There were 159 galleries at the Frieze Art Fair in London’s Regent’s Park this last week, 4th–7th October 2018. The number of artworks shown by each ranged from one (at Kamel Mennour’s stand – Tatiana Trouvé’s tree root fountain ‘The Shaman’) to two dozen or more at some of the bigger stands. This makes for a lot of art to look at. To see it all properly and do it all justice it would be sensible to attend for a full day on all four days. After all there is also Frieze Masters across the park and all the wonderful sculpture in the park. In past years I have done just that – taken four days – three for a thorough visit of the main fair, a stroll through the sculpture park and to attend most of the talks and the fourth day for the always rewarding Frieze Masters.
But this year I had to make do with seven hours at the main fair and 30 minutes shivering in the rain in the park. There were sections that I spent more time in than others and some were so crowded it was hard to get to the art and I know that in my circling I missed a few sections. So this is in no way a complete review. Here are some of the things that stood out for me this year.
The ‘Social Work’ themed section that follows on from 2017’s themed section ‘Sex Work’, featured presentations by eight international women artists who emerged during the 1980s and 90s. The work of Faith Ringgold, Tina Keane, Helen Chadwick, Nancy Spero, Ipek Duben, Mary Kelly, Berni Searle, and Sonia Boyce challenged the status quo and explored ideas of identity, labour, and visibility. The stands showed a mixture of past and recent work. I especially liked Sonia Boyce’s ‘The Audition’ 1997, a series of photographs of participants in Manchester before and after putting on an afro wig, Faith Ringold’s acrylic landscape and figure paintings framed with cloth strips to become wall quilts, and Helen Chadwick’s alternately beautiful and repellent photos of raw meat and flowers.
As a painter I was happy to see that this year seemed to have more painting than the past few years. Although most stands seemed to be trying to have a selection of everything – painting, sculpture, photography, drawing, collage, installation, textiles – there seemed to be a bit less photography over all, and much of the photography was in the form of altered photos and photo-collage. There was more wall-based sculpture and a lot more painting.
The Kavi Gupta gallery from Chicago was showing rare works by AfriCOBRA artists (The African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists founded in 1968). Kavi Gupta was also showing Manuel Mathieu. Ingleby Gallery had an alcove with 11 lovely little Andrew Cranston paintings. They also had two beautiful paintings by Kevin Harman who injects household paint into the space inside discarded double glazed windows. I like Wilhelm Sasnal’s still lifes and interiors and I spotted him three or four times throughout the fair. Benjamin Senior’s complex compositions and subtly great colour never fail to thrill.
These are some works that people kept gathering around or asking about, while I was near. Urs Fischer had a big presence at the fair as his large sculpture Francesco and his work filling the entire Gagosian stand were both right at the entrance.