Frieze Focus is a sector here at the fair in London that can often be something of a respite from the citadels of mega galleries under the two gigantic white tents. It’s a collection of 36 galleries, all younger than 12 years old, from different offbeat neighborhoods around the globe. While there may be some familiar galleries showing work that’s somewhat expected, for the most part, Focus is the most fun part of the fair.
It’s also a part of the fair where dealers are selling out their booths—something that wasn’t happening across the board in the opening hours of the main sector of the fair.
“Yes, we sold it all,” said Olivier Babin, the director of Clearing, which has spaces in Brussels and Bushwick, Brooklyn. He was referring to the large milk-white sculptures by the young French artist Marguerite Humeau, gnarled elephant tusks similar to the ones she displayed at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris this summer. Each work was $50,000, and they went quickly, acquired by one Middle Eastern art foundation and two London-based art foundations.
“It’s almost like an epilogue to that show,” Babin said, referring to the exhibition in Paris. He added that Tate Modern acquired a work from the Palais de Tokyo show, which meant a lot to Humeau, as she’s currently living in London—“a French lady in the U.K., like Joan of Arc, but better!” he said.
David Lewis also sold out his booth, which features new paintings by Lucy Dodd, priced at $50,000 and $60,000. Ditto Düsseldorf’s Galerie Max Mayer: it offloaded all its works by Jan Paul Evers, at prices between €5,500 and€8,200 (about $6,140 to $9,150). These small black-and-white photos, tampered with to induce maximum graininess, offered a slightly more toned-down aesthetic compared to the work in adjacent booths. For example: The Southard Reid booth had Celia Hempton’s giant paintings of male genitalia shown close up in bright colors, and next door, Augustus Serapinas was staging a performance that involved men lifting weights while disco jams blasted.
Night Gallery, from Los Angeles, had work by Rose Marcus, a series that took as its inspiration Strawberry Fields, the constantly swarmed memorial for John Lennon in Central Park, steps away from where he was shot in front of the Dakota.
“You know, Strawberry Fields, it’s kind of horrible, right,” said Night Gallery founder Davida Nemeroff. “There’s all these tourists. But Rose has always been exploring Central Park in her work. And now she’s brought John Lennon back to London, in a sense.” She said that the works were priced between $8,000 and $14,000, and she had sold three.
But the biggest spectacle of Focus, and perhaps the entire fair, was Jon Rafman’s Transdimensional Serpent (2016), which took up the entire booth of London’s Seventeen Gallery (which is opening a space in New York, on the Bowery, in mid-November.) It’s a four-minute VR journey, experienced via an Oculus Rift headset that you wear while sitting on a giant white snake. There were lines on Wednesday during the VIP preview, and there were even longer lines on Friday—a line of people wound around the booth and then some, waiting to experience Rafman’s virtual reality madness. They stand in line watching other fairgoers sit on a snake, which is set against bright yellow walls, while wearing big rigs strapped on their heads, twisting their necks at what appears to be nothing.
Seventeen’s Attilia Fattori Franchini took pity on me, and let me skip the long line. Headset attached, I “entered” a grid where people were walking past me, and I was sitting on a giant snake, which was basically what was actually happening to me at the Frieze Art Fair—except, in the Jon Rafman reality, the snake was eating its own tail, appropriately enough. Then, there was a stomach-flipping “drop” and I arrived in a forest, and then got blown to a dodgy back alley, and then went to a desert with some giant ruins in the back, clearly an apocalyptic scene, though the people walking by also looked like people walking through an art fair.
It’s a pretty remarkable operation, and the entire thing—the giant snake installation, four Oculus Rift sets, and copies of the video—is for sale for $120,000. (Collectors also have the chance to buy just the video and a single rig for $35,000; it’s an edition of three, and two are on reserve.)
Asked about whether it had sold yet the installation yet, the gallery said there’s a lot of interest from institutions. Perhaps Transdimensional Serpent will again attract long lines, this time in a museum.