Another year of art fairs passes bringing with it an even more intense series of talks, collaborations, acquisitions and improvements. What seemed impossible to outdo has been outdone. This year Frieze Art Fair was easier to navigate with more space for repose, for the eye and for the legs, making it that much more enjoyable. Frieze Projects, Frieze Film, Frieze Music, Focus and Frame all contributed to the eventual overdose on art, with the backdrop of contemporary artist Grayson Perry being the chosen speaker for the well known Reith Lectures on BBC’s Radio 4.
This being said, I was not overcome with awe by any work in particular at the main fair. Frieze Masters is another story. At both fairs many wonderful galleries were represented, including Gagosian Gallery, Blum & Poe, Lisson Gallery, Victoria Miro, White Cube, Pace, and more. The lighting was soft and luminous and the crowd discreet. Some work caught my attention for their humor or use of texture.
One video work in particular, by Bruce Connor, presented by Kohn Gallery in Frieze Masters, stopped me in my tracks. The video, Crossroads, 1976, is in black and white and lasts 37 minutes. It is true footage of the testing of an atomic bomb under water. As stated by Josh Siegel, Associate Curator, Dept of Film, The Museum of Modern Art, “Conner found a cataclysmic beauty in National Archives footage of the first underwater atomic bomb test, conducted on Bikini Atoll on July 25, 1946. He combined 23 shots of the same explosion—at differing speeds and distances, from air, sea, and land—with a complex, mesmerizing dual score by Patrick Gleeson and Terry Riley to make of the destruction a kind of Cubist cosmic sublime.” I was able to sit on a little bench, in a quiet, dark space and watch the film, in almost complete isolation.
In Gavin Brown’s enterprise the safety cones by Rob Pruitt made it difficult to walk around and see the work by David Hockney on the walls. All the cones had personalities, with the plastic molded into different facial expressions, such as a tongue sticking out and frizzy hair added on top. These cones were a comical arrangement cognizant of the long-standing discussion about what constitutes art.
Also track-stopping, as he often does, was the work of artist Meschac Gaba at Stevenson. Recently Gaba’s work, Museum of Contemporary African Art (1997-2002) was acquired by Tate as part of Tate’s initiative to increase holdings of contemporary African art. The work, an immersive 12-room installation, fuses art and daily life, questioning elements we take for granted, such as the meaning of the museum. At the fair Stevenson presented a work titled Le Monde en Miniature et la Mode en Miniature, a wall that resembled a store wall, of babies’ and children’s clothes displayed on painted dummies, hanging in rows. Upon closer inspection the clothing was embroidered with words that remind us of the violence children all over the world are constantly exposed to. Gaba often reflects on cultural exchange and different value systems in his work.
Every year I leave the fair thinking I do not need to return the following year. But as the days passed and jetlag wore off, I was left with a lingering sensation, as a good friend put it, “as though I had taken a plunge in a cold pool, emerging refreshed and invigorated yet left shivering.”