The Frieze Art Fair: Just An Art Fair

by Art Fag City on October 15, 2009 Events

POST BY PADDY JOHNSONart fag city, frieze
Outside the Frieze Art Fair, London at Regent’s Park, All photos AFC

You heard it here first: The Frieze Art Fair does not transcend art-fairness with its much touted less-commercially-driven program. It is still, in fact, just an art fair. Chatter about what has and hasn’t sold circulates the building, Julian Opie fills at least one allotted booth, and like every other fair, uber fancy port-a-potties with fake wood and suave sinks signal an event for rich people. As far as I can tell, the biggest difference between Frieze and other shows is simply that it’s much harder to sneak into the exhibitions if you don’t want to pay the ticket price. Press credentials are hard to come by — even for the bonafide professionals — and the guards check everyone going in and out of the fair so it’s almost impossible to slip by unnoticed.

Installation view of White Cube’s booth F13. Damien Hirst (wall), Rachel Kneebone, Stations (sculptures on pedestals), and Zhang Huan‘s skull painting obscured in the background.

As far as the fair goes, I’ve seen better. Far too much c-rated work by a-list artists hangs on these walls and that’s really boring. White Cube, for example, chose to highlight a selection of their artist’s worst work. A giant Damien Hirst platinum wall tool kit looks no different from a high-end display front at a hardware store. Even those who don’t like Damien Hirst have to admit he’s done better — could the gallery not edition and sell the twins with Rubiks cubes now on view at the Tate Modern?

Marc Quinn, Thomas Beattie, 2008, Edition of 3, Marble, height: 70 7/8 inches. White Cube, Booth F13

Anyway, I probably wouldn’t have gone in the booth at all were it not for Marc Quinn’s ridiculous pregnant man in marble. I’m a little surprised to be writing this given the sensational element even within his early work, but it looks like the artist’s refrigerated head in blood displayed in Charles Saatchi’s Sensations show nine years ago may have been this artist’s peak.

Martin Eder, Installation view, Galerie Eigen + Art Leipzig Berlin, F5

Every fair has to sport at least one embarrassingly bad booth, and this year’s winner comes from Galerie Eigen + Art Leipzig Berlin. Martin Eder’s giant bare breasted women against a shower wall paper — some also sporting smeared lipstick — has a high-production-value, abused-barbie-doll art feel to it. Against that same wall, Stella Hamberg’s poorly placed bronzed mop and water is easily mistaken as an element of Edger’s display. There’s nothing remotely good about anything in this display.

Barnaby Furnas, Installation view at Marianne Boesky Gallery‘s Booth C4

Of course, no major art fair is without its highlights. This year, most can be found in the wing exclusively dedicated to emerging artists and galleries, dubbed Frame, though a few stand outs remain in the main part of the fair. Marianne Boesky. for example. claims to have already sold out her booth of small Barnaby Furnas watercolors. Furnas adds patterned frame-like elements to some of the works of various warring parties, which typically only improves the pieces through additional complexity. While they may not be amongst his very best work — the more violent earlier paintings are stronger — they’re certainly great pieces.

Marcel Broodthaers, Dites Partout Que Je L’ai Dit (Tell everyone what I said), 1974, Stuffed parrot, audiotape, photograph, collage. Michael Werner Gallery New York, Booth G14

Finally, although I didn’t understand the poem played in this installation work, I rather liked the muted stuffed parrot, a representation of a parrot, and a text-based collage, paired with the audio tape. I’m quite certain an art fair isn’t the place to really decode such work, but I liked what I saw enough to go back. I wouldn’t say that about a lot of the booths at this year’s Frieze Fair, but the ones that are will be highlighted in an upcoming post.

Related: An Interview with Frieze Executive Director Amanda Sharp

All Frieze Fair posts are made possible with generous support of Creative Capital.

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