Frieze Art Fair


What a madness it is, the yearly shindig at Frieze Art Fair. It’s an exuberant exhibitionist display of the latest from the contemporary art world. I wandered up and down the stands trying to understand what was going on. The first thing seemed to be a very up market fashion show. Unlike the international collectors and buyers who were all wearing tight short black dresses. I had kept my coat on and felt like a bag lady in this company. Then I became aware of the money. I could smell it, and I don’t mean the smell of used notes but rather the metallic edginess of gold. I rarely brush up against people with real money. They not only appear confident, but seem to walk around in a glass bubble of indifference to others. I am in an overheated tent among a different species.

When I had adjusted to the people I tried to get to grips with the art. I cannot think of a more unhelpful way of looking at art than at Frieze. Each gallery was exhibiting anything from one to a dozen works. The Lisson Gallery, where I hoped to find some work by the sculptor Richard Long, had a double curved wall of glass that you could walk around and look at reflections of people in. Maybe it might have had something to say displayed in the White Cube but here it simply became a tourist attraction. Jeff Koons’ enormous plastic animals seemed to be overlooked by a gang of black suited minders. I wondered irreverently whether this was because a common reaction was to deface these cynical responses to modern life. I joined a group of people as we obediently followed directions through a darkened corridor devoted to performance art. I passed a pulsating bed with black ink on it but lacking the performance artist whom the press had informed me was essential to the work and then I ended up staring up the fur lined hood of a dummy? The dummy-artist moved amid embarrassed giggles from the crowd.

If there had been some interesting art here I would have found it difficult to take in. I resorted to checking out those contemporary artists that I knew and respected and found some works by Cornelia Parker at the Frith Street Gallery which I had already seen and admired In Bullet Drawings she uses drawn out lead thread to sew through paper, making lines and crosses like primary school samplers. The result is both engaging and startling because of the material she uses. As often with Parker she upends the original material and uses it in a playful feminine way to destroy its power. There was also a work in paper with holes burnt through it in a regular pattern, the paper curling back on itself where it had been burnt and so showing the vulnerability of its charred edges. Seeing the works by Parker made me feel slightly less disassociated from my environment and it was in the Frith Street Gallery stand that I bumped into a friend who was showing students around the exhibits – a real human being at last!.. I was disappointed with my lack of stamina for the event but in the end resorted to a very expensive ice cream followed by a dash to the exit.

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