My mother always told me to look at the sponsor of an art exhibition and ask myself why they would invest in this person or show. Well there’s only one reason why Deutsche bank have continued their devotion to Frieze: art makes good investment. Due to the current state of the economy, however, I didn’t expect to see so many millionaire buyers milling around – the stem of their glasses twiddling in their mouths – but as I found out, such a naive preconception could only have been produced by a frieze fair virgin!
To my left, I was faced with a gigantic vibrating mirror by Jeppe Hein…
Entering arguably the most important and internationally renowned contemporary art fair left me overwhelmed for the want of a better word. To my left, I was faced with a gigantic vibrating mirror by Jeppe Hein, reflecting Elmgreen and Dragset’s model of a small boy perching on the end of a diving board; only to turn ninety degrees and come face to face with an Ofili in all its glittered resin glory. I was a million miles away from my ordinary student lifestyle. Thank goodness I shined my shoes!
My fear was dispelled when a group of middle aged gentlemen bustled past me, all dressed in identical white shirts and brown trousers looking quite frankly, terrified. Annika Ström’s Ten Confused Men brought a more contentious subject to the fore. It appears that, yet again, female artists are under represented compared to their male counterparts. Embarrassed? So they should be! Yet its subject matter appeared to escape the snap happy public who were more content with pointing and laughing before being whisked off to view another dot painting.
My eyes had to act like a sieve-catching the good and dissolving the bad…
Quickly, I realised that in order to survive the Frieze ordeal it was essential to create a strict system by which it would be possible to view absolutely everything – perhaps sacrificing my sanity in the process. My eyes had to act like a sieve-catching the good and dissolving the bad. Unfortunately, this meant some of the pieces by-passed me completely, including Simon Fujiwara’s fictional Frozen City – winner of the fair’s Cartier art prize. The installation featured a series of faux archaeological excavations displayed in underground cavities across the marquee. Initially I felt like a complete amateur for having not realised the significance of these pieces until I discovered, perhaps, it was my temporal blindness from the multi-coloured neon lights at the Sfeir-Semler gallery. Surely, this was an amicable excuse not to have given it my full attention?
Needless to say, there were some extraordinarily talented artists on show. Ryan Mendoza’s striking paintings depicted children in dubious sexual positions, yet not in a perverse sense (if such a conception is possible). There was something endearing about his work despite the uneasy subject matter. Similarly Lynette Yiadom Boakye’s work caught my eye due to the sinister undertones laid bare on the canvas. The black skin of her muses differentiates against the rich colours of the backdrop in a disturbing manner.
…manipulating the viewer to focus exactly where the camera pointed is truly remarkable.
The photography, however, was the most truly compelling feature. The diversity ranged from Nan Goulding’s raw composition to Thomas Struth’s isolating photos of the Kennedy Space Centre. Stan Douglas’s photograph of a tea cup collection also deserved attention providing a chaotic insight into the life of a hoarder. Tilman’s photograph of a toucan really captured my heart; his ability to transfer his vision, manipulating the viewer to focus exactly where the camera pointed is truly remarkable.
Yet, as Ström presented earlier, not all art has to be serious. David Shringley at the Stephen Friedman gallery displayed an ostrich without a head and a taxidermy puppy holding a sign which brandished the words, ‘I’m dead.’ Shringley pokes fun at the glamorised art world through his humorous sketches instantly grabbing the attention of the public. I was informed after the fair that Shringley managed the stand himself, painting temporary tattoos upon members of the public. It would have been nice to catch a glimpse of my hero, yet it was rather nice to believe I may have encountered him anonymously.
It was certainly refreshing to view works from a completely new perspective, not only from artists I had never seen before, but also from those that I had been previously familiar with. If I were to dedicate my time to every last piece like I should have done, I would have needed to bring a sleeping bag. Five hours later and it was time to call it a day. No doubt the show had been an entertaining insight into the energetic nature of the art world.