Tuesday, October 22, 2013

One hundred and forty galleries in five hours.

Where? At the Frieze Art Fair in London gathering galleries from China to South Africa, Beirut, New York...and of course London.

Regent's Park is easy to reach by bus or tube and with a quick access to the white tents, the visit started on a "good foot" which is important for a fair goer. Of course, I could not avoid the comparison with the FIAC which opens this week in Paris at the Grand Palais. There, the building provides a great setting for the exhibitors with the light filtering through its high glass vaults but the wait can last several hours even with tickets in hand.
At any art fair, the number of galleries is overwhelming and I usually follow the rows one by one, booth by booth. Of course, well-known galleries can be spotted by the crowd mulling around them. This time,White Cube is mobbed by mothers and children looking at a taxidermy piece from Damien Hirst, idem for Gagosian which has chosen to be an amusement park with works from Jeff Koons. The YBA's are still going strong and bringing crowds. There is fun for adults as well. They can walk into the two way mirror sculpture from Dan Graham at Lisson gallery or make photographs of themselves reflecting in a ...wait, not Pistoletto but Gavin Turk.

But fairs are also an occasion to surprise and galleries compete for the visitors' attention, sometimes in strange ways. A gallery from Milan was staying in semi-darkness with shining plastic puddles on the floor. German galleries brought their big names and Neo-Expressionism is in full swing with the upside-down paintings from  Georg Baselitz whose works are getting a renewed interest.
The Argentinian sculptor Adriàn Villa Rojas' is downsizing and his end of the world sculptures now can fit in a collector's backyard. Two years ago, a giant pipe made of crumbling cement, his preferred media to remind us of the fate of civilizations, crossed the Tuileries Garden during the FIAC.
Visits are always an adventure and one could find among the female artists a few photographs from Sophie Callé, a small painting from Joan Mitchell in the greens and oranges, provoking sculptures from Sarah Lucas. The list goes on, a piece from Murakami, a full-length caricatured self-portrait in gold metal, an hyper-realist work from Ron Mueck, two giant paintings from Chris Ofili... 
The prize for the "cringe provoking" gallery went to Stevenson, a South African gallery presenting the work from Meschac Gaba, baby clothes hanging along the wall, decorated with provoking words close to an installation from Andreas Angelidakis hinting at Metamodernism.
Otherwise, I found the show subdued and conventional. The only live performance was presented by the gallery Michael Werner: a circle of priest-like actors drawn in a circle, whispering to one another.
No Champagne's corks were popping in the aisles.

photographs by the author:

"Clutch VIII" Antony Gormley, 2010
"Sunny side up" Urs Fischer, 2012
View of the Gagosian gallery with works from Jeff Koons.

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