London aims to step into the big league

Dealers are planning new, original display techniques


Despite a few failed attempts, London has never played host to a major international contemporary art fair. This could all change with the launch of the Frieze Art Fair this month. Taking part are some 125 carefully selected contemporary art galleries from across the world ranging from major players such as Marian Goodman, Matthew Marks, Yvon Lambert, White Cube, Gagosian and Lisson to young new-comers such as Scotland’s Doggerfisher, London’s Kate MacGarry and Mexico’s kurimanzutto.

Organised by frieze [sic] magazine co-founders Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp, the Frieze Fair aims to be commercially successful and to establish itself as a major cultural event.

It will be housed in a temporary structure designed by the hot young architect David Adjaye who designed this year’s British Pavillon at the Venice Biennale. A range of commissioned artist projects and events both on and off the Regent’s Park site have been organised to coincide with the fair. If all the hopes for this ambitious new initiative are fulfilled, it could become an annual event and confirm once and for all the widespread confidence in the UK’s burgeoning art market.

A new kind of fair?

“No discounts, no freebies” is the unbending Frieze Fair rule, with the organisers insisting that all participating galleries at the inaugural edition of the fair are having to pay for their stands. Yet while this is an avowedly commercial event, the organisers have encouraged galleries to try something less formulaic in the way they present their art.

o 303 Gallery (New York) is devoting its stand to the work of gallery artist Karen Kilimnik, who has made one of her characteristically atmospheric interventions in the structure of the space. She is painting walls, adding wallpaper and extra doors and cornices in order to provide her paintings and drawings with a highly particular and idiosyncratic environment.

o MW Projects (London) has teamed up with the Victoria and Albert Museum curator Charlotte Cotton to present a group of thirtysomething British photographers (David Hughes, Paul Cunningham, Nigel Shafran, David Spero, Toby Glanville) who all emerged over the last decade, but whose slow-burning poetic style tended to be eclipsed by the more throatgrabbing artistic tendencies of the 90s. The show’s collective title “Then things went quiet”, sets the tone for a welcome contemplative moment.

o David Zwirner (New York) represents the likes of Stan Douglas, Luc Tuymans and Jason Rhoades, but has taken the bold decision to present just one work at the fair, Yutaka Sone’s “Highway Junction”, a freestanding marble sculpture of a Los Angeles freeway and its surrounding streets and buildings that was recently exhibited at MoCA Los Angeles (see p.39).

o neugerriemschneider

(Berlin) has installed a glass brick wall by gallery artist Olafur Eliasson, whose spectacular “Weather project” opens in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall the night before the Frieze Fair, on 15 October. Through this distorting membrane, work on the stand by other gallery artists such as Franz Ackerman can be seen, along with a disconcerting sculpture by Pawel Althamer of two exceptionally ugly people looking at works of art.

o Tanya Bonakdar (New York) is taking the energetic option of hanging a solo exhibition that changes each day, by gallery artists including Ernesto Neto, Thomas Scheibitz and, naturally, Olafur Eliasson–all of whom are producing work for the occasion.

o Foksal Gallery Foundation (Warsaw) and kurimanzutto (Mexico) are two dynamic young galleries from separate parts of the globe who have embarked on a unique collaboration whereby they are not only sharing a stand but are also instigating some artistic cross-fertilisation, with Polish painter Wilhelm Sasnal making paintings and drawings based on the disaster photographs by Mexican photojournalist Enrique Metinides.

o Stephen Friedman (London) is presenting “Silver” with gallery artists showing their various takes on the theme in a series of works made for the stand from the interactive aluminium-covered panels of Rudolf Stingel (which got everyone making their mark at the last Venice Biennale), the silver paintings of Donald Moffet or some intriguing sounding silver drawings by David Shrigley.

o Spruth Magers Lee (London) is not mounting a special project per se, but to complement the projection works by Fischli Weiss that are running concurrently back at their West End base, it is showing double exposure flower photographs by the artist duo and focusing on two-dimensional work and sculpture by the galley’s blue-chip lineup, which includes Rosemary Trockel, Barbara Kruger, a classic piece by Cindy Sherman and new work by Andreas Gursky.

Projects in the park and beyond

A number of galleries are showing al fresco pieces near the fair: these include a show-stopping white tubular sculpture by Franz West for sitting on, leaning against and general contemplation, courtesy of Gagosian Gallery; a spectacular treefull of fluorescent neon tubes by Mark Handforth who is represented by Gavin Brown; while Waddington is adding a touch of post-modern perversity with a couple of bronze Barry Flanagan hares.

The Frieze Fair is breaking the standard art-fair mould by introducing a programme of artist projects, commissioned by the artist and curator Polly Staple, which form an integrated part of the whole event, rather than the usual tokenistic bolt-ons. They include Liam Gillick’s posters carrying transcripts of TV ads which greet visitors arriving at Portland Street underground station and a provocative glass fountain in the park by Klaus Weber; while inside the fair itself artistic interventions range from Jeremy Deller’s Frieze Fair plastic bag to Erwin Wurm’s one minute sculptures and Paola Pivi’s giant grass slope designed to be walked on and/or rolled down.

As this is an art fair organised by an art magazine, the range of activities has an appropriately critical edge: the New York Times’s Roberta Smith, Michael Bracewell and Laura Hoptman are debating such issues as “hot and cold” critical writing, and “the marketing of culture and the culture of marketing.” Other high points include maverick Vienna-based artists’ co-op gelatin which will build a sculpture out of tables and chairs during their talk; and an unusual encounter between Lawrence Weiner and artist-curator Matthew Higgs, in which the veteran artist answers an eclectic range of questions compiled by Higgs from Wiener’s friends, associates and family.

Uniquely for an art fair, there is a full music programme put together by Steve Mackey of Pulp and frieze magazine assistant editor Dan Fox. Pop and art crossdress with live sets by Canadian artist Rodney Graham, Jarvis Cocker’s new project “Relaxed muscle” and American singer/songwriter Jeffry Lewis.

Design and food

David Adjaye’s double-tented temporary structure has been designed to bring as much of the park into the fair as possible. Plentiful glazing and a translucent roof will not only allow those inside to see the changing light of day (a rare privilege in most art fair buildings) but, as darkness falls, will glow from within like a beacon.

“We like to eat” says Frieze Fair organiser Amanda Sharp, and to this end they have brought in Mark Hix, chef director of the Ivy and Caprice Events to make sure that Frieze will have a proper restaurant with menus reflecting the cuisine of Hix’s stellar triumvirate.

o For information

Who selected the galleries?

The Frieze art fair selection committee comprises: Gavin Brown, Gavin Brown’s enterprise Corp., New York; Sadie Coles, Sadie Coles HQ, London; Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, Salon94, New York; Martin Klosterfelde, Klosterfelde, Berlin; Maureen Paley, Interim Art, London; Eva Presenhuber, Galerie Hauser & Wirth & Presenhuber, Zurich; Toby Webster, The Modern Institute, Glasgow

Will it take off?

The good fairies seem to be present at the birth of London’s first major international contemporary art fair. Contemporary art is on a roll: this is the sector of the art market which has been performing best in the last three years and there is still a lot of oomph in the British art scene; Damien Hirst’s current show at White Cube2 is a sell-out. But while the great and the good are pressing their Prada for the opening party, the hard-nosed question remains, will Frieze take off commercially? With rents at £18,720 for the big stands, and £4,320 for the smallest, dealers are going to have to attract the pounds as well as the plaudits in an already overcrowded fair circuit. Collectors will certainly buy a souvenir trifle but the success of the fair depends on their digging deeper into their pocket for a serious investment.