I have attended Frieze Art Fair in Regent's Park, London, twice now since moving to the UK two years ago. Last year the throngs of people and odd-looking installations, including a midget-like man about to plunge from a diving board, 75% human size, made me shudder. Is this the direction of contemporary art? Do these types of shows dictate the norm, driving art critiques and collectors alike in certain directions?
This year I tried to go with the most open mind possible, already prepared for the thousands of art groupies of all ages (mainly white and affluent) who would be paying the £27 (approximately $40) entry ticket to wander around, looking for something that means something to them.
This year there were once again throngs of people. This year there were once again the random installations. In one of the Frieze Project installations a dimly lit room had a fish tank in the middle with what I believe were spider crabs and one large crab with a mask attached to it. The crab couldn't move, desperately trying to find its balance. Is this the point of the work of art? Artist Pierre Huyghe, as stated in the Frieze Projects brochure, creates a narrative between players that is not scripted. I moved on, a bit disturbed and unavoidably feeling sorry for the crab, only to catch part of a performance by a woman, dressed in a baggy black jumper, walking around a space with coils and a fenced in area in the middle. Spectators were asked to approach and sit closely. She was saying random things into a microphone and slowly walking around, apparently thinking she was very interesting. Sorry, I didn't write the name of that one down.
A few works caught my attention. A large, round canvas, painted in a dark grey tone with what would seem like an oversized paintbrush that created perfect, rounded swirls, like thick frosting on a delicious cake. There were also some interesting photographs, both in black and white and in colours, oversized, of mysterious figures and moody lighting effects. The prices were in the thousands of pounds. A work by artist Paul Chan, represented by the Greene Naftali Gallery from New York caught my attention as well. The entire wall of the gallery space was covered with old books, painted different colrs with objects attached to them, creating a collage effect. This work was titled Volumes 2011.
Galleries from London, Paris, Los Angeles, Madrid, Tel Aviv, Dubai, New York, Beijing, Sao Paolo, Berlin and more, were present. And of course, Tate sets aside funds to acquire works for the Tate Collection every year at Frieze.
Although I feel compelled to go every year and observe what part of the contemporary art world is up to, I could not help leaving the fair, two and a half hours later with a sensation of emptiness and chill. The works these artists are making do not transmit human warmth and are also quite elitist, leaving comprehension only to the artist and those most informed. I was relieved to encounter a Pre-Raphaelite painting on my desktop the next morning, a marriage portrait of a young woman positioned in a window frame, her skin glowing and her eyes twinkling an unknown secret to the viewer. The portrait exudes mystery, passion, disillusion, fear, and perhaps love. I can relate to her.