The doors are open and the 2016 edition of Frieze London is now underway, bringing a wide range of works and artists to bear on the fairgrounds at Regent’s Park in the northern part of the city. With its VIP Preview concluding today, the fair made its first big push of sales alongside the kick-off for a number of its projects and performance works, which conclude this Sunday.
The mood of the fair was notably positive this year, even in the face of quiet rumblings about a drop-off in market interest following the Brexit vote earlier this year. Yet it would seem that the forecast many galleries offered in the days following the vote, an assertion of London’s inescapable position at the center of the global art market, seems to have been proven correct. Buyers were ample, and the aisles of the fair were packed in the opening hours, matching the often spirited bodies of work on view throughout the space.
At Seventeen Gallery, Jon Rafman had installed a new VR headset piece, arranged in the midst of a snaking sculptural work that doubled as a housing for several computer towers running the programs each viewer had plugged into. Gavin Brown’s Enterprise was also presenting a series of madcap works by Brian Belott, while Sadie Coles was showing an equally peculiar body of work by Jim Lambie, Urs Fischer, and more. At Gagosian, the gallery’s focus on the work of Edmund de Waal offered a fittingly subdued counterpoint, with its clean, bare white and black shelf pieces bearing his delicate, minimalist ceramics. Equally subdued was a Martin Honert sculpture at Matthew Marks Gallery, taken from his series of surreal depictions of school teachers.
Also of particular note was a striking installation at Hauser and Wirth, a daunting clutter of works spread throughout the carpeted booth with little indication of rhyme or reason to their arrangement. The show, titled L’atelier d’artistes, plays on cliché and myth, underscoring the staged concept of the artist’s studio as a platform for both exhibition sand sale, while joining together a diverse body of pieces from Paul McCarthy, Fabio Mauri, Rodney Graham, and others. Considering past takes on the creation of an artist’s “studio” in a fair environment, it’s notable to consider the gallery’s willful critique of this concept, adding a sly twist that may make for one of the more critically incisive spaces at the fair. Even so, this approach to the booth brought ample interest from buyers, and the gallery had already sold over a dozen works in the early hours. Pieces by Francis Picabia and Christopher Wool were notable sellers, but the gallery seemed to have no problem in moving any of their artists, and could be argued as the most popular booth at the preview.
This sense of market strength was distinctly pervasive, with spirits and buying interest at the fair notably high throughout, and many other galleries also reporting early morning rushes and relatively steady streams of sales throughout the day. Lehmann Maupin placed a 2013 work, Dispossession, by Kader Attia, while at Lisson, where works by Anish Kapoor and John Akomfrah were on view, sales and pricing were also unaffected, according to Director Louise Hayward. With the number of international artists on view, the gallery had priced many of its works in dollars, sidestepping the weak pound entirely while maintaining the consistent sales that Frieze has long been associate with. At Pace, where recent work by Kevin Francis Gray and Leo Villareal was on view, sales were also strong, including a work by artist Prabhavathi Meppayil, who will present new work in New York later this month.
As anticipated, artist Yuri Pattison’s peculiar mix of sculpture and performance work saw a series of roving trolleys, each equipped with flat-panel monitors displaying various metrics about the fair in real time, winding up and down the halls of the space. It’s strange visual effect, combined with the feeling of ever-present surveillance systems and a intensified awareness of the fairgrounds itself, highlighted why the artist’s work won the open jury call for the 2016 Frieze Artist Award.
Elsewhere, performances and projects dominated fairgoers attentions in other ways. Of particular note was artist Julie Verhoeven’s chaotic interventions in the bathrooms for the fair. Changing the color of the rungs leading into the bathrooms (and mixing the traditional gender assumptions they imply), in addition to unnecessary changes in elevation and bizarre graphic inflections, Verhoeven’s installation was a lighthearted twist on the less prominent architectural spaces of the fair. Also of note was Wonderland Ave., an experimental puppet show set and series of performances created by writer Sibylle Berg and visual artist Claus Richter, which proposes a future experiment with machines taking control over humankind, and examines the implications for both the present and tomorrow.
Considering the strength of the work on view, one can understand Frieze’s ability to weather the uncertain market landscape. With events of this scale and caliber, the organization’s focus on curatorial vision and variety continues to draw ample attention, both from visitors and buyers, keeping the pace brisk and the event as fresh as ever.
The fair opens tomorrow, and runs through October 9th.
— D. Creahan
Frieze London 2016 promises to confuse and amuse buyers [Guardian]
The curators shaping Frieze’s London fairs [FT]
Frieze London Launches with More Than 160 Galleries from 30 Countries [Artforum]
The Nineties: don’t look back in anger [Art Newspaper]
Frieze Masters review – for the billionaire who has everything, what about a Magritte? [The Guardian]
Frieze art fair 2016 review: Everyone’s a performer in the boozy, fruity house of fun [The Guardian]