As the aisles buzzed inside Frieze London this morning, a young woman in black pants, a black sweater, and black shoes was standing absolutely still on a sheet of metal in the shape of an L. Most people rushed by, but a few stopped and starred. She just stood there, barely blinking. Then she walked along the metal and off onto the floor, and another young woman took her place.
“It’s a piece from 1975,” Jocelyn Wolff, the Paris dealer explained, by the the German artist Franz Erhard Walther, who is far better known for fabric pieces that people can wear, often with another person, which are designed to change the participants’ relationship with each other and the world around them. It’s being shown as part of the fair’s Live section, which focuses on participatory works.
“All of these metallic pieces, they were produced at the time for his participation in the Sao Paulo biennial,” Wolff continued. “They’re more rare” than those other works.
How does the piece function? “[The performers] turn themselves into living sculptures and they slowly move along the ring,” he said, “and it is turned into a kind of pedestal.” Its price: €120,000 (about $151,800), excluding VAT. Showing an unusual work by someone who is still far from a household name at a big-budget fair could be seen by some as a risky move, but Wolff had thought of that.
“I thought if we come here,” he said, “I figured we should also take a classic piece, a signature piece, this piece from 1968,” he said, motioning to a little fabric pouch under a vitrine on a white pedestal. A few minutes later, the two women had switched to that one. They had slipped a long slice of fabric over their heads so that they could see only each other.