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Two Cents' Worth on Frieze

C-print friend and our new contributing writer, London-based gallerist Maria Stenfors, offers an account of her impressions and highlights from this year's recent edition of Frieze London.

Frieze Week is the highlight in the London art calendar. It is the week when London does its best to impress with gallery openings, museum exhibitions, performances, installations, champagne, canapés, dinners and parties. It is the week when dealers, artists, collectors and curators from all corners of the world descend upon London for the Frieze Art Fair and all that it entails. September had been unseasonably warm, and the London summer had begun to feel never-ending. Autumn, however, arrived this particular week. It was also the arrival of a chilling reality for many still numb from the result of the British EU membership referendum. A sudden ‘flash crash’ in the currency markets during the week by gave (foreign) visitors a substantial discount on their stay and purchases.

The weekend prior, Lisson and Gagosian amongst many galleries held their openings for their respective Frieze shows of Tony Cragg and Richard Serra, both impressive on scale. On the Monday evening the Tate unveiled the Hyundai Commission: a spectacular installation by Phillippe Parreno called Anywhen. The immersive site-specific work filling the Turbine Hall involves sound, moving walls, film, a bioreactor and inflatable fish. It is constantly changing in the space, so it can never be experienced the same way twice throughout the six-month period that it lasts, constantly evolving and unfolding new narratives.

On Wednesday morning at 11 am, Frieze Art Fair 2016 and Frieze Masters private view opened. Almost simultaneously as the Prime Minister exclaimed, “If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere”, the international community of art workers, collectors and makers entered the tent in Regents Park. There were the usual showstoppers, such as Anish Kapoor’s 5-meter tall reflective sculpture in red and silver, the perfect location to take a selfie for those who were inclined to do so. A great joy with the fair is always meandering around and finding hidden gems around corners and hidden in cupboards. The image below with Francis Alÿs’ Untitled 2016 drawings was hidden around a corner on Galerie Peter Kilchmann’s stand on the opening night.

Hauser and Wirth’s booth drew large crowds. The installation compassed of drawings, paintings, sculpture plinths, easels and furniture amongst many other items in the space. In the centre was a new work by Bharti Kher: a large geometric sculpture made of wood and rope, suspended from the ceiling of the tent on wires. As the wind rose during the afternoon and lifted the ceiling of the tent, the sculpture swayed ominously from side to side, as if almost treating the prevailing ‘state of affairs’, inside the installation of L’atelier d’artistes. As the press release by the gallery stated, L’atelier d’artistes was an “exercise in cliché”. However, although the installation was both compelling and seductive (visitors elbowing themselves through in order to absorb the work) of the 50 or so pieces on display, the inevitable fact that this was, in fact, the Frieze Art Fair also told an important story about clichés.

The young section of the fair is called ‘Focus’ and was made up of just short of 40 young and emerging galleries from across the globe, grabbing the attention of collectors. This year, Frutta had a stand with a mime artist and revolving art works in a restaurant inspired installation. Seventeen showed Jon Rafman’s Trans Dimensional Serpent. On the yellow background of the stand a white snake was eating its tail, but also functioned as a seating area for the audience where by putting on a pair of virtual goggles a “horror” story was reveled and experienced. An interesting stand was Exile from Berlin, showing the self-taught artist and designer Nathalie du Pasquier (a founding member of the design group Memphis). The stand installation White Model for a Big Still Life consisted of paintings and an abstracted, architectural model portraying a relationship between forms. She currently has her first museum solo exhibition at Kunsthalle Wien.

Adjacent to the main fair is the sculpture park in Regent’s Park, with 19 large-scale sculptures. It was very nice to see older works by iconic artists, for instance Lynn Chadwick’s Stranger III (1959), Claes Oldenburg’s Fagend Study (1975) and Jean Dubuffet’s Tour aux récits (1973). But there are newer discoveries to be made as well, such as Henry Krokatsis’s Kabin (2016) - giving off the scent of burned wood as you pass it - as well as works by Huang Rui and Goshka Macuga. As autumn will progress into winter and the park will change with the seasons, the sculptures will remain in situ until 8 January 2017. This is an advantage, as the experience of viewing the works changes with the scenery and the climate. It is well worth a stroll if you happen to be visiting London. However, it is disappointing to see that only 15% of the sculptures are by women, resounding with the Guerrilla Girls exhibition Is It Even Worse in Europe? at Whitechapel Gallery, open until 5 March 2017.

A new section of the fair this year is the Nineties Section, curated by Nicolas Tremblay. Eleven galleries revisited important exhibitions from the 1990s, highlighting key collaborations between dealers and artists but also recalling an era where the “artfair model” did not yet exist. Galleries included Air de Paris, Massimo de Carlo and Neu to name a few. Wolfgang Tillmans's first show at Daniel Buchholz that was recreated to a 1:1 scale of the original 9m2 area, earlier located in his father’s Cologne bookshop, reminding you of the humble beginnings of both artist and gallery. Anthony Reynold’s 1996 gallery exhibition of the candid photographs Ray’s a Laugh, by Richard Billingham was another must-see in this section.

One of my favorite things with Frieze Art Fair is Frieze Project, which every year provides a way to expand the fair beyond the physical tent. The participants this time around were Sibylle Berg and Claus Richter, Martin Soto Climent, Coco Fusco, Julie Verhoeven, Samson Young and Yuri Pattison. The latter was the winner of this year’s Frieze Artist Award his project was a connection of the environment of the fair with cameras focusing on the outside vistas of the fair, such as the park and landmark of BT tower, as well as the inside of the tent, including one camera positioned just above the installation (so you could see yourself on TV!). There were also microphones placed around the fair picking up conversations and displaying parts of them on the screens. As the audience of the fair changed over the week so did the conversation and seeing the work gave you a sense of your own place in it, almost looking out for something you may have said.

A strong experience during the week was Samson Young in the Project section. The multimedia work is called When I have fears that I may cease to be, what would you give in exchange for your soul (2016) and consists of a series of videos, sounds and interactions throughout a walk around the fair. A narration and songs, information in a booklet fill your mind and senses. They entailed of scenes of a singing man, as well as the artist walking through the fair while it was still under construction, amongst these, images from Hong Kong and smoking, and tobacco merchants auctioning the raw product. It followed the story of the surveillance of a man named Chi-Lok Young. Throughout the walk, the work oscillated between Hong Kong, the fair tent and your own presence. The work is about story telling, messages and smoking and, without revealing too much, it ends in an interactive performance binding together Chi-Lok Young, Samson Young and myself. In an odd way, Chi-Lok Young, Samson Young and I were a single entity. While Samson Young surveyed Chi-Lok in the videos, I watched him do this. However, after the participatory performance at the end, it seemed as though I had also been stalked during the entire experience, and still felt irrationally paranoid long after.

As the week drew to an end, I had a feeling I had missed so much and wished there had been more time to experience the art and the moment. But with having walked around 10,000 steps daily for a week, it was time for the tents to go. Frieze Week was a week of autumn winds and Brexit fears, and, as always, amazing art and conversations.

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