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London Art Scene: Frieze Art Fair + ZOO Recaps

Kay Roberts writing for VINGT Paris12042006130004

This year FRIEZE pulled out all the stops to challenge the perception that, because the market was down, the mood would be down too. Since fewer commercial galleries took stands (165 this year), the fair included some of the younger entries from all over Europe. This definitely did not imply the standard was any lower; it simply added a less commercial feel. It also had an effect on ZOO -- galleries that would normally take a stand in the satellite event were at Frieze, so the number of gallery stands at ZOO went down from 58 last year to 25 this year. Having lost their central location (formerly at the Museum of Mankind, which is now leased to Haunch of Venison), ZOO moved to the East End. In many ways this was a good idea, because the industrial buildings, near Liverpool Street, are in the heart of the area where most of these galleries are actually based. The physical distance between the two fairs accentuated the aesthetic distances between them.

FRIEZE was held in a white cavernous 'tent' designed by Caruso St John: 21,000 square meters, champagne and sushi bars, plush carpets, no expense spared. The flush of money from international buyers included all the big names from New York. Gwyneth Paltrow and various members of the British art aristocracy were present at the opening: it is an essential part of the social calendar run by FRIEZE Magazine. The serious business is at FRIEZE, no doubt about that - you can feel it in the air. The hype starts before you even enter: the taxis drawing up, the glamorous gold illuminated 'gate' over the park entrance, the black-suited greeters outside to direct you to the right taped-off queue, the 'spot the celebrity'. Because of the surplus space due to fewer of the big boys risking the trip to London, there were solo stands and project spaces which broke up the relentless 'big name art'.

FRIEZE highlights:

-Among the gems this year was 'Frame', shown at the Ancient and Modern Gallery. It was a wonderfully eclectic mix, slightly kitsch: pottery displayed on plinths, among them three elegant geishas, a Virgin Mary, a delicate woven basket, two elegant shoes - one high heeled with gold decoration, the other a mule sandal with a pink flower. Postcards to pick up and take away. We noticed the one of the Pope had not been popular. Also the work was not for sale. Brave but foolhardy?

-Limoncello, always an interesting East End space, showed Jack Strange's archive of six recent art school graduates' photography and music on laptops. One of their gallery artists, Vanessa Billy, had pieces in the Sculpture Park, 'Two Trees I' and 'Two Trees II' (2009). Outside in leafy Regent's Park, a piece by Paul McCarthy - Henry Moore Bound to Fail (2004) - will remain for six months.

-There were plenty of tried and true artists like Charles Ray and John Baldessari to enjoy before they perhaps disappear into private collections. Although it was curious to see a Duane Hanson's 'Man With Camera' at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin at a steep $550,000. Sadie Coles installed a solo project of Hilary Lloyd (a work premiered at Le Consortium in Dijon earlier this year).

-Several artists who had been in the Venice Biennale were on show. Haegue Yang represented Korea this year, at joint space Kukje Gallery / Tina Kim Gallery (N.Y.), using the same coloured slatted blinds, with small hanging objects, a globe, a doll face. The number of hanging chandelier-like sculptures with tiny attachments was startling.

-Central spaces opened up between the aisles and were used to great effect by Elmgreen & Dragset - the Danish duo from Venice - although Elmgreen moved to London last year. He had made a pastiche of a Giacometti sculpture - now with a ball and chain around his ankle - called 'Man Who Doesn't Walk'. At the other end of the spectrum, a small piece of Dorothy Cross at Kerlin, 'Bird Bowl' (2009), deserved close inspection. At first glance, a silver plate with a cast of a finch done in silver; at second look, the bird's breast was a cast of the female sex.

-Victoria Miro showed Grayson Perry's piece 'The Walthamstow Tapestry', depicting birth to death, taking in every trade mark used during that journey. A screaming baby coming out of the birth canal, a trail of blood linking it to the shrunken pale man on his death bed. Towards middle age, a version of Grayson head scarfed and clutching a handbag like a dowdy school teacher (although he calls it "a Madonna of the handbag"). It takes up the whole wall of the stand, is an edition of three and costs roughly £50,000. One has been bought by a private collector but he hopes one will go to a museum.

-Finally, before leaving the fair, it was essential to seek out the Cartier Award 2009. Jordan Wolfson's "Your Napoleon" work was a nomadic seminar on the subject of String Theory. It takes the form of a tour of the FRIEZE Art Fair. Each tour is limited to one person at a time. The tours were recorded and transcribed to form the basis of a script that was re-enacted in Regent's Park during the fair. One of the few conceptual pieces.

Meanwhile ZOO, a non-profit organization that specializes in emerging contemporary art, was held amongst a cluster of Victorian warehouses set in cobbled street, a once run-down area where I remember browsing to buy my bathroom sink.

ZOO highlights:

-The winner of the Champagne Perrier-Jouet Prize 2009 was Scoli Acosta, represented by Galerie Laurent Godin (Paris). The work shown, 'Founded', was an accumulation of found objects accumulated during his years of travel across the United States. Apparently the word 'find' literally meant 'to melt to pour into a mold' and so the objects were transformed.

-Nearby, a show 'Altogether Elsewhere', curated by Rob Tufnell, brought together work associated with psychedelia. Tenuous, but a great show, including Alghiero Boetti, Jim Lambie, Jason Dodge, and Mike Nelson. The Nelson piece was his -- by now formulaic -- maze of darkened rooms. In the center of one was a take on Robert Rauschenberg's goat complete with car tire. It was nice to get a laugh in the middle of the seriousness of the art market.

-England & Co were causing a stir with 'Cut', a new DVD (2009) by Stuart Brisley. ROOM, which specializes in curated projects, performance events and screenings, had Mariele Neudecker - tiny but instantly recognizable even from a distance.

So, was the downturn evident? No. Not from the outside. Who can tell what deals were done by whom, but the two fairs inspired positive views of what might be to come... fingers crossed.

Photo via

Bonapart Paris apartments



apparently, sales down 81%. Ouch.

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