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Frieze London

  • Entering Freize London - the heart of contemporary art - right after going around Frieze Masters with it’s museum quality works was frankly weird. Not only did the floor seem more uneven, but so did the quality of the work. I could have spent a couple more hours at Frieze Masters as each piece of work in each stall was fascinating - but in Frieze London I felt I’d seen everything in about ten minutes. But I worked at it and found some really good things.


    Frieze London is a strange, but fascinating, thing. So you’ve got the freaky stuff - Andy Warhol and windscreen wipers - plaster donkeys with lights, boats attached to musical instruments, then there’s some work that basically seems pretty awful and some real quality stuff.


    And the place has a real buzz - after the sedate atmosphere of Frieze London this place is just buzzing and packed, full of people who look as if they feel pretty cool just for being here - and maybe that’s a big driver in buying contemporary art - maybe you’re buying into some cool strata of existence.


    My head finally began to stop spinning with a, as ever, quality painting by Sigmar Polke. What grabbed me is that despite being contemporary and strange the painting was still working with and twisting traditional painting qualities - in this one depth. By painting on both sides of the corrugated plastic he’d made this weird depth spatial quality - and painting is always in some way about depth and the 2D surface communicating 3D experience.

    Sigmar Polke


    I guess what leaves me cold about a lot of contemporary art is that it seems slight - quickly made and with little foundation of visual quality to work on or against. It has to be justified with lengthy written explanations or linked to political events - it doesn’t just burst forth in it’s own right. That complexity of enjoyment then of course means art consultants are in their element as they can tell you what’s good or bad. But everybody has a right to their own opinion.


    What’s interesting is that in Frieze things like Damien Hirst works stand out for their clarity. Take the diptych below - it’s classic Hirst guessing changes to the art market before they happen - it’s title is Happy Happy and the bright cheerful colours show him moving away from depressing skull works, trying to make work different to all the other more morbid works around and doing it wittily. But the reality is wander around the show and around the corner is a pretty similar painting made by someone else - the difference between the two, well the price obviously. But why are such similar paintings so different in price, because you’re buying a name - you’re buying into strata of cool.

    Damien Hirst

    Not Damien Hirst


    Anyway this a review about Frieze London and not contemporary art itself - and if you want to think about contemporary art or see what it’s doing then this is the place to go and that’s why the fair is unmissable year after year.


    Other things I liked included one of Amikan Toren’s Armchair Paintings where he cuts words out of old paintings he’s found. They’re clever and perfectly made and then framed with style to make them covetable objects.

    Amikan Toren


    Then there was a nice big Jonathan Lasker at Timothy Taylor gallery, and a cool Robert Ryman painting - deceptively simple as the paint had been layered with real skill.

    Jonathan Lasker

    Robert Ryman


    Plus there were some nice Hiroshi Sugimoto’s where he’s taken photos of wax works of Henry VIII and other historical figures - the resulting photos have a weird life like quality. I also liked this abstract below that seemed to have been made with felt tip pens.




    So Frieze London is patchy but I guess that’s what you get when you mix established contemporary art with more up and coming contemporary artists - but it’s also always exciting.


    Review by Robert Dunt - Artist and Founder/CEO