Frieze week is a term coined for the week of the famous Frieze art fair and also the other art fairs held at the same time. Frieze is a major annual contemporary art fair, held in London, hosting a selection of works for sale by the leading worldwide contemporary galleries, specially commissioned artists’ projects, a programme of talks, and performance-based installations in a new section ‘Live’. The 2014 edition (15-18 October) was the 12th Frieze and also the 3rd edition of Frieze Masters, a sister Frieze fair for art made before the year 2000, offering a “contemporary lens on historical art”.
Galleries, artists, art collectors and lovers descend on London for the occasion and several leverage the Frieze fair by hosting their events and own fairs. This year, I took a day off work and visited PAD, 1:54, Frieze and Frieze Masters and went to many events during the week. Still, I may take two days off next year to see even more! My Frieze Week started earlier this year with a line-up of events with Tate Young Patrons, Royal Academy Young Patrons, or organised by friends and myself.
Tuesday 7 October: Polke
My unofficial pre-Frieze Week started with the opening of Tate Modern’s new blockbuster exhibition of Sigmar Polke (1963 – 2010), Alibis. Alibis: Sigmar Polke was held before in New York at MoMA so the chit chat was about whether the London show was better than its NY counterpart – haven’t seen the MoMA show and heard more in favour of London. Hans-Ulrich Obrist (Co-Director, Exhibitions & Programmes and Director of International Projects at the Serpentine Gallery) described the show as “splendid” after seeing three rooms. I took away that Polke started to parody abstract art, not taking art seriously, before becoming a serial experimenter, trying different materials, colours, textures and drugs. Until 8 February 2015.
Wednesday 8 October: Noémie Goudal, Zaha Hadid
What a treat to spend an hour with French artist Noémie Goudal speaking about her practice and ideas, against the backdrop of her new show at Edel Assanti Gallery: In Search Of The First Line (until 15 November). She has three categories of works in her practice:
1. Works where she explores the man-made invading nature: in Cascade from the series Les Amants for instance, she created a waterfall with plastic sheet and placed it in an impromptu landscape. 2. “Backdrops” in which she creates imaginary landscapes by printing a chosen landscape created by assembling A4 prints on cardboard and placing them in a new landscape. Her Observatoires series includes those backdrops sourced and edited from bare edifices placed in desert and sea landscapes resulting in utopian architectural fantasies. 3. Finally her “ready-made” landscapes, which she travels the world to find. I was impressed by the reach and extent of her ideas, – the Observatoires series sprang from Jantar Mantar, an astronomical observation site in Jaipur, India – the relentless research for new ones and that her photographs are capturing pre-prepared installation works.
Later in the day, I went to a Tate talk of Zaha Hadid & Suprematism, in conversation with Tate curator Achim Borchardt-Hume. I went to the talk to hear about links between art (Malevich) and architecture (Zaha Hadid) but at the end became infatuated with Zaha Hadid’s strong views on architecture & London and her persona. Zaha Hadid is in favour of taller buildings in London, as the alternative is to destroy the countryside, in her view. London gives too much power to developers, not enough to architects, according to her. She thinks London missed many opportunities architecture-wise because the housing market was too limited by social housing in the 50s. China is best for opportunities, where projects can be done that could be achieved nowhere else. It was worth noting how architecture becomes political as many questions from the audience were blaming and questioning her on ecology, which is only one of the aspects to consider, according to Hadid, as well as working conditions. I believe she is a very talented architect and not complacent – I just pity her personal assistant Roger!
Thursday 9 October: Phillips
We toured Phillips’ new Mayfair headquarters with Francesco Bonami, who curated the non-selling sculpture exhibition A Very Short History of Sculpture. Bonami was happy he got most of the works he had on his wish-list, which includes big names like Maurizio Cattelan, Jeff Koons, Duane Hanson and Ai Weiwei (an artist he doesn’t feel much affection for). The exhibition was on view inside Phillips’ Berkeley Square headquarters and was, on purpose, visible from the windows. We were also taken downstairs to view the highlights of the contemporary auction evening sale, which comprise a photogenic Submerged Phone Booth by Banksy, and on the 6th floor to see the (more affordable) day sale.
Friday 10 October: Danjuma collection
Fellow Tate Young Patron Theo Danjuma extended an invitation to see his inaugural exhibition greatly entitled One Man’s Trash (is Another Man’s Treasure), which was presented in a classical space at 33 Fitzroy Square. It followed an invitation to see his impressive art collection in his private home, compulsively amassed in the last five years, focusing on the use of found materials and contemporary art from Africa, some of which are being shown at the current exhibition. He is particularly fond of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, I am too.
Saturday 11 October: Scott’s, 34 and Mayfair
My friend C. made me set my alarm clock for 8am on a Saturday morning (I wake up at 6 during the week but have mandatory lie-ins on the weekend!) for a guided tour of the art collection of restaurants Scott’s and 34. I like the concept of (good) art in restaurants & hotels and would have disagreed with Mark Rothko doubting that a luxury restaurant was the appropriate venue for his art. I can’t have enough of art and artworks are undeniably a bonus to my stay & dine experience and would choose one hotel over another for its art collection. Coming back to Scott’s, the restaurant has an extraordinary collection of Young British Artists, including Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, Tim Noble & Sue Webster, Fiona Rae and the like. 34 Restaurant has less known artists, including two paintings of David Brian Smith, whom Mr BB and I visited in the studio, and a Tracey Emin private room. It was all worth setting the alarm clock for. We stayed for brunch and I continued my art day gallery-hopping in Mayfair.
Sunday 12 October: Phillips (again)
I went back to Phillips for a brunch to preview (again) their new space and their Post-War and Contemporary art auction. It was a very large group and Bonami only introduced his exhibition as opposed to the more detailed tour we had with Tate. Dressed up happy few, pastries, canapés and smoothies, jazz band, I still had a wonderful time looking at artworks I had missed on my first visit, notably Louise Bourgeois’ Nature Study.
Monday 13 October: Conrad Shawcross, Mel Bochner, Richard Tuttle
The official Frieze Week started: 1, 2, 3 go! Conrad Shawcross introduced to us his new installation at the Vinyl Factory, originally conceived for Palais de Tokyo, Paris in 2013. He invited four female musicians to create works in response to a robot he hacked, reversing the music commissioning process. He was inspired by the female mathematician Ada Lovelace, maybe the first proto- computer programmer, although he insisted the robot is not Ada, nor is it an Ada’s biography work.
I took my friend E. to continue my art adventures, starting with the opening of Mel Bochner at Simon Lee Gallery. The artist creates words on velvet, with the text being engraved by a computer-controlled laser. It looked photogenic but it feels as though many contemporary artists, including Bochner, are more interested in the process than the actual production. We then went to see part 1 of Richard Tuttle: I Don’t Know. The Weave of Textile Language, in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall (until 6 April 2015). We were overwhelmed by the size of the installation but underwhelmed by the actual piece.
Tuesday 14 October: PAD, Gerhard Richter, Bonhams
Frieze Week’s Tuesday was a challenge, which my friend F. accepted to take with me. We started with PAD Art Fair VIP opening, installed in black tents in Berkeley Square, offering 20th Century art, design and decorative arts. My highlight was Galerie Flak, specialised in tribal art from Africa, Oceania and Americas. I saw there a Kota reliquary figure from Gabon – which reminded me Velasquez’ Meninas but no relationship at all. I didn’t know then I would see this reliquary figure again and again that week. My other highlight was the Galerie Vertes, which was showing beautiful medium-sized Chagall and Soulages’ works and a wood Calder “mobile”, whose original use is a door opener. Ruinart champagne and canapés including pata negra were served and Valentino was there. My friend F: “who’s that famous designer guy?” me “Versace?” “dead” “D&G?” “nooo!”
We continued our challenge at the opening of Gerhard Richter at Marian Goodman Gallery (until 20 December 2014). We were hypnotised by his Strip paintings (dig print on paper mounted between Alu Dibond and Perspex), made up of printed coloured lines. They had the effect of optical art paintings, amplified by tiredness and champagne!
We then ended our challenge at a cocktail reception at Bonhams for a preview of their Post War & Contemporary Sale, sponsored by Peace One Day. Happy to retrieve champagne, we also looked at the art, which was less striking than in other auction houses, apart from a Gerhard Richter’s. The second floor had more interesting works, including a 3-piece sculpture by Matteo Pugliese Evasione. The side room on the ground floor had works by artists using decommissioned Cold M16 Assault Rifle (J & D Chapman, Ryan Gander, Yinka Shonibare, etc.), as well as a whisky bar…
Wednesday 15 October: PAD (again), Richard Tuttle part 2
Arts writer and design specialist Caroline Roux gave us a tour of her PAD highlights. The tour was too short but it made me notice a work I missed the day before: a Portrait Mask at the same Galerie Flak, from British Columbia region and once in the collection of surrealist chef de file André Breton. It is now sold for c£1m.
I later went to Whitechapel Gallery, initially to see Mike Nelson RA selects from the V-A-C Collection (until 30 November 2014): a sculpture room resembling an artist studio with sculptures from unknown (a Kota reliquary figure was included!) to established artists (eg Brancusi). The surprise of the evening was that Richard Tuttle himself was at the gallery. I therefore joined Whitechapel curator and the artist in a tour of Richard Tuttle: I Don’t Know. The Weave of Textile Language, one of the three-part exhibition (until 14 December 2014). As usual in curator tours, I follow them closely to not miss a word of what was said. Richard Tuttle, who looks younger than his age and wears funky shoes, was silent for most of the tour. He finally talked in the last room to explain his relation to textile and the variety of his works. Despite the curator and artist talk, my analytical mind was annoyed, I struggled to “get” Richard Tuttle’s show.
Thursday 16 October: Victoria Miro, studio visits, Eddie Peake’s party
Mr BB (yes, he still exists but has shied away from my art addiction!) joined me and fellow Tate Young Patrons to see the new exhibitions at Victoria Miro: Wangechi Mutu: Nguva na Nyoka – her paintings are exquisite, seductive and feminine, and include “African Dada-like” collages; and Eric Fischl’s timely Art Fair Paintings (both until 19 December 2014).
We were then taken to the studio of Isaac Julien, of whom both Mr BB and I are fond. We didn’t know what to expect of a filmmaker’s studio and came to a sleek and neat studio. I felt what a nice environment it must be for Isaac’s four assistants to work in. He surprised us when he opened the curtain to his large viewing room. We watched extracts of Ten Thousand Waves and Playtime. Isaac kindly loaned me a DVD of Ten Thousand Waves, after I told him I hadn’t seen it in its entirety.
Other neighbourhood and other museum patrons, we visited Nick Goss’s studio, a talented Royal Academy schools graduate in Hackney Wick. He had moved into his current studio recently so I wasn’t sure if the paint of the floor was his’ or his predecessor’s. Nick Goss paints figuratively based on photographs he takes and archives. He showed us his interior paintings, large scale canvases, sometimes unprimed, composed of different elements of photographs.
M., who was at Nick Goss’ studio visit, kindly invited me to join her table at a party organised by Eddie Peake’s “crew” in Shoreditch. I initially thought about my tiredness (day job + Frieze Week) but after all, I had a day off the following day. And with a party name like that (Anal House Meltdown), it could only be fun!
Friday 17 October: Lisson, 1:54, Frieze!
The day off has arrived! I was double-booked the morning but rightfully chose to attend a 9.30am breakfast and curator tour with Nicholas Logsdail and Ossian Ward of the Marina Abramović exhibition at Lisson Gallery. Nicholas Logsdail is the founder of Lisson Gallery; his eye for art came from visiting galleries aged six with his uncle. He was an art student at Slade and opened his gallery in 1967. His first show was sold out with pieces all below £100! Seeing Marina Abramović early works made me think how daring she was and willing to go above and beyond. In Freeing the Voice (1975), she screamed until she lost her voice. This made me have second thoughts after my disappointment at her recent Serpentine show.
11.15am I had a first look of Frieze, finally! I congratulated myself for taking a day off as I could enjoy the fair fairly empty. However, it became quickly crowded after the Frieze VIP hour ended. And I realised I saw only five gallery booths in an hour or so!
1ish pm we toured 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair. Maybe it was because it is the 1:54 second year running, I felt less excited than last year. My favourite stands were Anne de Villepoix and October Gallery with Romuald Hazoumè’s masks. 1:54 founder Touria El Glaoui added a wing to the exhibition space and had only a second to say hi, proving she was busier than last year.
I went back to Frieze in the afternoon. It was fashionable among my circle to say that Frieze was not so good but Frieze Masters marvellous – that’s what I said last year – but there is a kernel of truth. Frieze was overall less spectacular than last year’s but still remains a must in contemporary art. Going on Friday, most works were already sold and I overheard many times “what is the price of X? “I am afraid it has been sold”. I would have bought Fiona Rae black and white paintings showed at Timothy Taylor Gallery.
I was planning to fit in Rembrandt at the National Gallery but was tired and went home to get ready for Tate Young Patrons Frieze Party. Hosted in a Tate Young Patron’s opulent Mayfair home, it’s THE event of the year for Tate YPs. No “celebs” this year but well-heeled and beautiful-looking people and… Oscar Murillo! Mr BB was not there so it was a girly night with my friends R, M, C, F, A.
Saturday 18 October: Frieze (again)
A few vodkas and champagne and a good night’s sleep later, I was back to Frieze, first meeting with my friend C. for lunch. We debriefed the party, handbags and shoes of the guests and went back to art. I finished the Frieze Focus section, bumping into fellow Tate YP M. before being joined by Mr BB who wanted to see some Frieze highlights, and later by my friend M. I finished Frieze thinking I would only buy art with much work behind it, with a clear ideas and thought process. Cost of raw materials shouldn’t be a factor, I think. As my day job is valuation-based, I always try to find some valuation data.
Sunday 19 October: Frieze Sculpture Park, Frieze Masters
I had not run at all during Frieze Week although I was training for a half-marathon so decided to run first thing in the morning. My treat was to visit Frieze Sculpture Park once done. And Frieze Masters later during the day. I didn’t have time to see everything as three hours didn’t prove enough but much appreciated solo (or almost solo) shows of Penone at Marian Goodman, Lee Ufan at Lisson and Bacon at Marlborough.
Unlike art people who get exhausted by Frieze Week and (probably rightfully) complain about it, I was thoroughly excited by this week. It was a wonderful opportunity to see a lot of art and exchange with galleries, collectors and art lovers like me. You may wonder if I bought something this week. I did! I would not have thought years ago that the first piece of my art collection would be a contemporary photograph: Reservoir II 2014 by Noémie Goudal. The industrial landscape is shot in an abandoned aqueduct on the outskirts of Paris; while the paper backdrop appears to be shot on in a remote jungle location, akin to earlier images from Noemie’s acclaimed second series Haven Her Body Was, however it is in fact shot in a themepark in the South of Paris.