So here we are in a Frieze zoom afternoon meeting press conference thing some two weeks out from the return of the monster big mutha art fair that is Frieze London. Frieze are zoooooming into our paint-infested bunker studio here in sunny Wednesday afternoon Hackney. we’re just being told about the new Frieze space in the born again thing that is Cork Street (it opens on October 7th, a permanent Frieze gallery if zoom allowed us to hear that right? I do hate Zoom) And now we’re going through a slide show of some of the art that the galleries are presenting, quite frankly I’ve had enough of slide shows on computer screens and just need to see it all in the flesh (yes I know we’ve put on quite a few slide show art shows of our own over the last eighteen locked-down months), rather like the look of that Deborah Roberts piece that the Steven Freeman Gallery are presenting, see, I am paying attention. highlights on a slide show really don’t really cut it though and we know damn well, whatever anyone may think of Frieze, there is always going to be exciting art to see, it sometimes takes a lot of searching out in that vast vast tent, and yes, the galleries can sometimes play it a little too safe and a tad conservative but there is always exciting art to be found, that is a given, we don’t really need a slide show to tell us that.
On with the zooming, we’re hearing about the new galleries now (Frieze approached us when we, Cultivate, were based in Vyner Street, the “special price” we were offered as a new gallery to take part was far more than a year’s rent for our space on Vyner Street was costing us at the time). Eva Langret, the new Artistic Director of Frieze London is doing the talking, actually she’s been in the job since 2019, just with Covid and such, this is her first proper fair as artistic director, she does make it all far more human, zooming in like this, far warmer than the the cold thing the fair can be.
Do detest the term “thinker” and everything it implies, it is such an aloof label for someone to put on themselves, “I think I think more than you think” is what it says to me, some bloke is describing himself as a “thinker” right now as this Zoom press conference thing goes on. The thing I like about Frieze is all the discovering without the words and the “thinkers” I like to do my own quiet thinking in that big big tent, I almost don’t want to look at these slides, just give me the flesh! Give me the texture, give me the thickness of the paint and art that takes your higher than the Eiffel Tower (to slightly misquote that great thinker Max Webster), highlights via a slide show don’t quite nourish.
Seventeen minutes in to the Zoom now, “And There Is Nothing Worse Than Being Wrong”, I like not knowing what the entry to the fair is going to look like until I walk in for the first time, the walk up is genuinely exciting, we’re being told about the entry and more slides and there is a theatre to the walk up, art does excite. And yes I know you think surely he detests everything about Frieze? Well no, I love it and hate it both at the same time, oh Frieze it isn’t you, it really is me! I like the honesty, they don’t hide anything, they don’t pretend to be about anything other than what they actually are – yes, the thing is obscene, it drips with obscene money, a lot of it lacks any kind of class, it can be crass, but Frieze doesn’t hide any of that, Frieze is honest, yes, I probably should rage against it, I love it far more that the up-their-own-arse wankery of some of East London’s Galleries!
The race of an artist seem to be a thing at Frieze this year, the sexual orientation, that’s rather obviously no bad thing, people have heard enough from middle aged white male artists like me, time for the other voices to be louder now, my voice has been loudest for the last four or five hundred years, bring on the may other voices. No mention of climate change yet, what is is the footprint of a monster fair like this? All that shipping art around the globe – actually I would have liked to have asked about the number of overseas galleries this year, pandemic apart, are galleries from New York or Tokyo starting to question the ethics of shipping art to a fair in London yet? Is anyone questioning the big globe-circling circus of giant art fairs yet? I did expect that to come up via this zoom conference today.
Several curators are presenting their highlights via zoom now, someone is talking about Burning Spear, did we see them at Stonehenge one year? Quick, fire up the Ullulators and build an installation, capture the spirit of the Poodle Lounge and the George Robey. Didn’t catch the name of the artist, we just had a postwoman walk in with a package for the artist in the studio next door and (very politely) distract us from the Zoom for a moment, I do like the idea of Burning Spear getting a mention…
We’re told the live performances will be on line this year, not sure if that will only be accessible to those who have paid some kind of entry fee? Collaborations seem to be a theme, “activist” has come up a few times, “co-op” has as well, no one has said “collective” yet. “Conversations about what an art fair can be, what it had been, what it should be”. Still no mention of climate change. Artists talking to their other selves, the other self being a bear has just come up, I guess a lot of us talked to ourselves during lockdown, actually besides the lack of shows and cheap wine at openings,. lockdown felt like normal, locked away in my studio fighting with paint. Film makers venturing into the art world is being talked about now – must admit I am starting to switch off a little – “film as it relates to art”, hang on, my paintbrush needs washing out, I was painting when this Zoom thing started. Paint brushes? Does anyone use a brush any more? “Conversations about collaborative preparations”, I do hope there’s a painting or two at this year’s Frieze
I’ve been been to maybe nine or ten Frieze beasts now, last time I was there someone stopped me and rather indignantly and enquired as to “what the fuck are you doing here?!”, “why wouldn’t I be?” I asked, sure, you probably won’t catch me at any of the others, this is the big one, if you’re going to an art fair then this is surely the only really serious one to go to? I am rather looking forward to Frieze this year even if I do feel like there might (should?) have been a post-Covid (are we post yet?) climate reset and that a chance to rethink all this has been maybe been missed? Are we really just going to go back to the same old normal?
We’re on to Zooming about the Frieze Masters thing now, the sister fair and a whole other part of the park. Nathan Clements-Gillespie is telling us about Masters, Frieze itself is enough to take in over the short week before you even think about taking on the challenge of the Masters. The thing about the Masters is it feels like you’re almost stealing a glimpse, seeing things you’ll never see again as they transition from one private locked vault of a collection to another. Wooooo, hang on, did he just say “climate change”? 35 minutes in and there goes the very brief first mention – in the context of an artist addressing it in the 15th century but it was a mention! Now someone is telling us about a rare 5th century mosaic featuring a unicorn, see, that’s what you get at the Masters, a big collection of Paula Rago paintings over there, a small Klimt drawing hiding in the corner, a 5th century mosaic with a unicorn over there, you could easily spend weeks at the Masters alone. 39th minute sees the first mention of textiles, “paintings don’t always need to be on canvas” so we’re told, “thinkers” indeed, what a revelation, Jars from chemists as pieces of art… Hang on, we’ve crashed, 43 minutes in, was that us or them? I really dislike Zoom
We’re back, did one of them just say “man’s mastery over nature?” “man’s”? Even the dinosaurs that run cricket have officially dropped “batsman” for “batter” now. What is this guy on about? And finally, no, hang on, there’s more, Wedgwood? “We’ve all been living in in very different ways over the last eighteen months, the objects around us have become art”, oh gawd, the Masters is full of treats but it isn’t really what we’re about here at Organ, we’re about the here and now (and the floating anarchy), the main Frieze is our focus…
The Masters an the fifth century unicorn aside, bring on the new, the now, we’re here to see what the establishment galleries of the right-here-right-now have to offer – in all honesty, we didn’t really learn too much via the Zoom conference, there were no great bombs of excitement dropped, and we didn’t get to ask any questions, we already know the fair is going to offer us interesting things, the last time I went, was it 2019? I’ve lost count now, it did feel a little more conservative than it has been, it was still alive with exciting art, it always is, you sometimes have to search long and hard and you sometimes think wow, there’s far more than this going on in the back streets of London’s artist-led spaces (not that there’s so many of them now) and yes I do think that, with my curator hat on, if we could afford it, we could blow most of this away, but Frieze is, even if it does represent the often aloof gallery establishment, it does, for all the many faults, it does excite, it does occasionally really reward, yes it does frustrate, but I’m, if they let me in, really looking forward to quietly exploring it all, to exploring nine booths feeling a little underwhelmed and then to be ignited by the tenth and truly excited by the twelfth. (sw)
13-17 October 2021
The Regent’s Park
preciouslt on these pages
ORGAN: Frieze Week Part Two, avoiding the art fair madness? The excitement of those Sean Scully paintings at Blain/Southern, punchbags, red roads, goose feathers and a strong 21st Century Women show at Unit…
oh there’s loads of Frieze, go here