Well now that the art circus is leaving town and taking the big white elephant that was right there in the middle of the room on the plane with it, that elephant that hardly anyone else wanted to address, climate crisis? What climate crisis? Buy art, fly art, “Climate Change? Not my problem mate” said Art, “I’ve done a token bit of offsetting ad a tiny tiny bit of green washing, now let’s brush it all under the carpet and let’s get on with it all”, Is it any wonder people throw soup at sunflowers? So anyway, now that the whole thing has moved on and left London for wherever it all flies to next, let us focus on the actual art and have one of those almost obligatory round up top ten list things on the morning after the week before.
And so London’s turn for Frieze week has come and gone again, the whole gigantic circus was back in town and doing what it does every year. Our in-boxes we’re bursting with press releases from the establishment galleries and everyone trying to get a slice of the action (or the weak pound if the American accents on the first day were any kind of indication), hundreds of e.mails announcing Frieze week shows, parties, talks, invites to this, that and the other. And as expected we’ve had the usual tirades, the bag loads of colourful abuse from every dog, cat and embittered artist out there for even deigning to cover the fair on these fractured Organ pages and yes there are lots (and lots) of things wrong with Frieze and Frieze week and the whole notion of the globe trotting parade (and all the annoyingly middle class gallery interns from New York who look at you like you’re shit on their shoes and they’re far more important ’cause daddy got them a job with a big name gallery). That globe trotting, all the flights, the art shipped, is it ever shipped? What happened to that coalition pledge thing? All that art flown in, and the damage it does to the climate and that’s before we even get to the money and art locked in vaults and no, as much as we’d like to, we can’t cover Frieze and just make it about the actual art, it is about money, about taste, about the things you overhear, the obscene abuse of the art as nothing more than commodity and yes, as an artist it can be soul-destroying. But it can be exciting as well, and yes in the last few years Frieze has grown a little more conservative every time in terms of the actual art on show, but, as wrong as lots of it is, I confess it is still excited to see what this gallery from India or that one from Chicago or those people from Brazil are going to bring this time. Actually the overseas galleries, on the whole were they a little disappointing this year? Hey, we’re not hear to moan, we’re here to round up the best, not lament the death of car park art and artist-led events that did make a difference.
And yes, before we pick the best, by far the biggest disappointment of Frieze week, besides that elephant and failure to address the Ukraine situation at the fair itself (a fear of upsetting the Russian art market maybe?), by far the biggest disappointment this year was the lack of any serious artist-led alternatives, that hint of defiance, that edge provided in previous years by London’s pro-active artists coming to together to make things happen. Things like those artist-led car park shows that kind of just faded away when they could have amounted to so so much more if ego had allowed them to, things like that brilliant Factory Project down in Docklands that really did set the tone and seriously challenge Frieze week last year. Sure, there was still Saatchi’s Other Art Fair but that is little short of cynical in the way it amounts to little more than any artist willing to be exploited and stump up the money to take part, there’s no real curation there, selection is based on bank balance and anyway, that particular fair really is tainted by that ongoing association with Trumans Brewery and all they’re doing in terms of the Brick Lane community and gentrification (art really does need to be on the right side of these arguments, it does rather feel like art doesn’t care about anything much right now). And where were the things like Moniker this year? Not that Moniker was ever any bloody good but we are clutching at straws now and what of things like Anti-frieze, where’s the fight gone?
Enough moaning, it was a busy art week, we spent hours and hours exploring Frieze and yes, the best art was at Frieze Masters but we’re here for the right now, not the back then. We went to many shows during the week, we did see exciting things, shows in Fitzrovia, in Mayfair, very little seemed to be happening south of the river this year, and the continuing demise of East London is just sad. Did call up one East London gallery who had previously provided us with Frieze Week highlights in recent years with strong shows from artists like Kate Bickmore or Márton Nemes, alas Annka Kultys Gallery was closed during the week and seemingly only really interested in the tedium of NFTs and yes, there was that guy in comedy silver Gary Glitter trousers burning his paintings, but who cares about him in 2022? Enough, we need a top ten, you like lists, lists are the only things you reed, we like lists, maybe we should do a top ten list of Frieze lists? What was up with that guy from the Guardian, did he actually go?
The ten best things we encountered during a slightly disappointing London Frieze week in 2022. We though overall Frieze itself was a little less conservative this year, we liked that painting was back, that ‘proper’ painting is back, we like that there were less in terms of words and tired slogans, and hardly any tedious neon at Frieze itself. The week itself was a little disappointing, the lack of other things, the week itself rather than the fair…
1: Jadé Fadojutimi – if we are going to start at Frieze itself, then it has to be those seven big bold Jadé Fadojutimi paintings that were there waiting at the start of it all. Fellow painter Emma Harvey share in my excitement over those big pieces at the start of the day, here’s a slice cut from the review we ran last week after day one – “And almost inevitably, Gagosian have done it again, there they are in their big dog spot laying down a marker with some big bold Jadé Fadojutimi paintings and handing out a a challenge to everyone else again from their now traditional spot by the main entrance – pissing contest won once more by the gallery and the energy of those large Jadé Fadojutimi pieces that really do ignite the booth with an almost immersive zest, those seven big paintings turn the environment into something that almost envelops and cuts you off from everything else that’s happening all around you, there may be paintings everywhere and while you’re still wheeling from the experience of walking in and being called from the left of the right, these seven paintings do grab you. They did it in 2019 with that set of Sterling Ruby‘s big yellow paintings, and Gagosian do it yet again here, Fadojutimi’s paint flows, it slashes, it cuts, her movement excites, her work is alive with an almost timeless energy, it really is exciting. Those seven paintings demand, they engage, and yes, they hold you, they don’t let you go, they may be making a lot of noise, they may zing, but there is so much depth here. Are we seeing growth? Fresh layers? She is compelling, they are compelling and yes, they are maybe a touch confrontational, mostly she’s just exciting and that’s why we’re here. These are supposedly the biggest and best galleries the world has to offer, Jadé Fadojutimi‘s paintings have got us off to an excellent start, come on then, bring it on, excite us, hit us with more of it, come on, let’s ‘ave it!”
2: Ken Currie, Black Boat at Flowers Gallery, Kingsland Road, East London – It wasn’t specifically opened for Frieze week but it was on during the week and it is still on at Flower’s big East London space until November 5th, we did go back during Frieze week, we have been back a number of times now and I know from positive feedback received here, quite a few of you have been along as a result of the review we ran on the eve of Frieze week – ORGAN THING: Before Frieze week kicks off, that breathtaking Ken Currie exhibition at Flowers on the Kingland Road. Wow (again), who paints like this in 2022?!
3: Jeffrey Gibson – There was the sugar rush of the Stephen Friedman Gallery‘s presentation at the fair, having already made a couple of very strong Frieze week statements over in their West End galleries with Anne Rothenstein and especially Caroline Coon, Stephen Friedman hit you with a massive rush of colour, an instant hit of excitement with the triumph of their booth featuring Jeffrey Gibson’s rather exciting “Indigenous Futurism” (not my description but we’ll go with it, it fits almost perfectly, we’ll have it), with his bright bright colour, his strong statement and yes, his Native American patterns, with his dizzying geometric designs in bright purples and radiant greens and glowing yellows, his “yes” and his beans and his beads and his punch bags, and love it, brilliant! One of the highlights, probably the highlight, genuinely exciting. Gibson is a Brooklyn-based artist, an American Mississippi Choctaw/Cherokee painter, and sculptor (see , we can use Wiki like the best of ’em), and his takeover of the big Stephen Friedman booth is, in a different way to Deborah Roberts last year, is the thing that finally, after a couple hours of searching for that “thing”, it is the thing that finally ignites Frieze 2022.
4: Caroline Coon at Stephen Friedman Gallery – and yes, having just mentioned Stephen Friesman and Jeffrey Gibson up there at number three (I don’t think this top ten is any particular order, quit humming that CCS cover of Whole Lotta of Love in your head), we really must give Caroline Coon her own place on this list. We did go to a lot of West End shows and indeed openings during week, most of them were rather disappointingly conservative or maybe just not very good, the Caroline Coon show is excellent, especially the light as well as the humanity of those two Ladbrooke Grove paintings – ORGAN THING: Anne Rothenstein and Caroline Coon both open at Stephen Friedman’s West End Galleries in a stylishly lead up to Frieze…
5: Selome Muleta – We did highlight those Selome Muleta paintings after day one, we still feel the same – £There’s a group of paintings presented by Addis Fine Art, a gallery of both Addis Ababa and London, a group of paintings by Selome Muleta – “one of the most exciting young female artists to emerge from the Ethiopian visual arts scene in recent years, Selome merges portraiture with still life in a meditative exploration of womanhood and interiority” – her paintings are full of so much, they quietly stand out, if you give then the chance in the noise of it all, they quietly pull you in, the faces, the colour, the way the paint is used in such a powerfully positive way, the cats, actually Selome’s paintings really stand out.”
6: Lee Maelzer‘s Lost Sleep beds at D Contemporary, we’ve probably covered Lee’s show at the West End gallery enough now what with the previews and the actual attempt at dancing around the architecture of a review and such – ORGAN: Frieze week, Lee Maelzer’s Lost Sleep at D Contemporary. As a painter she really is a pleasure but as paintings, this is hard-boiled reality… Those paintings really are strong and strong for so many reasons, good on D Contemporary for showing her work during such an important week for the West End galleries rather than just showing her during a quiet week.
7: Painting – There was, thankfully, a the return of painting itself, that surely must be a top ten highlight? The return of ‘proper’ painting, although a lot of it was maybe as conservative as the galleries need it to be at a commercial event like Frieze, there was enough of it that wasn’t and we did individually note the amount of painting during the pub debrief. There can never be enough proper painting and brushes and texture and commitment to the paint rather than the painted word or the keyboard. We really should go back through our photos and make another top ten of the paintngs ar Frieze, but hey, we have paint to throw oursleves and light goes so quickly at this time of year
8: Emma Amos – and there was that solo booth, from New York’s Ryan Lee Gallery, at Frieze (rather than Frieze Masters) dedicated to the late Emma Amos and a chance to stand in fronr of Work Suit (1994) a rather powerful painting of hers right in the middle of the booth and the fair – “Ryan Lee is pleased to present Emma Amos: Self Portraits, a selection of landmark paintings by the pioneering artist and activist Emma Amos (b. 1937—d. 2020). A celebrated artist, Amos was known for her experimentation in both subject matter and material throughout her work. She was an original Guerilla Girl and the only female member of the influential African American artist group Spiral, alongside Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, and Hale Woodruff. Amos, whose work ranged from graphic, to expressionist, to figurative, has
always understood that, as she put it, “to put brush to canvas as a black artist was a political act.” Read more of that statement here. Really must thank Ryan Lee for that one, it is very easy to take a gallery for granted.
9: Gina Birch and her post punk paintings in her fucking room over at Gallery 46 – we were anticipating something good, we were probably putting too much pressure on the show to deliver, Gina did though ORGAN: Frieze week, Gina Birch at Whitechapel’s Gallery 46. There’s a feeling here that she’s experimenting, discovering, not so much finding her painterly voice but feeling she can start to visually shout…
10: The DIS “No Homo” bench – Actually lists really are lazy things, there are many things, artists, galleries that could take up the tenth place on this one, The DIS collective at Project Native Informant and that “No Homo,” bench that was the centre piece of the booth actually presented by jointly by Arcadia Missa and the aforementioned Project Native Informant. The very black bench, one of the pieces of work by DIS. Actually we are going to have a follow up list, there are way too many pieces that deserved a mention and well, watch this space, we need to follow up and mention thing like the Laure Prouvost presentation from Lisson Gallery… back in a moment
previously – ORGAN: Frieze, day one, did it impress? Was it enough? Was Jeffrey Gibson or those big bold Jadé Fadojutimi paintings or Selome Muleta’s pieces enough? And what about that elephant again…
Previously on these pages – ORGAN: The Ten Best Things we saw during 2021’s Frieze Week, Deborah Roberts, The Pink Bear, The Factory Project, Kendall Koppe Gallery, Kate Bickmore’s must-see paintings at Annka Kultys Gallery and…
Shall we place a blatant plug for our own most recent group show here, can we get away with that? Forty artists, over 200 pieces of art… here’s the link that takes you to it. We do like to walk it and not just talk it…
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