artists; in amongst the endless variety of paintings, sculptures and everything in between, coherent and clean presentations stand out. Art powerhouse Gagosian (booth E3), for instance, is presenting a huge solo display of work by Sterling Ruby, where bold, colourful paintings sit alongside one of Ruby’s “Basin Theology” ceramic bowl sculptures.
London-based Kate McGarry Gallery (booth A12) has also bravely chosen a solo presentation, with a small but perfectly chosen selection of large paintings by Bernard Piffaretti. Each of Piffaretti’s canvases is dissected by a vertical line, and the abstract image on one side of the divide is repeated (almost identically) on the other, leading the viewer to question which image is the “original” and which the “copy”.
Meanwhile, the installation by Donna Huanca at Simon Lee Gallery (booth E6) has been the talk of the fair. This immersive installation combines wall-based works with sculptural paintings, mounds of white sand, a sound piece and even a custom-made scent inspired by the fragrance of Palo Santo, a holy tree native to South America and widely used in purification ceremonies. The booth’s curators write: “Huanca’s two-dimensional painting practice is fundamentally connected to the performative elements of her work. In six new ‘skin’ paintings, photographs of her performers’ bodies are blown up and transposed to canvas, where they are re-worked with paint.”
Stephen Friedman Gallery (booth A10), on the other hand, has had success with a two-person display, and is the deserved winner of the Frieze Art Fair Stand Prize. One side of the booth features new paintings by Swedish artist Mamma Andersson, which act as poetic evocations of the natural world. On the other side, and also capturing a distinct sense of place in his work, Brazilian artist Tonico Lemos Auad presents new abstract textiles and sculptures that take the form of imagined landscapes.
Textiles are a significant theme at this year’s Frieze London; the curated section is titled “Woven”, and features eight displays by international artists whose work uses fabric, sewing and tapestry and explores the rich history of these traditions. The highlight here is a series of works by Angela Su, presented by Hong Kong-based Blindspot Gallery (booth W6). Su’s recent works were created during the recent turbulent months of protests in Hong Kong, and are embroideries made with human hair. Here, the artist subverts the traditional feminine, domestic associations of sewing and instead presents embroidery as a radical act of protest.
Nearby, the Frieze Focus section offers some younger galleries to showcase more experimental work by emerging artists. If you’ve only got a short time at the fair, head straight here – there will almost certainly be something you’ve never seen before. One highlight – and one of the strangest things at the fair – is Tang Dixin’s participatory artwork Rest Is the Best Way of Revolution, hosted by Shanghai-based gallery Aike (booth H12). In this unsettling installation, visitors are invited to get part of their body bandaged by an in-booth team of fake doctors and nurses.
Over the aisle, Canadian gallery Cooper Cole (booth H2) has gone for a very different atmosphere. Their display of four artists is beautifully arranged across an understated booth painted an unexpected sage green. Particularly intriguing are works by Cree and Metis artist Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill, which include a pair of small bunny rabbits made out of tobacco and hosiery.
The best of the rest… also worth mentioning is a colourful exploration of human-animal relationships and gender at 80M2 Livia Benavides (booth H33). There are also 180 dead ring-necked parakeets made from salvaged lead by Patrick Goddard at Seventeen Gallery (booth A15), and a beautiful mirrored pond surrounded by plants by Urs Fischer at Galerie Max Hetzler (booth A10).
When you need a bit of a break, it’s also worth checking out some of the lounges, many of which have their own unique commissioned artworks. For instance, the Bombay Sapphire Stir Creativity Lounge combines great cocktails with intriguing AI video works produced in collaboration with artist and designer Yinka Ilori.
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
Frieze London 2019 is at Regent’s Park from 3rd until 6th October 2019. For further information visit the event’s website here.