Good works of art stay in the heart and mind for a long time. Sometimes though you would wish you could take them anywhere you go. A bronze head by Brancusi for example may be a bit heavy to carry but it would fit comfortably in a bag. However it might be even more amusing to live in a Brancusi head. This is exactly what Pierre Huyghe proposes in his work for Frieze Projects. In an aquarium we see a hermit crab inhabiting a copy of Brancusi’s Sleeping Muse from 1909. It might not be the most comfortable dwelling but it is most fascinating to behold this icon of art history slowly moving around on the back of a crab. It seems to say that if art failed on a human level it may well find some function in another world.
Turning to the fair itself can one say that art fails on a human level? In the sense that most artworks that are shown do not ask for much intelligence, the answer would be yes. Most works are large, colourful, pleasing to the eye and do not beg for any difficult questions. The name of the artist is sufficient. It is all about seeing with ears. Some of the big names have made very uninspired pieces that will nonetheless find their way to collectors without eyes. On the other hand, in comparison with last year, the amount of kitsch seems to have been brought back to a minimum. That in itself is a good thing. It does however give an overall experience of a sanitised homogeneity of good taste that does not bear any relation to our contemporary world. Did we only come here for decoration, for art for art’s sake?
[figure "Elmgreen & Dragset, Perrotin. Keep them coming boys! But not in the context of an art fair..jpg" "Ashley Bickerton, Lehman Maupin. Keep on moving. Please, don't stop!.jpg" "Isa Genzken, David Zwirner. This work suffers severely from the context of an art fair..jpg" "Klara Kristalova, Alison Jacques. Arts & Crafts from the community centre..jpg" "Rachel Harrison, Greene Naftali. Furry animals and loads of colour. Buy me, I am cute. Some context is dearly lacking..jpg" "Yan Pei Ming, David Zwirner.The painter has painted a portrait. It is quite dark. Something to do with terror and a bleak economic outlook..jpg"]
Fortunately there are galleries that take pains to make something different out of their booths. Good examples are artists Muntean & Rosenblum who made a small house including a shower and toilet in Georg Kargl’s booth, Andersen’s who made an installation that successfully juxtaposed the works of Anselm Reyle and FOS and Kolonie Gallery from Warsaw whose entire booth was an installation by artist Katarzyna Przezwanska, who took care that the gallerists themselves were comfortably seated as well. Galerie Helga de Alvear is deservedly devoting their booth to a large overview of Portuguese artist Helena Almeida’s forceful and moving photographs.
[figure "View of Andersen's boot with works by Anselm Reyle and FOS.jpg" "View of Georg Kargl's booth designed by Muntean & Rosenblum..jpg" "Magali Reus, Fons Welters.jpg" "Magali Reus, Fons Welters 2.jpg" "FOS, Andersen's.jpg" "FOS, Max Wigram.jpg" "Claire Fontaine, Regina Gallery.jpg" "Pierre Huyghe, Frieze Projects.jpg" "Daniel Sinsel, Office Baroque.jpg" "Daniel Sinsel, Sadie Coles.jpg" "David Altmejd, Andrea Rosen.jpg" "Helena Almeida, Helga de Alvear.jpg" "Katarzyna Przezwanska, Kolonie Gallery.jpg" "Oliver Laric, Tanya Leighton, Sunday Art Fair.jpg" "Rashid Johnson, David Kordansky.jpg" "Simon Fujiwara,Neue Alte Brucke, Sunday Art Fair.jpg" "Sofia Hulten, Konrad Fischer 2.jpg"]
Interesting to see are the many ways in which artists keep on relating to painting and the materials they use, be it salt crystals (FOS), wooden trays (Dan Arps), aprons (Amanda Ross-Ho), plasticine (Dan Rees), dried up paint (Pavel Büchler) and glass discs (Ryan Gander). Another good thing is the presence of quite a few video works, of which Ciprian Muresan’s at Plan B stood out. In his video a hand puppet is humorously protesting against himself. In Takeshi Murata’s I, Popeye at salon 94 we see a whole different aspect of this cartoon character; he gets fired from his job, his wife Olive is dead and Bluto is in a coma in hospital; nothing left for poor old Popeye but to hang himself. When you pay attention to it you will notice cartoon characters popping up in artworks throughout the fair. The same goes for the use of newspapers.
Still, together with Murata’s Popeye, I am left wondering if that’s all there is to Frieze this year? It’s neutral, bland and does not offer much food for discourse. There are nice and harmless things to be had for nice and harmless people. Exciting? Not really.
Frieze Art Fair
13-16 October 2011