Frieze is London’s biggest art fair. Welcoming autumn with a bang from 5th-8th October 2017, the big money tent in Regent’s Park is a maze of the world’s most prestigious exhibitors, parading its cultural fruits for the city’s rich and most curious. Walking in, queues of BMWs skirt the show; buyers, viewers and to-be-seeners collect their varying tiers of tickets to the fair. And so it begins. Frieze Week is the cornerstone of London’s art calendar, attracting 160 international flagship and upcoming galleries from Berlin to Buenos Aries. Albeit slightly terrifying, you can’t deny the energy that the pop-up hub emits, showcasing hundreds of artists from photography, sculpture, painting, illustration music and film disciplines.
Snaking through temporary walls and freestanding art, it’s difficult not to feel overwhelmed, lost amongst beautiful confusion. Colours pop from A.R. Penck, muted oil tones adorn Cecily Brown’s canvases, Dark Waves mesmerise from teamLab and Berta Fischer’s iridescent acrylic glass works gather in playful corners. Years of angst, depression, joy and creativity captured in myriad ways – Zanele Muholi’s uncompromising black and white portraits tell the tales of fellow South Africans persecuted for their sexuality whilst Do-Ho Suh’s extracts from London’s Victoria Miro gallery question the banality of domestic life. A new section at Frieze, Sex Work: Feminist Art & Radical Politics was curated by independent curator and scholar, Alison M. Gingeras, aiming to highlight transgressive art of the 1970s and 80s. Photorealistic paintings of sex, fetish paraphernalia and a porn grid photo series were some of the nine solo presentations of women artists on show, documenting work at the extreme edges of feminist practice.
Now in its 15th year, Frieze London 2017 also held host to a free sculpture park installed in the grounds, with outdoor works from the likes of Magdalena Abakanowicz, Urs Fischer, Alicja Kwade, Jaume Plensa, Sarah Sze and Emily Young. From the playful to the political, 25 works were juxtaposed against the greenery for all to see, with favourites from Thomas J. Price, KAWS and John Chamberlain.
There’s no doubt about it; Frieze was a show of unmissable art from established and emerging global talent, neatly bundled into one, Central London location. Once you’ve figured out the floor plan and acclimatised to the greenhouse heat, life does get a little easier. Yet, as the fair continues to rack up millions for private galleries, investors and art dealers, it’s difficult to leave Regent’s Park in 2017 without a niggling feeling of disconnect. As resilient London rebuilds itself from a year of political unrest, societal segregation and one of the most tragic fires in history, its difficult to wonder if art taken out of context is really art at all.
Keep up to date with Frieze, its publications and fairs at https://frieze.com