frieze art fair london 2015

The buzz around Frieze increased again for the 13th iteration of this art fair. Since being joined by its fellow fair Frieze Masters four years ago and evolving into the full Frieze Week of exhibitions, events, gatherings and performances, Frieze London has become not only the largest and most esteemed visual arts spectacle in the capital, but one to hold its own next to Venice Biennale, Art Basel and Miami Beach as a vital player in the global arts calendar. Frieze London brings 164 galleries from over 20 countries, yet with so much striking and arresting work amassed, it’s no mean feat to sift through and find work by truly emerging artists.

This scale and prestige of what’s on offer at Frieze London is intimidating from the get-go. On entering visitors are siphoned through booths of several blue chip galleries, past works by the predictable heavy hitters of the art market. David Kordansky Gallery’s display stood out, however, with an immaculate presentation of Mary Weatherford’s works. These arrangements of neon piping with flashe paint on canvas exude 20th century American style, yet steer clear of any sickly nostalgia. Working with the concept of place has been key to Weatherford’s work, and her lack of recognition outside of the United States seems undeserved. Also unmissable at Kordansky is the work of African American artist Sam Gilliam. This revered colourfield painter has had no where near the exposure in Europe he deserves, and the gallery excels in bringing sensational work to London that demands to be noticed.

Mary Weatherford at David Kordansky Frieze London 2015
Mary Weatherford at David Kordansky

It is Frieze Focus, a curated section of young galleries and new art spaces within Frieze London, that brings the unexpected and elicits excitement within the works on offer. It succeeds in providing a platform to several galleries that are new to the art fair circuit and the strength of several displays here sets this Frieze apart from the others. Focus invited external curators including Jacob Proctor (University of Chicago) and Raphael Gygax (Migros Museum, Zurich) to present a particularly inspiring arrangement from a wide range of countries, allowing people both to engage with young artists, and familiarise themselves with new global spaces.

Dawid Radziszewski Gallery in Warsaw presents a poignant installation by the late Maria Pininska-Beres. The sculptural installation of rocks and fabric is calm and composed, allowing a meditative reflection on many of the artist’s themes: female psychology, sexuality and materiality. Hopkinson Mossman gallery from Auckland present a solo booth of Ruth Buchanan’s sculpture. The works take a diagram-like approach to sculpture, where line and text exist as, and embellish, the form. Engaging with the notions of where the figurative and the abstract meet, Buchanan’s work finds its place at the intersections of several different types of visual mark making.

Guan Xiao’s triptych of mixed media pieces are presented by another first time gallery to Frieze Focus – Shanghai-based Antenna Space. Digitally manipulated images are draped over tech stands and arranged with stage lights, surveillance equipment and fake stone sculptures of ancient artefacts. The work again intrigues through its reference points, and questions what constitutes the contemporary, the ancient, the image and the original today. Limoncello’s booth, too, questions cultural objects and materials, and Jesse Wine’s works tackle ideas of learning through making. The fair saw a lot of ceramic works again this year, but Wine’s approach to presenting this medium stands out.

Samara Scott’s installation for The Sunday Painter was fantastic and gruesome, occupying a shallow rectangular pool of murky coloured water and cultural detritus in the art fair floor. This tank rippled with the flow of visitors moving through the halls and made viewers lean in and inspect its cloudy contents. The objects – a hair scrunchie, a noodle, a rock and plastic ephemera – seem to magnify and multiply within this liquid sculpture, creating questions about the every day items we consume and choose to surround ourselves with.

Samara Scott at Sunday Painter Frieze London 2015
Samara Scott at Sunday Painter

Los Angeles’ Night Gallery, one of several critical spaces that is helping to cement LA as an evolving Mecca for young artists, presented several paintings by Mira Dancy. These seductive blocks of deep purples and pinks and strong-lined female figures have immediacy, and flanked by two gold mirrored sculptures, create a complete installation of overlapping hues and forms. The choice of galleries and presentations in Frieze Focus allows for a contemplation on the gallery as much as it does the gallery’s choice of artist. Analysing the displayer as much as the display, within the loaded environment of Frieze London, may just be one of the most important and progressive aspects of the fair in 2015.

Words by Ben Hoare

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