There was a lot to navigate, so the map I was given on entry was indispensable. I worked my way through Frieze art fair methodically, starting at A1 and ending up in the smaller galleries at G. I gave each of the stands a rating out of 5. This quantitative system seemed an appropriate structure to hang my ultimately subjective experience on to.
PAC Home generously awarded Laura Hudson and I an Art Fair Bursary which is how I found myself negotiating myself around Frieze Art Fair and the Sunday Art Fair in London. As well as visiting the fairs, I managed to squeeze in a trip to the Turner Prize – but that visit is for a different blog post entirely.
The standout stalls at Frieze were not necessarily those that had the best pieces of work or the most prestigious artists. What seemed to matter was they were well curated which gave some a greater feeling of cohesion. In the same way that a well dressed person wears a well put together outfit rather than just a nice pair of shoes. I awarded these stalls a four or five on my crude classification system, the ones that took well-calculated risks.
Gagosian Gallery was the first booth that you saw as you passed through the gates and it had a massive impact on me. The brightly striped walls and floors housed Carsten Holler’s gargantuan mushroom that rocked when you pushed it, and his hollowed out Dice (White Body, Black Dots). Children and adults were really engaging with the work and was a good representation of his interactive and playful practice. There were several children hanging off the dice and it was hard to stop myself from plucking them off and getting into the dice myself. Each gallerist was wearing a dress that matched the exact shade of painted floor that they were standing on. Embarrassingly it took me several minutes to recognise that the gallerists were part of the exhibition rather than facilitating it.
Frieze London describes itself as ‘the contemporary art event of the year’, for a few days it houses over 1,000 of the world’s leading artists. Each of the artists were represented by one or more of 162 galleries. With that much art to see, it had to grab my attention or I would move on quickly. I had to accept that I may well have missed a nice pair of trainers, if the rest of the clothes were not exciting.
Getting art overload is a part of seeing lots of art in quick succession. However, after a long animated conversation, a bottle of Rioja and a sound night’s sleep I was ready for The Sunday Art Fair. Sunday and Frieze are easy to compare, but it is not particularly useful as they are inherently different. With confidence I can say that the big difference is the size. With only 23 international galleries displaying their wares, the same methodical viewing procedures were unnecessary. Being able to spend time at each gallery and not feel like I was missing out was appreciated. Smaller and younger galleries introduced their emerging artists in a more pleasant and relaxed atmosphere. A few of the gallerists were eager to engage in conversations. Puppies Puppies was an artist that I was exposed to for the first time at the not-for-profit gallery in Detroit, What Pipeline. The gallerist explained that the artist refused to sign the wall-mounted hand sanitizer dispenser that was featured in the exhibition. He did not want it to be an art object like as Duchamp’s urinal was. He wanted it to be a functional object that people bought and used. Interestingly, he had only sold one of 65.
During this trip I came to understand that these galleries were representing themselves and their ‘wares’ through the presentation of the work their Artists’ work. I hadn’t been viewing the work of individual artists, but that of different galleries and how they chose to represent themselves. The work that on shown were the pieces that were best suited to the booth layout, officially the work was contemporary but the paint had had time to dry. Back to my clothing analogy, it’s like making sure you wear clothes that suit your body type, rather than what’s trending now.
I certainly didn’t think this trip would directly influence my practice. After visiting the fairs I make sure to work on one idea per piece. Each piece is a lot more ‘finished’. I am one step closer to finding an outfit that works for me.