AT THE AGE OF TEN, the Frieze Art Fair has spawned two progeny. The New York offspring, born last May, offered the same looks-like-art collectibles as the London original, but housed them in a better tent. Last Tuesday, the art stork arrived home in Regents Park with a refined historical sibling, Frieze Masters, promising to connect ancient and modern under a single roof.
Having pretty much vanquished the Armory Show—and absorbed the lessons of New York—Frieze cofounders Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp appeared to many to be pulling a Maastricht. The new fair, directed by Victoria Siddall, put 101 dealers of antiquities, medieval, modern, or contemporary art under a lovely tent designed by architect Annabelle Selldorf, who banished the white cube from half of it. Walls were gray and lighting was dimmed low enough to respect merchandise that dated from 2,000 BC to 2,000 AD.
Some stands, like Richard Feigen’s, ran almost the whole gamut, while Robillant & Voena mixed 1960s Enrico Castellani paintings with nineteenth-century examples by past Italians. De Jonckhere held fast to Breughel and Cranach in a traditional, museological hang. Baccarelli Botticelli, on the other hand, mounted medieval and Renaissance-era figures on attractive white, packing-crate plinths—a radical presentation in this corner of the sublime. Gerard Faggionato piggybacked on exhibitions at the Serpentine Gallery and at Frith Street with back-catalogue ’80s works by Thomas Schütte, and Aquavella fanned out Picasso, Matisse, Magritte, and Diebenkorn paintings as if they were a deck of souvenir cards in a museum gift shop. “There’s never enough art history,” observed Performa founder RoseLee Goldberg, ricocheting between millennia with other contemporary art–minded types like auctioneer Simon de Pury, Prada Foundation curator Germano Celant, and High Line Art curator Cecilia Alemani.
Left: Hubert Winter and Gabriele Schor. Right: Performa founder RoseLee Goldberg.
There’s never enough art, period. How else to account for the proliferation of fairs around the globe? Overall, the action felt more like a treasure hunt than a sales convention. Taking a break from setting up his booth at what is now called Frieze London, dealer Aurel Scheibler spotted a surprising 1915 drawing by Duchamp at Galerie 1900-2000 that escaped others. Most contempos concentrated on the modern half of the tent, and the twenty-two-gallery “Spotlight” section devoted to heartwarming, single-artist presentations curated by Adriano Pedrosa. Exposure is key to building a market, and here it was for neglected or undervalued women like Lygia Pape, Sanja Iveković, and Birgit Jürgenssen, a Viennese feminist whose poetic/ironic works at Galerie Hubert Winter made her appear worthy of the attention that Alina Szapocznikow is getting at MoMA in New York right now.
But the spotlight wasn’t only on women. Leo Koenig brought unsung photographs by Sigmar Polke, and Andrew Kreps drove collectors like Thea Westreich into a frenzy of delight with his hang of Robert Overby paintings. “Wrap it up and ship it,” she said, sinking into a chair and clearly shopped out. “It’s so good I’m exhausted!”
Dealers in Mayfair weren’t about to give anyone a rest. The evening brought openings for Peter Doig, Tim Noble and Sue Webster, Piotr Uklanski, and “Bad for You,” a group exhibition of American art put together at Shizaru by the indefatigable collector Beth Rudin DeWoody. It attracted too great a swarm for viewing, while Toby Ziegler sent viewers several stories underground into an installation of cryptic sculpture and projected photographs that suggested the Guernica was painted in a cave.
Leave it to Laura Owens to raise the bar, which she did at Sadie Coles’s big and bright New Burlington Place gallery. Owens’s cacophonous “Pavement Karaoke/Alphabet” paintings spun her in yet another new direction—Portland Place, to be exact, where Coles, Gavin Brown, and Gisela Capitain held a dinner in her honor for at least a hundred. “When Laura paints, there’s no looking back,” Brown said in a touching toast that made her out to be tomorrow’s sunshine. “Laura’s got fucking huge balls,” countered Coles, to appreciative cheers from diners who included ICA London director Gregor Muir; collectors David Roberts, Nedda Young, Derek and Christen Wilson; New Museum curator Massimiliano Gioni; artists Helen Marten and Jason Woods; as well as Slotover and Sharp.
That was far from the only place to be. Sarah Lucas and Eva Presenhuber were launching “Situation: Franz West” in the Coles/Lucas New Burlington Place project space, with performances by West collaborators Philipp Quehenberger and Didi Kern. Lisson Gallery carried out its usual Frieze Week frenzy with a humongous dance party in St. James’s, while Noble and Webster worked up a sweat on the dance floor at Tramp, which also attracted Tracey Emin, Dinos Chapman, and Joseph Kosuth.
By Wednesday morning, Frieze London was beginning to seem like an anticlimax, but that didn’t stop several thousand people from checking it out. “We’re doing really well!” said nearly every dealer I asked. “We bought a few things,” said Phil and Shelley Fox Aarons. “Small things.” Iasson Tsakonas wasn’t quite as enthusiastic. “I’m ready for something new,” he said, during the vernissage. “Art as an experience has become a bit flat. Five years ago we would have been excited by the art here today. The world has changed but this is all the same.”
It wasn’t the same for dealer Giò Marconi, who built himself a clever new desk out of Kerstin Brätsch’s spray-painted panes of Plexiglas. And it wasn’t all roses for Vitamin Creative Space, the Guangzhou gallery that won the Frieze Stand Prize but inexplicably hadn’t yet sold any of the Pak Sheung Chun works inside it. Too different, I guess. Anthony Pearson, who was featured in the Marianne Boesky booth, had his eye on a painting by Rocky Kagoshima at Algus Greenspon. Michael Stipe, in town to participate in Hans Ulrich Obrist’s “Memory” marathon at the Serpentine, had a nosebleed—because, he said, he was “scared to death” by the prospect, despite having performed for years in front of thousands with R.E.M. For him, going solo was the new world today.
That night, the only gallery to hold an opening reception was Luxembourg & Dayan, for a fresh installation of Rob Pruitt’s “Autograph Collection, 1993–2012” canvases curated by Alison Gingeras. Pruitt was the only artist invited to dinner at China Tang in the Dorchester Hotel, where a fascinating mix of sophisticated collectors, some of whom were new to Pruitt, waxed eloquent in conversations about politics, fashion, fighter jets, and the unwearable new Jimmy Choo stilettos printed with Pruitt designs. Afterward, I found stragglers from other parties like dealer Toby Webster, Beyeler Foundation director Sam Keller, and artists Liam Gillick and Angela Bulloch at the Groucho Club, where Jim Lambie took a turn as DJ and club cofounder Tchaik Chassay table-hopped around the restaurant as if he’d been doing it all his life.
The perfect morning-after pill appeared next day in the form of the relaxed alternative Sunday Fair, enjoying its third edition in the subbasement of a college on Marylebone Road. Here was some of the new-new that might have pleased Tsakonas. Alice Charner’s Backbone, made of floor-bound chrome bars with resin-coated stirrup pants snaking over them, was the “what-is-it?” winner at Lisa Cooley. Ruth Ewan’s oversize metric clock took the cake at Rob Tufnell while Simone Subal’s presentation of ’60s and ’70s paintings by the Kiki Kogelnik would have perfectly suited Frieze Masters. I was fascinated by the Fall’s Mark E. Smith raving turn as an interviewer in a documentary video shot on a battleship in total darkness by Mark Aerial Waller at Rodeo Gallery. And stunned to learn, at Kraupa-Tuskany, that Wyoming was a tax shelter that the collaborative team of Keller/Kosmas (Aids 3D) had taken full, unironic advantage of with their sculpture-as-corporation, Absolute Vitality, Inc.
Even more vital was Bjarne Melgaard’s collaborative exhibition “A House to Die In” at the ICA, while the evening brought a show of Kiki Smith’s new work to Timothy Taylor, and the Emdash/Frieze dinner to the old Central St. Martins school. Frieze Projects curator Sarah McCrory gave a sweet farewell speech in a room lit so dimly it was hard to make out the sense of an evening that seemed DOA from the start. Dinner was slow to come so I left for the coddling warmth of a Webster-Presenhuber-Brown gallery dinner at St. John’s Bread and Wine. But on my way out, one of McCrory’s choices, Joanna Rajkowska, rocked my world when she explained that she chose to burn incense on the ground at the Frieze London exit. The smoke, she said, was like a genie emerging from a lamp, after her search for a miracle that would save the life of her infant daughter, who has a rare cancer of the eye.
I don’t know if art can ever really serve miracles, but it often embraces coincidence, like the moment on Friday that I walked into Tate Modern’s Tanks only to see Chelsea Clinton coming out. She was accompanied by curator Stuart Comer and Bidoun’s Negar Azimi, her friend since college at Stanford. Clinton’s optimism in regard to the coming elections was contagious, and carried me to Lynne Tillman’s Saturday afternoon talk at Frieze, which was all about the slippery slope of creativity. It further propelled me to East End Night, when I found myself walking past all the Indian restaurants on Brick Lane to “#COMETOGETHER,” a thirty-two-artist exhibition staged by the nomadic Edge of Arabia in a humongous former brewery above a vacant market. Here I discovered artworks as critical of the cultures in the Middle East as they were rooted in them—and by the time I reached the Herald St Gallery dinner at the Bright Field I felt both wasted and refreshed. I’d seen a ton of art but none of it touched me as often as the people who flocked to it, whether to buy it, sell it, or just talk about it. The excitement is in the courtship, not the mating. So when the Frieze tents fold, it’s back to the studio, the gallery, the museum, where the romance always begins.
Left: New Museum associate director Massimiliano Gioni, artist Ingar Dragset, and Art Production Fund cofounder Yvonne Force Villareal. Right: Artist and writer Etel Adnan.
Left: Tate Modern director Chris Dercon with curator Shanay Jhaveri and Gayatri Jhaveri. Right: Whitney Museum curator Scott Rothkopf.
Left: White Columns director Matthew Higgs, collector Adam Lindemann, and dealers Dominique Lévy and Lucy Chadwick. Right: Artist Jeremy Deller.
Left: Art Basel film curator Matthias Bruner and curator Bice Curiger. Right: Dealer Lorcan O'Neill.
Left: Dealer Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn and Warhol Foundation president Joel Wachs. Right: Emdash Foundation founder Andrea Dibelius.
Left: Dealer Leo Koenig. Right: Writer Kirsty Bell and Artists Space director Stefan Kalmár.
Left: Dealer Tanya Bonakdar with Serpentine Gallery codirector Hans Ulrich Obrist. Right: Dealer Monica Manzutto.
Left: Tate Modern curator Mark Godfrey. Right: Writer Lynne Tillman with Lion Summerbell and artist Kiki Smith.
Left: Artist Hope Atherton. Right: Artist Betty Woodman with collector Beth Rudin deWoody, artist Richard Tuttle, and poet Mei-mei Berssenbrugge.