Frieze Art Fair: Nostalgia and Discovery

With Frieze director Victoria Siddall describing this year’s fair as having a “sense of discovery”, the plethora of art to be found at Frieze London 2016 offered endless opportunities of exploration. The fair experience surpassed the walls of gallery booths, with artistic endeavours revealed across the curated programme of talks and performances and a trip down memory lane to The Nineties.

Amongst all the art, the buzz and art-selfie takers (there was queue for photos at the Jeppe Hein piece Something Special About You from NYC’s 303 Gallery), there were moments to take in the impact of a more minimalist approach to showing high-quality art, such as at the prize winning stand by Mexico City gallery kurimanzutto and Gagosian’s showing of Edmund Waal’s black and white ceramics. However, the monochrome and “less-is-more” philosophy was counteracted in other areas, a favourite being Pink Project: Table by Portia Munson at PPOW gallery. The bubble-gum Barbie pink objects were perfectly placed in a curio of plastic paraphernalia. At Sommer Contemporary Art’s booth, the neon work I am a Feminist carried on the same pink power cues.

Neon hotel signs by Turkish artist Hüseyin Bahri Alpteki, which were part of the Tate Fund acquisitions, gave an air of exotic city streets against the white walls of the Frieze tent. These works deal with socio-political issues of today in an attempt to show how things change their meanings as they move from one culture to another; perhaps a timely nod to an even greater theme considering this was the first fair post-Brexit.

In line with current museum trends of featuring artists’ studios, Hauser & Wirth’s curated booth L’Atelier d’Artistes shone light on the artist’s perspective. The plants, rugs, and easels were surrounded by numerous works on display, creating a warm and inviting experience. The details were noticed, down to each sketch and small painting.

The immersive art experience took all forms, with performance pieces taking place simultaneously throughout the duration of the fair. The performance Nap Disturbance by Christine Sun Kim explored the way the deaf artist perceives sound, and seemed to amplify the sounds of the fair. This year appeared to be about enhancing the experience, as Julia Verhoeven exemplified in The Toilet Attendant.. Now Wash Your Hands as part of Frieze Projects. The entrance to Julie Verhoeven’s installation was blue and pink carpeted pathways that led visitors into the unisex toilets where they were met with the artist herself as an attendant and the humorous and flamboyant decor.

Rome’s Fruta Gallery transformed its booth into a restaurant with red-checkered table cloths beneath the neon lights reading “My heart will go on”, whilst German gallery Rüdiger Schöttle also encouraged participation, as the gallery took a look back to 1926 with reference to the International Institute on Intellectual Cooperation, an advisory committee (with members such as Marie Curie and Albert Einstein) whose aim was to bring together a divided Europe. A mass of concrete displayed by the gallery created an open table for discussion of current issues.

The theme of nostalgia was most present in the new section of Frieze London called the Nineties that revisited the decade’s most influential exhibitions. Wolfgang Tillman’s first exhibition at Daniel Buchholz’s gallery in 1993 was recreated, with the impact of the photos resonating as strongly as they would have pinned on a teenager’s bedroom walls as they did within the re-contextualised commercial setting. Aerobic workout videos played on TVs from the era made up an installation by Sylvie Fleury, while the apartment-turned-film set by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster was restaged at Esther Schipper’s booth.

PACE brought today’s digital age to the forefront with the interactive digital work Flowers and People – Dark by teamLAB. Offering more interactive experiences, Pilar Corrias presented two works, one by Philippe Parreno and the other by Shahzia Sikander, captivating the space with the orange glow above and the HD animated orbs dancing on the back wall. At Sadie Coles, visitors could watch Marvin Gaye Chetwynd’s video Dogsy Ma Bone on bean bags that were set against puppy-patterned wallpaper. More than just kids dressed in crazy fabrics singing with dogs and flamingos, the video addresses the financial crisis – yet another unveiled discovery amidst the extensive works exhibited at this year’s Frieze London.

Ashton Chandler Guyatt

Frieze Art Fairs ran from 6-9 October at Regent’s Park, London. Find out more:

1. Thomas Struth, Chemistry Fume Cabinet, The University of Edinburgh, 2010. Chromogenic print, 47.4 x 65.3 inches. © Thomas Struth.