As days shorten and memories of summer grow more distant, Frieze London lights up the city with an explosion of art in Regent’s Park. 160 of the world’s leading galleries present the works of more than 1,000 artists in a setting designed to encourage both quiet contemplation and active engagement with many of the creators of the works.
Frieze London is an exhibition where the serious blends with the light-hearted, the provocative with the amusing and the traditional with the groundbreaking. It presents artworks with the capacity to seize your attention and make you stop and linger as you absorb and interpret the artist’s intentions. And yet there is much too which instantly shows the skill and dexterity of the creators highlighted in the immediacy of their work. So, although a lot of what you see raises serious questions, Frieze still aims to strike a balance between “what’s that artist trying to say?” and “wow, that’s so beautiful”.
Free from the restraints of fixed gallery space, the dealers exhibiting are able to explore new ways to display art and to attract collectors and enthusiasts to their stands. With so much to take in, I thought I would give you just a little of the flavor of what makes Frieze stand out in today’s art world.
I was really drawn to Bolivian-American artist Donna Huanca’s solo exhibition presented by the Simon Lee Gallery. It’s an installation which was instantly gripping as it provided a complete sensory experience from the scrunch of sand underfoot to the gentle infusion of fragrance which speaks of the artist’s heritage and love for the natural environment. Her exploration of the human form and the boldness of her palette are visually exciting and speak of her ambition to challenge perceptions of how we look.
In terms of a buzz of excitement, Galerie Max Hetzler has hit the mark with its collaboration with Swiss-born but New York based visual artist Urs Fischer. In a floor-level piece that brings the garden indoors, there is a clever combination of mirror, plants and water all seeking to play with the elements. As I walked by, the hum of conversation spoke of real engagement with this work.
Galerie Krinzinger from Vienna have brought Lahore artist Waqas Khan to this year’s Frieze. His work reflects the intensity of thought through which he creates it. A natural draughtsman, he takes drawing to a new place with an organic form and a desire to express the emotion of the Sufi poets. His work has an almost hypnotic effect drawing the eye into what could be a spider’s web or maybe a distant shimmering star shining from the blackness.
Showing just how global Frieze London is, Rio de Janeiro gallery Fortes d’Aloia & Gabriel is showcasing the work of Efrain Almeida. One piece which particularly impressed me was the “Polychromatic bronze” made up of 23 individual birds in various poses. Although static, they felt alive to me and they present an intriguing tableau.
Interactivity with art matters at Frieze. I checked out Galleri Nicolai Wallner’s stand featuring artists Dan Graham and Jeppe Hein. They have taken what seems like a simple idea of “mirrors with messages” and turned it in to something that really provokes the viewer.
Nel-Olivia Waga at Frieze London 2019 mirrored in Jeppe Hein’s “mirrors with messages” art work “CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS AND YOU CHANGE YOUR WORLD”
The two-way mirrors with neon-lit messages by Jeppe Hein like “All I need is less” stab at our inner conscience and seem to make many people take a moment to think.
Ruinart, champagne makers since 1729, have crafted a close collaboration and partnership with artist Vik Muniz. The “fruits” of this are there for all to see at Frieze London. His interpretation of the structure of the vine makes it clear that the grapes would be nothing without the wood to sustain and protect them.
History lies in the twists and turns of the vine which take on an anatomical form in the hands of Muniz.
After spending time at the Frieze London, it’s inviting to take a walk in the park and see the adjoining Frieze Sculpture Park. It’s a special time to be in London as the leaves begin to turn color and start to fall. However, even in early October, the background which frames the sculptural exhibits is overwhelmingly green creating a striking contrast with the works you discover around every corner. It is a unique environment in which you connect with nature, the artists and their works.
The Frieze curators have clearly thought about how the outdoor exhibition flows. Clare Lilley, Director of Programme from the Yorkshire Sculpture Park applied her expertise to make this Regent’s Park experience work so well. There is logic and structure to the placement of the sculptures and they all seem to sit comfortably in their natural environment encouraging you to take them in from every angle. There is a handy map too so you can plan what you want to see or opt instead to wander around taking as much time as you like to see what catches the eye.
I had to smile when I saw the Tom Sachs creation “My Melody” featuring the iconic Japanese cartoon character.
The artist has taken an image usually associated with mass production, uniformity and disposability and teased out some imperfections to enhance the immediacy of the encounter with this grinning figure.
Bill Woodrow’s “Celloswarm” coats a cello with a swarm of bees. Bees, a hot topic these days to which he raises awareness with this art work.
Of course, this renders the instrument beneath useless but instead gives it an alternative form and a different feeling of movement and activity.
When I first looked at “Cloud Study (Partner Dance) I wondered what artist Charlie Godet Thomas was getting at. Two weather vanes move as if in the ballroom but bear messages hinting on thoughts beyond the surface.
One says “My luck’s changed” while the other makes the optimistic comment that “A little rain never hurt anyone”. You can view it either way. It’s all about perspective.
Of course, sculpture can have the power to make the viewer consider life itself. That’s what Robert Indiana wants the achieve with his “ONE Through ZERO, 1980-2002” where giant weathered numbers remind us of the lifecycle from birth, through adolescence, maturity to the ultimate fate.
“One Through Zero” by Robert Indiana at Frieze Sculpture Park 2019
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Nel-Olivia Waga is the Founder & Publisher of HER/etiquette. She is a Brand Consultant, an Author and Entrepreneur, most passionate about well-being, travel, nature and art. Her work can regularly be seen in her column on FORBES. Her consultancy YMPACT LAB, creates innovative marketing projects for luxury brands based on passion, purpose and sustainable impact.
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