A Mini-Guide to the Mega-Crowded Frieze Week in London
Anna Iltnere 18/10/2013
The Frieze London art fair takes place from October 17 through the 20th, but all week long there are a bunch of satellite events and exhibitions taking place, all specially timed to coincide with Frieze Week.
While the anonymous British artist Banksy has turned coats and is currently peddling his works in New York's Central Park for practically nothing – in an attempt to rip off, like a band-aid, the coating of luxury that has accumulated on his hooligan street art over the years (or rather, ever since it was removed from piss-filled public lobbies in order to be hung on the bedroom walls of collectors...) – his home country's prestigious art fair, Frieze London, marches into its second decade more fancifully than usually. (Even though there is, of course, no better marketing than anti-marketing – at least when it comes to the hooligan Banksy who, most likely, wears a bright white collar underneath that hood of his.)
A woman poses for a photograph in front of artwork by Jeff Koons. Frieze London 2013. Press photo
In celebrating its tenth anniversary last year, the Frieze team announced two new attractions – Frieze Masters, which features pre-21st century art and is also held in London, and Frieze N.Y., which debuted in May of 2012. This year, the main London fair has undergone plastic surgery – the architectural offices of Carmody Groarke have remodeled the premises for a brighter and more roomy effect. The selection process was also stricter this year, with only 152 galleries participating this time around (which is 20 less than in 2012). The number of admittance tickets has also been curtailed – in order to avoid unseemly crowds, and so that everyone has enough room to breathe.
1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, London. Photo (c) Denzil Hugh Dean for 1:54
And unsurprisingly, London itself becomes even more teeming-with-life during that week. Although one can't complain about a lack of things to do in London on a daily basis, come autumn, Frieze Week is an especially electrified time.
In speculating on the directions that the latest trends will be taking, it seems that after its recent tour of Asia, the art market is setting its sights on the cradle of civilization. This autumn saw the debut of 1:54, London's first African contemporary art fair. Hosted by Somerset House (through October 20), 1:54 is featuring, among others, the artist Edson Chagas from Angola, who received the Golden Lion for Best National Participation at the 55th Venice Biennale this year; it was also Angola's first time taking part in the Biennale. Overall, there are many diverse art fairs going on in parallel with Frieze; there's even the Touch Art Fair, which features tactile art. The artist-run Sluice Art Fair has also returned this year (October 19 and 20), which first came onto the scene in 2011 as an alternative to Frieze – which the organizers of Sluice had labeled as hyper-commercialized, and which, according to Sluice, does absolutely nothing for the greater part of the world's artists. This then led to the birth of Sluice, which features initiatives and galleries that are run by artists, and which has returned this autumn after having gone on hiatus last year.
Sarah Lucas. Au Naturel. 1994
Fresh blood can also be found at The Moving Museum exhibition titled “Open Heart Surgery” (October 13 – December 13), which promotes London's new artists. The Moving Museum is a completely new project that saw its debut in May of this year, in Dubai; it represents a new model of how to exhibit contemporary art – as an exclusively traveling exhibition that, nevertheless, still holds on to other functions characteristic of museums, such as amassing a collection and providing educational programs. 300 works by more than 20 artists are currently on view in London.
The Magazine restuarnt by Zaha Hadid
For those who are a bit nervous around non-familiar names, but who have nothing against master strokes in contemporary art, a visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum is in order; where right now one can see the show “Tomorrow”, by the Scandinavian duo of Elmgreen and Dragset (October 1- January 2, 2014). Having rummaged through its collection and arranged some rooms, the artists seem to have practically moved into the Museum. Their aim was to make it look as if these rooms are the quarters of a rather well-off, middle-aged architect who also happens to have a melancholy side. Another recommended destination is the Whitechapel Gallery, which has currently been given over to the show “SITUATION Absolute Beach Man Rubble, a career retrospective of Sarah Lucas (October 2 – December 15). Although Lucas belongs to the Young British Artists generation, the always-controversial artist has been a professional firebrand for twenty years already – with all of her stained mattresses, phalli made of various materials in all sorts of sizes and states, headless nudes, and so on. For dinner, one can head to the new branch of the Serpentine Gallery and its just-opened restaurant (designed by starchitect Zaha Hadid), which is located in Hyde Park, and which is also home to the “old” Serpentine Gallery. Built in 1805 and a former gunpowder shop, the building has been transformed into a modern exhibition space with an attached restaurant that seems to have grown on to the side of the structure like some sort of futuristic, white mushroom (and with asymmetrical tables, to boot). A real barrel of gunpowder for the cultural tourist!
A logical ending, and one that is well worth mentioning for this mini-guide, is an installation being made during Frieze Week by the artist Matthew Smith. Smith has taken over the bathrooms of a block of apartments and in these, he is organizing an obedience training course for cats, a workshop on shoe shining, and a slew of other attractions that Smith himself has called “pointless”. Smith rationalizes it all with his wish of reanimating the glam-rock atmosphere, something that he associates with hiding in the girls' bathroom to secretly smoke and throw wads of wet toilet paper up onto the ceiling... This artwork is part of the above-mentioned “Open Heart Surgery” event.
One of the children selected by Pilvi Takala talks about his ideas
If you happened to notice, this summer the organizers of Frieze announced the winner of their young artists' award, EMDASH 2013. To refresh your memory, the award is for artists that live outside of the UK, and it allows for the winner to realize his or her project at Frieze London. Out of 550 entries, the award was given to Finish artist Pilvi Takala (1981), who lives and works in Istanbul. Her winning proposal was that the major part of the monetary prize of EMDASH 2013 (7 thousands pounds from a total budget of 10 thousand pounds) be given to a group of children ages eight to twelve, and for them to decide what they want to do with the money. What the children have decided on hasn't yet been revealed, but it will be presented during Frieze London 2013. “If they want to buy sweets with the money, so be it; but they will have to be able to explain their actions,” Takala said in an interview with The New York Times.