Frieze Retains Artistic Vitality Amid Euro Crisis
Yesterday, we wrote that Frieze Art Fair, taking place in the midst of a renewed euro crisis, was the litmus test for the art market future – the canary down the economic tunnel. As the first fair of the autumn season, all eyes are on Sharp and Slotover to see if they can come up with the goods once again.
So how has the economic uncertainty affected the way that Frieze looks and feels on the (fair) ground? ArtLyst believes that, despite maudlin, chin-up coverage elsewhere (emphasising a dramatic impact of the recession on the artistic character of the fair), there is no need for such doom and gloom: while the question of red dots is, of course, the elephant in the room, the artistic dimension of Frieze is remarkably stable – its quality very much un-depleted, its character unchanged.
In terms of trends, both the Evening Standard and the Art Newspaper (examples from the popular and the specialist realms, respectively) detected ‘less of the bling’ – ‘that dealers are not taking any risks this year’. Granted, there is ‘no monumental Jeff Koons balloon animal, no vast Damien Hirst vitrine, no gaudy Murakami’; but this is not, overall, a fair evaluation, with the Art Newspaper even contradicting themselves on this point in their assertion that ‘Many of the works of art are more brightly coloured this year’. Frieze certainly does not lack colour, or even ‘bling’ – for an example of the latter, one need only look to Anish Kapoor’s monumental silver tear-globule dripping off the walls of the Lisson Gallery booth; or even Christian Jankowski’s half a million pound luxury motor boat, with the artist charging a extra £125,000 for its purchase as ‘a Jankowski artwork’. Similarly, for colour, look no further than the gigantic and glitzy flower paddling pool of Yayoi Kusama, or Grayson’s Perry’s wonderfully cartoonish tapestry – the ‘Map of Truths and Beliefs’.
At Frieze, the Art Newspaper has picked up ‘a tendency to reference art history through appropriation or homage, or even by displaying older works’, citing, in particular, White Cube’s Chapman Brothers sculpture of ‘a ghoulish Madonna and child’. But to highlight one of the cornerstone charateristics of (now-vintage) Postmodernism in art as a peculiarity of Frieze, is surely to be somewhat out of touch. The V&A’s autumn Postmodernism: Style and Subversion could tell you as much, the exhibition even end-dating such historicism in 1990. And, it would not be an exaggeration to say that ‘a tendency to reference art history through appropriation and homage’ has been a Frieze feature since its humble beginnings (take the work of Jeff Koons, for example), and need not be highlighted as a product of recessionista-reckoning.
The Art Newspaper also tells us that, in a recession, ‘more challenging work is harder to shift’, and so ‘this year—unlike last year’s edition—sexually explicit art is a no-no’. This claim backed up with reference to Zeno X Gallery’s small collages of 1960s Japanese soft-porn images, in which the artist Anne-Mie van Kerckhoven has covered up with cut-outs of Chinese tigers. But this softened nudity is not, in fact, uniform throughout the fair: one has only to look at ‘Crush’ by Andra Usuta in the Ramiken Crucible Gallery – a full-size limp and emaciated naked body/corpse, drenched in splatters of silicone semen – to draw a radically different conclusion. Even more extreme is the booth of the Paris gallery Perrotin, completely transformed into a morgue cooler, with one body-drawer pulled out to reveal a grim human carcass; or the Chapman Brothers’ putrid Mother and Child, spitting grotesque worms from decaying, bloody countenances.
Quite clearly, this year’s Frieze gallerists are not ‘playing safe’ any more than they have done, certainly, in the last few years. Despite the economic turbulence (and the headline-seeking media coverage), Frieze’s artistic vitality has not been depleted. Whether this will translate into sales, however, is yet to be seen.
Frieze, The Facts:
The ninth edition of Frieze Art Fair hosts 173 of the world’s leading contemporary art galleries, representing 33 countries, and presenting work by over 1000 artists. Alongside British Frieze veterans such as Lisson Gallery, Hauser & Wirth, White Cube, and Gagosian Gallery, first time exhibitors this year include a number of French, German, and American galleries: hailing from Paris, Yvon Lambert and Galerie Chantal Crousel; from New York, Andrea Rosen Gallery and The Pace Gallery; and from Berlin and Dusseldorf respectively, the Johnen Gallerie and Konrad Fischer Galerie.
The Frieze Frame section of the fair, is dedicated to 25 galleries under 6 years old, with 21 joining Frieze for the first time. This year, there is Latin America makes a strong showing, with galleries including Argentina’s Ignacio Liprandi Arte Contemporaneo (showing Pablo Accinelli), Columbia’s Casas Riegner Gallery (showing Bernardo Ortiz), and Peru’s Revolver (showing Ximena Garrido-Lecca).
Eight artists have been commissioned to create site-specific works for Frieze, including Bik Van der Pol, Pierre Huyghe, Christian Jankowski, Oliver Laric, LuckyPDF, Peles Empire, Laure Prouvost, and Cara Tolmie. For our full roundup of Frieze projects, Click Here.
Words: Thomas Keane / Photo: Paul Robinson © 2011 ArtLyst
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