Josh Spero will be updating his Frieze Week diary here every day, covering the art fairs, galleries and parties which make this the busiest week in the art world's calendar
Josh Spero will be updating his Frieze Week diary here every day, covering the art fairs, galleries and parties which make this the busiest week in the art world's calendar
Coming up this week: Frieze Masters, Frieze London, the Pavilion of Art and Design, Sunday art fair, Multiplied editions fair, openings by Toby Ziegler in an underground carpark, Lari Pittman at Thomas Dane, Fischli/Weiss at Spruth Magers, Anish Kapoor at Lisson Gallery, Rob Pruitt at Luxembourg and Dayan, Chris Ofili at Victoria Miro and Franz West at Gagosian, plus parties at Sotheby's and Christie's, and much more.
I cannot imagine there will be a better Contemporary art fair in London this week or indeed this year than Sunday at Ambika P3, which is practically a warehouse on the University of Westminster's Marylebone Road campus.
Now in its third year, Sunday may well render aghast those expecting Frieze-like white walls, hostile gallerists and a general air of frenzied inactivity. Instead of expensively kitted out stands, electrical tape on the floor divides the 'booths'. The extravagance is the gallery's name in vinyl lettering on the wall. All to the good – look just at the art.
Twenty young international galleries are showing one or two of their most exciting artists, and they are far fresher, more beautiful, more creative and more entrancing than so much of what is on show elsewhere.
Pictured above: Sunday art fair at Ambika P3
My highlight was Aleksandra Domanovic's paper-stack sculptures at Tanya Leighton (Berlin). Domanovic has reworked images from the former Yugoslavia and printed them in such a way that they appear on the sides of towers of paper, an imaginative technical achievement which also suggests something about our fragile and faulty notions of history.
I spoke to Domanovic's gallerist, Tanya Leighton, who was effusive with praise for Sunday, especially in comparison with Frieze: 'It's completely run by gallerists for gallerists, not by people from the outside.' It's low-cost, with a few high-quality galleries, in contrast to the 'overwhelming' other fairs. And despite the lack of trappings, 'You still get the biggest collectors coming here,' as first-day sales testify: BolteLange sold all five works by Benjamin Senior within 15 minutes of the doors opening.
The work is affordable, too, in the low thousands. 'I would definitely have another price tag on it if I were over the road [Frieze is down and carps the Marylebone Road from Sunday]. You have to add a few zeroes to meet your overheards.'
Fair founders Limoncello (London) presented Jack Strange, who continued his interest in finding the personality in the inanimate with a series of digital brains: perspex boxes sat on TV screens which ran through hectic colourful screensavers. One screensaver shone through Perspex tubes (with their beautiful glow at the rim) while the rest of the box-brain was filled with soil and feathers. It felt like a glimpse into the brain as imagined for a school science video from the Sixties. I also enjoyed his witty chunks of rocks given personality by simple holes which suggested facial apertures.
Also well worth your attention are Cynthia Daignault's paintings of leaves through windows, hazy from memory (Lisa Cooley); Benjamin Senior's geometric leisure-time paintings; and Lucy Skaer's sheet lead embossed with a fragment of an Old Master image (Tulips & Roses).
Like all art fairs now, Sunday has projects. The pop-up bar is being taken over by an 'artist du jour' who remakes the space according to their vision. Yesterday's was Infinity Hospitality, who produced crispbreads with beautiful abstract pastel colours on, which you could squirt various sauces onto: celeriac was good, as was lemon curd. (I didn't try the beef yoghurt.) It was witty and inventive, like Sunday itself. Go!
Sunday came after my trip to Marlborough Contemporary, the new venture upstairs from the long-established Marlborough Gallery which now has an outstanding late Frank Auerbach show on. The drawings (pictured below) are particularly noteworthy because he tries to tackle the impossibility of transferring his usual method – building up colour layers by scraping back paint.
But I did have a very interesting chat with Andrew Renton, director of Marlborough Contemporary, who said that it was a natural step forward to keep Marlborough, well, contemporary: 'You could edit what goes on in the original gallery, but if it ain't broke, don't fix it.' When he used to visit Marlborough as a child, their artists were the new and exciting ones, so it makes sense that he'd like to recapture that today.
Professor Renton sees the market not so much as crowded as fertile: there are this many galleries, fairs and sales because there is the demand: 'As crowded as the market is, there's two things you should bear in mind: this [London] is now the centre… and the more galleries that I see the happier I am.' He says his new catchphrase is calling up the recent American arrivals – Pace, David Zwirner – and telling them he's put the kettle on. It's an invitation they should accept.
SHOWS I SAW/PLACES I WENT
> Atelier van Lieshout at Carpenters Workshop Gallery: Delicate industrial-park bronzes which don't quite evoke the fear the wall-text suggests is intended. They're skilfully made, though.
> Istanbul Art Fair: Party at a private house in Holland Park (I was properly vagrant last night) to celebrate Sandy Angus' new project after the sale of ART HK to Art Basel. Lots of very glamorous women under gold-coffered ceilings.
> Multiplied at Christie's South Ken: This is their editions fairs, where you can buy copies of artists' work in a cheaper format. With an impressive range of galleries and presses – Riflemaker, Lazarides, Whitechapel, Paupers Press, Parasol Unit – there were all sorts of artists on offer.
Favourite piece: edition of JR's favela project (pictured below), where he pasted black and white photos of the eyes of mothers whose children were killed in drug wars on house walls; they stare out at you from the jumble of box-houses.
Least favourite: all the work with Amy Winehouse; I don't care if you've modelled it on an Old Master, it's tacky.
> London's art gallery hotspots (Guardian): This is curious but crap, missing out so many places. (Thanks to Ben Street for this.)
> Larry Gagosian speaks! (Wall Street Journal): If he could sell any painting, it would be Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon… which is pretty obvious as it's the most important painting of the 20th century (hence probably the most expensive). I'm surprised he didn't say the Mona Lisa. (Thanks to Melanie Gerlis for this.)
THE GRAND FINALE…
…was Marlborough Contemporary's party at The Scotch in Mason's Yard, just behind White Cube and where Jimmi Hendrix played. It was a glamorous sweatbox with wonderful whisky sours. As for what went on, let us delicately draw a veil over that…
I think that's probably enough of a diary for this Frieze Week, mainly because I now need to sleep all weekend. Thank you for reading!
A brief Frieze diary today as I only made one thing yesterday, which is – admittedly – the motor for the whole week, Frieze London. It was mobbed with facelifts and foreign tongues, as per, and all the big galleries had their prime Contemporary artists on show.
But it went beyond usual levels of traffic and ostentation, and I think Frieze Masters is to blame. Many of those at Frieze London will have been at Frieze Masters either the day before or earlier yesterday, and the calm, generous mood prevalent there only serves to highlight quite what a gaudy bunfight Frieze London is. Not just that but the work at Frieze Masters is much quieter, so a quick turn around the fair doesn't feel like an ocular assault.
(Sidebar: After I left Frieze Masters on Tuesday, the lights went off twice. One guest said he was expecting George Clooney and Brad Pitt to have appeared and lifted a super-valuable Warhol, a la Ocean's Eleven, before the lights came back on. I suggested a dealer might have been found murdered and they'd have to play a dinner-party game to work out whodunnit.)
If you asked me what I liked at Frieze London, I'd find it hard to say. It seems to be so little about looking, given the pressure to get round an enormous fair, the constant push of people, the several gallerists not willing to indulge you with a word of explanation. The work, as usual then, tends to the bright and eye-catching, so an installation of pastel-colour window blinds or Jason Rhoades' Neon Squiggly Words With Goat (as I like to call it) at Hauser & Wirth, pictured below:
Following last year's trend, there was much less video art and far fewer large-scale installations, probably because they are harder to imagine in your drawing room and thus to sell. Even the Frame section, with single-artist shows from younger galleries, seemed underwhelming.
A slight miasma of austerity did lingered around the fair, despite the expensive paintings and sandwiches. There were no free drinks in the VIP section, and the canapés were radishes, which to me says the hosts don't like you very much.
Still, the thousands of people there did seem buoyant – but whether they were buying… One piece I did particularly like is Max Frisinger's broken radiator like the ribcage of Christ on the cross, pictured below:
One of the themes of the Frieze Projects is food, with Grizedale Arts & Yangjiang Group's Colosseum of the Consumed, a put-up arena in which you can spectate while gourmands go at it. In alcoves around the outside, where the Romans would be hawking sausages, were lots of stalls. I ended up drinking red fruit cordial from what appeared to be a colostomy bag with a green straw in from Coniston Youth Club, but there were also a variety of appealing vegetables, jams and other products which seem to have a tangential relationship to art. (Art should be a form of communication, as food is, is Grizedale's thinking, I think.)
Yesterday evening at Frieze I bumped into Catsou Roberts, the amazing curator who gets artists to create work for hospitals. We profiled Catsou and her work last year: a worthwhile read on a surprising subject.
THINGS I DIDN'T GO TO
> The Christie's/Vanity Fair party
> The Sunday art fair party
> Rob Pruitt at Luxembourg & Dayan
Why didn't I go? Because I got together for dinner with a good friend from London and a good friend from New York who was in town for Frieze Week. It's too easy to be blinded by the swirling sparkling dust as the art-world caravan thunders through town.
AN ACTUAL NEWS STORY
Even before I got to Frieze Masters, where the collecting crowds were pawing the ground before being let in at 3pm like the participants at Pamplona anxious for the off, the instruction had gone round: head straight for Helly Nahmad.
Nahmad has a booth of just four objects: one gigantic Alexander Calder mobile, stretching from floor to ceiling, twisting gracefully yet powerfully; two smaller mobiles; and a large Miro on the back wall, complimenting the black irregular discs of the Calders.
Pictured above: Alexander Calder mobile at Helly Nahmad at Frieze Masters
As I stood in a huddle with the FT's Jackie Wullschlager and The Art Newspaper's Georgina Adam, Helly talked about how the large mobile had been designed for a private collector, who had wanted 'some horizontals' added, which then made it too big for his space. Calder sold it to the Mobile oil company (aptly).
Its slow swinging in parts and in the whole emphasised what Helly said about how Calder was the twentieth century's most important sculptor, breaking away from thousands of years of sculpture as the staic and figurative image. He was clearly quite in love with the work, and its gigantic presence and proximity to the viewer easily explains why.
But afterwards, I asked him about the Warhol Foundation, which is selling off 20,000 works for $100 million, flooding the market. This is a problem for the Nahmads because they are massive holders of Warhol. Helly told me that he regrets 'my family getting into Warhol in such a big way… You have no idea, with Warhol, what's out there.' That is an important statement from such a dealer.
I wrote yesterday (see below) that Frieze had launched Frieze Masters, for art pre-2000, somewhat in fear of the Pavilion of Art and Design, both of which opened yesterday. I still think that's right, to a certain extent.
But after visiting both fairs, it became clear not only that they are very different but that Frieze Masters is not something we have seen the like of in the UK before. It is, put simply, astonishing.
The difference was summarised by Mathias Rastorfer of Galerie Gmurzynska, which is showing at both: 'Frieze Masters is like a museum, you curate a show', while PAD is for 'gems'.
As Mathias said, you get everyone at PAD from very wealthy collectors to Mayfair natives dropping in with their interior designers: they're interested in an appealing selection of excellent objects. But at Frieze Masters, the collectors are serious, and galleries have to reach deep and think carefully about what they'll display.
Take Acquavella, which put on a museum-quality booth right at the front of Frieze Masters: perfect Bacon studies for the head of Isabel Rawsthorne and George Dyer, a massive void striking through Dyer's face; three beautiful Freuds; a rainbow Warhol Mao; Arp, Dubuffet (big across the fairs this year), Degas dancers, Jasper Johns. This was a powerhouse show.
Pictured above: Francis Bacon's Studies for the heads of Isable Rawsthorne and George Dyer at Acquavella at Frieze Masters
And it wasn't a one-off. Pace brought a row of small Kurt Schwitters collages, some of which they had sold before the fair even opened. (Schwitters has a show at Tate next year, so he's all over the fairs too, including a wonderful collage at Gmurzynska at PAD.) Gagosian did an entire show of Avedon's portraits from the American West, sober and monumental. Lisson had Art & Language and some nicely charred John Lathams.
Then there were more historical galleries: de Johnckheere had plenty from the Brueghels, including a beautiful snowy townscape from Pieter the Younger; a fourteenth-century reliquary at Brimo de Laroussilhe; Daniel Katz's antiquities.
Not every gallery was a success. Bernheimer and Colnaghi showed Annie Leibowitz portraits next to Dutch masters, which did neither any favours, and Van de Weghe seemed to fail at both Frieze Masters and PAD, showing uninteresting Picassos at the former and a Hirst Spin painting at the latter.
Nevertheless, it is clear that Frieze Masters is a triumph, confounding the doubters and excelling by every measure.
> Princess Michael of Kent and Melanie Clore of Sotheby's meeting at Gmurzynska at Frieze Masters: can you imagine the two of them singing Enough Is Enough?
> Bailey goes blue at Blau: Daniel Blau at Frieze Masters has Warhol's drawings from the Fifties and Bailey's Polaroids of Warhol. I asked Bailey about them and he said he didn't remember taking most of them 'as I was probably too fucking pissed'. I remarked on the similarity between Warhol's drawings and the beautiful Schiele drawings at Richard Nagy at PAD, and the gallerist explained that Warhol's teachers would have been Central European emigres of Schiele's generation. Which makes sense.
> Bricking it at the Tate: You can buy a brick in the shape of Tate Modern's Herzog and de Meuron extension (pictured left) to support the fundraising. It costs £1,450. You can, of course, look at this the other way round: donate £1,450 and receive a free brick.
> FIRE!: Lowell Libson at Frieze Masters has an eighteenth century picture of London burning down. The jolly gallerist said it has contemporary resonance, presumably because of last summer's riots. Perhaps art fairs – as exemplars of the wealth gap and social inequality that fed the riots – ought not to be making quite so light…
> Sotheby's: Lots of champagne. Massive Clapton Richter. £50 million Picasso. Plenty of Basquiat. Cute waiters with velvet jackets. Jolly Henry Wyndham. What more could you want?
SHOWS I VISITED YESTERDAY
Toby Ziegler's The Cripples: Feeling more like an underground rave than an art show, fourteen storeys beneath Old Burlington Street, in the dark and very lowest level of a commercial car park, Toby Ziegler has installed planar sculptures based on figures from Brueghel the Elder's The Cripples. Part of his experiment has been to take these 2D figures and imagine their 3D presence, harking back to the earliest moments of Cubism and showing there's plenty of life left in the question of artistic representation.
Pictured above: Toby Ziegler's The Cripples
Carracci/Freud at Pilar Ordovas: I turned up at Pilar Ordovas for Simon Grant of the Tate's book launch, From My View, essays by Contemporary artists on inspiration forebears. (Definitely worth a read, based on my early scanning.) But you couldn't head downstairs to the launch without being transfixed by the small portraits in the gallery. Lucian Freud said he wished he could paint like Carracci, but he was being hard on himself: both artists see portraits as the piling-up of discrete brushstrokes and choose to emphasise this, rather than smooth it away, and Freud's faces are just as characterful. Downstairs are intimate photos of Freud by his assistant, David Dawson.
Walking round the Rothko/Sugimoto show (a Sugimoto pictured below) at the new Pace space in Burlington Gardens, it seemed that the heavies were looming slightly more heavily after Sunday's Tate Rothko attack (see Monday below), and indeed they were. Talking to one of the guards, he said an extra sentinel had been added. If he saw someone looking suspiciously at a painting, he said, he'd run at them, but unless you stood a guard by each work…
Can't imagine a Tate guard running at a vandal, or indeed at anyone. The security at the posthumous Franz West show at Gagosian last night – from the same firm, judging by their discreet badges – also looked like they'd like to knock ten bells out of any would-be miscreant.
Today is the pre-preview for Frieze Masters in Regent's Park and the normal preview for the Pavilion of Art and Design in Berkeley Square, together with a press lunch with the gallerists, who are as far from the starchy, uptight types that tend to predominate at Frieze as you can get. Relaxed, talkative, with plenty of bonhomie, they embody the difference between the atmospheres of Frieze and PAD.
Now, one of the theories swirling about the advent of Frieze Masters is that Frieze are scared of PAD, hence have started a fair which covers the same ground (ie pre-Contemporary art). PAD has become the most popular fair among the Mayfair set not just because it is in the leafy heart of Mayfair and means you can roll into Annabel's or Morton's afterrwards, but also because of its atmosphere, its UHNW guests, its high-quality art and design which are not confrontational and inexplicable like much of the Contemporary work at Frieze, but almost familiar.
I asked the director of Frieze Master, Victoria Siddall, what role PAD had played in setting up Frieze Masters: not much, she said. 'It was an idea that we have been thinking about for a long time. There had been approaches from galleries to us, the Society of London Art Dealers came to us saying, “We want a great fair in London.” I don't compare it to other fairs as it's not going to be like them.' Those sound like fighting words to me.
PAD has again managed to secure this year some of the top global galleries, including some newcomers: Galerie Gmurzynska (new this year), Luxembourg & Dayan, Castelli Gallery, Waddington Custot Galleries, Richard Nagy (see our piece on Richard Nagy here), Dickinson, L&M Arts (also new this year). With galleries of this calibre choosing not Frieze Masters but PAD, the competition is on.
Last time this happened, when the Zoo Art Fair for young galleries was riding high, Frieze started its Frame section and killed off Zoo pretty quickly. I wouldn't bet on it happening the same way this time.
Galleries visited yesterday:
Exclusive Spear's preview of RA Now: no-one else had been into this show of items donated by Royal Academicians for a charity auction to raise money for the Royal Academy's Burlington Project until Spear's yesterday. And what a show! With a new iPad drawing by David Hockney, Anthony Gormley's standing man for the first time made out of spheres, not blocks, a new vase by Grayson Perry featuring many current RAs (pictured below, Tracey Emin facing forward), works by honorary RAs Cindy Sherman and Jeff Koons and this beautiful Gary Hume, it is a gathering of masters.
Bronze at the Royal Academy: this merits far more than a pocket review… The problem with Bronze is not the objects: these are without exception outstanding, whether Rodin's The Age of Bronze (modelled on Michelangelo's The Dying Slave, I'd say), African throne-leopards, Wild West pioneers on leaping horses or a massive Oriental incense-burner. No, the problem is that the objects are deracinated and hence fairly meaningless. What did The Age of Bronze mean in its historic and artistic context? What can we learn about any of these societies from just one object? Each of these deserves a show on its own.
Rothko/Sugimoto at Pace: I have almost never been as compelled by art as I was by Sugimoto's greyscale seascapes, mesmeric in their broad planes, drawing the eye in and casting it about its fields. They are perfectly paired with the Rothkos, even if the Rothkos seem bloodless next to the profound stillness and mystery of the Sugimotos.
Franz West at Gagosian: hmm.
Greta Alfaro at the Fish and Coal Building: I enjoyed this a lot more than I was expecting. When I was told it was a video taken by a rat running around a mocked-up Edwardian office, it seemed like it could easily be gimmicky, and I'm still not sure the set worked or had much meaning. However, the rat's-eye view was fascinating and beautiful: it had an irregular rhythm, sometimes leaping out into the light and capturing scenes which became abstract at speed, swirling and swerving, at other times enduring pitch black. The frenzied abstract images said a lot more about our perceptions of space and time than the faux-Edwardians. Read our interview with Greta Alfaro and her patron John Studzinski here.
> This weekend's FT Magazine had a great piece on older women artists.
> And the seaside town of Ilfracombe is getting a massive, hideous Damien Hirst scultpure (okay, that's tautologous) – whether they like it or not.
The week has not started well, with news from Tate Modern yesterday that some moronic manifesto-led vandal has daubed his signature over one of Mark Rothko's Seagram Murals. The vandal, who is apparently called Vladimir Umanets, is an advocate of 'yellowism', which seems – to put it plainly – bullshit. Umanets seems to fancy himself in the tradition of Duchamp, who signed things that weren't his, or the Futurists, who had a manifesto which was both poetic and practical. I'm not sure most people would agree.
This does raise worrying questions about security in art galleries. Tate Modern guards are not exactly Robocops, tending slightly towards the Phil Silvers mould, and not only did they not stop the vandal, they didn't ev