One of two major art fairs running this month, Frieze London, along with its sister fair Frieze Masters, had its VIP opening today in Regent’s Park. The affair was much more crowded than most fairs have been since events of this scale resumed after a pause caused by the pandemic.
Indeed, much of the talk around the fair was about how long the line to get in was, with some saying they waited at least a half hour. The opening hours were bustling with people, likely because of how many visitors were granted the traditionally exclusive 11 a.m. entry time, and dealers reported strong sales during the fair.
The work on view this year is strong, and discoveries of artists both young and overlooked abound. Below a look at the best on offer at the fair, which runs until Sunday.
Emma Amos at Ryan Lee
It’s rare when an artwork of true art historical significance appears at an art fair, so that makes this solo both dedicated to the late, great Emma Amos worth noting. At the center of it is Work Suit (1994), made the same year she saw a landmark Lucian Freud retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In this painting, Amos has placed her face onto that of a nude version of Freud’s body. It’s a reflection on who’s accepted into art history (read: white, straight men) and a sly subversion of the canon.
This painted version of Freud’s body shows up again in other Amos pieces here were she holds a blow-up of it before her body. There are also other self-portraits on view, including Thurgood and Thelonious, Some Names to Name Your Children (1989), which consists of a floor panel and a triptych showing various falling figures, rendered here in the stark white of marble. They are surrounded by the first names of people like Langston Hughes, Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, Bessie Coleman, Alice Walker, and Zora Neale Hurston, among others. To this Amos has added her own cut-out figure, which is installed on the floor.
Cecilia Vicuña at Lehmann Maupin
Cecilia Vicuña, who just installed two beautiful sculptures in Tate’s Turbine Hall, has a range of works in multiple mediums at Frieze. In one great corner is a large sculptural work made from blue-dyed unspun wool that is installed on a low plinth on the floor. The work gracefully unfurls from a larger roll. Behind the piece are several “precarios” by the artist, small assemblages created from detritus that the artist has encountered. There are also two paintings by the artist and a loop of three videos involving Vicuña’s well-regarded poetry.
Trevor Yeung at Blindspot Gallery
For a solo booth titled “Garden Cruising: that camouflage,” Hong Kong–based artist Trevor Yeung is re-presenting his 2019 installation, Between Water, in which 25 plastic cups, half-filled (or half-empty, depending on your view) with water, are precariously hung from the ceiling. They are arranged in a grid and spaced out approximately 120 cm (nearly 4 feet) from each other, which to the artist is the polite distance one might keep from a stranger or an acquaintance.
Though the work was made prior to the pandemic, it’s taken on a new resonance, now that phrases like “social distancing” are a part of the public lexicon. Yeung first worked on the piece while on residency in Helsinki, a city that, in his experience, minimizes intimacy and social interactions. Here in London, fairgoers will have to walk with discretion so as not to be drenched by the hanging cups.
Anthea Hamilton at Thomas Dane Gallery
London’s Thomas Dane Gallery invited artist Anthea Hamilton to organize its booth, in an extension of a project the artist recently did at the Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp. Hamilton has brought together the work of various artists on the gallery’s roster, as well as three who are not represented by Thomas Dane, for an eclectic and energetic display. To this she has contributed to large giant pumpkin works that slouch onto a tartan floor patterned in shades of black, blue, and white. Elsewhere are works by Lynda Benglis, Amy Sillman, Barbara Kasten, Hurvin Anderson, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Alexandre da Cunha, Barbara Kasten, and more. Already, the booth has won Frieze’s Stand Prize.
DIS at Project Native Informant
In a joint booth with Arcadia Missa, Project Native Informant is showing works by the previously ever-present collective DIS, which pivoted to video several years ago after running a beloved digital magazine. The collective’s art-world prominence waned as a result—DIS low-key fell off, to use the language of the internet, as the group itself might—but the works at this booth suggest that DIS is still one to watch. Many of these works here draw from the group’s recent exhibition at Secession in Vienna, including the booth’s centerpiece: a powder-coated black park bench similar to those seen around the Austrian capital. “No Homo,” the bench reads. (There’s also a placard “Please do not touch,” but that’s not part of the piece itself.) While the bench, of course, references the derogatory, homophobic phrase popularized in the early 2000s, it also, in this case, refers to “Homo sapiens,” relating to DIS’s larger interest in thinking about mankind’s relationship to consumerism, late-stage capitalism, and neo-liberalism. In a way, it’s a refusal of all that, since it’s being ironically displayed at a commercial art fair.
Mahmoud Khaled at Gypsum
At Gypsum’s booth, there’s a sleek leather bed, replete with a harness bisecting it, that comes courtesy of Berlin-based artist Mahmoud Khaled. Titled For Those Who Can Not Sleep, the work is a monument, in a way, to insomnia, presenting the absence of a person who likely struggled to sleep in the bed. In Khaled’s hands, these monuments become a metaphor to those who have been displaced, disposed, or exiled, whether from their home countries, due to political reasons, or from their families because of their queer identities.
Aref El Rayess at Sfeir-Semler Gallery
Much has been written about the ongoing trend within the art world, whether institutionally or within galleries and fairs, of giving under-recognized artists their due. One such artist who probably ought to get that treatment is Aref El Rayess, a major modernist within Lebanon who is not very well-known outside the Middle East. El Rayess traveled to various places, like New York and Paris, throughout his lifetime, and each one impacted the style of art he created. On view in this booth are several examples of works from the ’60s that he made after arriving in Italy. There, he tested out abstraction, creating intimate canvases filled with variously colored blocks that are quite appealing to the eye.
Virginia Jaramillo at Pace Gallery
Hidden in a corner of Pace’s booth is a stunning new work by Virginia Jaramillo. Titled East of the Sun / Deep Field, this abstraction presents a mostly blue and black canvas that is cut in tow in the lower third by a crisp yellow line; at left are two arcs, one in red and one in orange, that hint at the solar imagery referenced in the work’s title. Interestingly enough, the work hangs next to a horizontal, striped abstraction by Kenneth Noland. The two artists were contemporaries, and their work once hung together in artist Peter Bradley’s groundbreaking 1971 exhibition “The DeLuxe Show,” which is considered the first racially integrated art exhibition in the U.S. Long overlooked by many, Jaramillo is now taking her rightful place alongside another titan.
Clarissa Tossin and Eddie Rodolfo Aparicio at Commonwealth & Council
Sandhini Poddar, an adjunct curator for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, has curated a special section of the fair whose booths refers to the Buddhist and Hindu theory of “Indra’s Net,” That theory, a booklet says, refers to “an ethics of being, where an individual atom holds within it the structure of reality. Imagine a vast bejewelled net: at every nexus there is a reflective orb that mirrors and refracts every other orb in its entirety.” In other words, it’s an apt metaphor for our interdependence with each other and with nature, which is being reshaped by climate change. For its booth, the L.A.-based gallery Commonwealth & Council is presenting an intergenerational collaboration between two artists, Clarissa Tossin and Eddie Rodolfo Aparicio, who are thinking through these concerns.
Bruno Zhu at VI, VII
A well-hung sculpture by Bruno Zhu depicting a silk rendition of a Patek Philippe watch has proven to be one of the fair’s more popular works. The statement timepiece in question once belonged to the artist’s mother. Presented here in version done in a brilliant shade of pastel lavender, the watch now explores notions of masculinity and how they are conveyed by objects. Zhu has reversed the watch’s elements: instead of the hands rotating clockwise, they here run counterclockwise.