LONDON – It's that time of the year again. The world descends upon London to attend Frieze Art Fair and its hugely successful twin, Frieze Masters. Regent’s Park goes into survival mode as art lovers edge out joggers and dog walkers. Shod in my best Keds, I entered this brave new world of art passion knowing I would not emerge much before daylight starts to fade.
So what is different this year? Not much, I would say. The same mix of interesting and less interesting works; some eye-catching newcomers, one or two breath-taking pieces, possibly fewer video works than in previous years. But the reason we continue to attend such fairs – whether we are in the industry or not – is to see how artists are viewing and reflecting our current world.
As ever I was on the lookout for Middle Eastern art, even if I was captivated en route by the outstanding Secundino Hernàndez at Victoria Miro (top and below), and Christoph Büchel’s Sleeping Guard at Hauser and Wirth (curated by Mark Wallinger) that had everyone bemused. Faithfuls Sfeir-Semler and Third Line Gallery were present, showing an array of the usual artists. A mirror-work by Monir Farman Farmaian who at 90 is at the peak of her career (with a major retrospective coming up at Porto's Seralves Foundation), as well as works by Youssef Nabil, Babak Golkar and Hasan Hajjaj, fill up the Third Line space. Farhad Moshiri's embedded knives make a forceful statement at Perrotin, while several beckoning Ghada Amer’s at quite high prices make a more delicate appearance elsewhere. A strong painting by Walid Beshty appears to be a welcome departure for that artist, and equally strong works at Marianne Boesky by Diana Al Hadid (already sold!), and Hassan and Hussein Essop at Goodman Gallery remind us that these artists continue to thrive.
Was it just me or was the Fair slightly less star-studded than before? Will Art15 fill the niche when it comes to a truly international presence of galleries and artists? Or has Masters basically stolen the show? Whatever the case, art fairs still continue to account for nearly 60% of the art trade, and whether Frieze is – in the words of one journalist “IKEA for millionaires” – we still flock to it and gallerists pitch tent for a few days to show us what they believe in.