“Be very afraid! Hedge fund woes!”: Frieze Art Fair 2016 — Overview

Frieze London 2016 Portia Munson

Re-enactment, fictional artist’s studios and the power of the pound: Jacob Charles Wilson finds that Frieze Art Fair is still calling the shots in today’s multifaceted international art market…

This year, Frieze Art Fair opened a week earlier than usual. A small detail, but with the result that the 160 international exhibitors, countless fringe events, and wider arts industry have had to reschedule their own annual exhibition plans to take this into account. The fact an entire industry will reorganise itself around a single event is testament to the significance of Frieze in the UK cultural calendar, and of London in the international art market. In the 2000s, Frieze made its mark by introducing talks and films as well as a programme of commissions and curated sections. The wide scope needs a huge venue, and with quality works spread across Regents Park, you’ll need an espresso from Artusi or Gail’s, or one of Company Drinks’ fruit juices before you start.

The nearby Sculpture Park is a good introduction to the fair, curated by Clare Lilley of Yorkshire Sculpture Park, it features 20 artists including Claes Oldenburg and Jean Dubuffet. It’s free entry, and for the first time will run until the 8 January 2017. Frieze Masters is a little further away, and perhaps only worth visiting if you’ve got another day spare, or prefer the calmer, more relaxed atmosphere.

“I found my interest repeatedly drawn to the younger or lesser known artists, especially in the curated sections Focus and Live”

Frieze itself hosts once-radical now-commercial classics such as Grayson Perry at Victoria Miro, but I found my interest repeatedly drawn to the younger or lesser known artists, especially in the curated sections Focus and Live (advised by Jacob Proctor & Fabian Schoneich) in addition to Projects (curated by Raphael Gygax).

At the centre of Focus is winner of the Frieze Artist Award 2016, Yuri Pattison, whose Crisis Trolley places CCTV cameras and flatscreen displays on a movable base to explore concerns around the mining of “trending data”, and the collection of live customer behaviour. More of Yuri’s work is also featured at Mother’s Tankstation.

Frieze London 2016 Allied Editions

Rachal Bradley’s work at Gregor Staiger arrived through a process of discovering and procuring the sometimes rare and expensive industrial moulds used for vintage motorcycles parts. A task which intersected copyright issues with gendered language and environment of industrial fabrication and motorcycle repair.

P.P.O.W Gallery have two of Erin M. Riley’s figural tapestries and Portia Munson’s Pink Project Table (pictured, top), originally shown in 1994 and updated this year, which collects and nearly orders a variety of products coloured pink and coded “for girls”. Once a critique, it now appears closer to a reclamation of this aesthetic.

“Perhaps unusual for a contemporary art fair, it appears that re-enactment is the key curatorial trend”

Samson Young is a stand-out Hong-Kong based composer and sound-artist. His newly commissioned project leads visitors on a neo-noir sensory tour of the fair following a private investigator as he tracks Lok (played by Young), who has become convinced that he is going to be abducted by foreign agents.

Perhaps unusual for a contemporary art fair, it appears that re-enactment is the key curatorial trend, with Nicolas Trembley curating an entire section, The Nineties, dedicated to recreating some of the most memorable exhibitions of the decade. This section is carried by the photographers whose work has now become accepted and influential to much emerging work; Anthony Reynolds shows Richard Billingham’s scenes of domesticity in Ray’s a Laugh. Daniel Buchholz replicating their original exhibition of Wolfgang Tillmans’ straight up fashion shoots. Sylvie Fleury’s 1993 collection of workout videos wouldn’t be out of place on Instagram.

Frieze London 2016 Hauser & Wirth

Mahmoud Khaled’s Untitled (Go-go Dancing Platform) Speaks in Frieze Live restages Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ original 1991 work. Though, instead of dancing, each performer delivers a soliloquy exploring their status as an art object being unveiled for the fair. Mahmoud’s work spoke to my own concerns, whether this theme of repetition is a comment on the fair itself, or just a way of getting rid of old stock.

Frieze itself is a work of theatre, two years back Helly Nahmad Gallery wowed everyone at Frieze Masters by abandoning the white-cube aesthetic and hanging their work in a fake 1968 Parisian apartment. This year, Hauser and Wirth (above) have taken the same idea further, creating an entire fictional artist’s studio within their prime spot at Frieze. The space is filled with hung and freestanding works by Phyllida Barlow, Martin Creed, and Mark Wallinger, as well as tens of people there to admire the decor, if not the art.

“On nearly every corner of the fair, stacks of the Financial Times warned ‘Sign of decline’,'Be very afraid’, ‘Hedge fund woes’”

A number of exhibitors are trying to turn these viewers into buyers by making collecting affordable. Allied Editions (second from top) is a collaboration between Camden Arts Centre, Chisenhale Gallery, Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), South London Gallery, Studio Voltaire, Serpentine Galleries and Whitechapel Gallery, joined by this year’s partner, the Nottingham Contemporary. This model looks set to define a new approach to commercial fairs, of galleries working together to sell runs of emerging artists’ low-cost work to new visitors.

Talking to gallerists, the mood seemed optimistic, though some questioned whether the young audience could be motivated to buy art, saying that few if any had asked for prices. It’s not surprising to hear this, especially given that on nearly every corner of the fair, stacks of the Financial Times warned “Sign of decline”, “Be very afraid”, “Hedge fund woes”, and below that, the most concerning news, that the Old Master market may be in turmoil after the discovery that a Frans Hals sold at Sotheby’s for £8.4M is a forgery. The weak power of the pound was put rather bluntly by one gallerist, who I heard tell a potential buyer that it was: “Good for me, bad for you”. Perhaps not the best sales pitch, but an honest take on the problems of selling art today.

Jacob Charles Wilson

See Frieze Art Fair in Regent’s Park, London, 6-9 October 2016, ticket prices vary, some parts free

Posted on 07/10/2016 by thedoublenegative