London’s Frieze Art Fair Returns to Physical Format With a Bang

·10 min read

LONDON – Frieze returned as a live event – and not a moment too soon.

The white tents were hoisted once again in Regent’s Park, and well-dressed guests from around the world returned to the five-day art extravaganza, which was brimming with Ruinart Champagne, fancy dinners, lavish parties – and Hermès Birkins in all colors and sizes.

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Visitors to the fair conversed in German, French, and Chinese during the fair, which wrapped on Oct. 17 and which saw 160 British and international art galleries present works by emerging and established artists. It was a homecoming for many collectors and dealers, who were forced to do business virtually during lockdown.

Jia Wei, partner of the Beijing-based contemporary art gallery Spurs, said that while it was difficult for the team to travel from China to the U.K. due to COVID-19, it was important to be present at Frieze London.

“Our artists are very successful at home. We are excited to showcase them to an international market. I think the appetite for Chinese art is at an exciting point where people really want to be involved in dialogues about Chinese contemporary art,” said Wei.

Tarka Russell, director of Timothy Taylor Gallery on Bolton Street in London’s Mayfair, said she could feel that people had been starved of human interaction and seeing art close up.

“This Frieze really packed a punch in terms of what was on offer, and London has definitely come back with a massive bang. It’s incredible to see so much energy here. It’s the cultural capital of the world, and it’s been a very joyous experience for so many people,” she said.

Russell said the pandemic had little impact on the gallery’s business. “We have a very strong and dedicated group of clients who really supported us during COVID-19. They’ve been buying artworks that they haven’t necessarily seen in person,” she added.

She noted that all the pieces by the American artist Honor Titus that Timothy Taylor showed at Frieze were sold before the fair even started.

Lindsey Mendick, Surreal Ceramics at Carl Freedman Gallery. - Credit: Linda Nylind/Courtesy
Lindsey Mendick, Surreal Ceramics at Carl Freedman Gallery. - Credit: Linda Nylind/Courtesy

Linda Nylind/Courtesy

Robert Diament, director of the Margate-based Carl Freedman Gallery and cohost of the popular podcast “Talk Art” with actor Russell Tovey, believes this year was the best edition of Frieze he’d attended for more than a decade.

“This year they redesigned the venue slightly, and it feels much more spacious and calmer. It’s a more enjoyable experience to actually be at the fair, both as a viewer and also as an exhibitor,” he said.

“It’s also been busy every day: There hasn’t really been a moment when it’s died down. Normally, on the second day of the fair, we get a lot quieter, but this year, it’s just been consistently busy. So it’s fantastic,” he added.

Among the gallery’s sold-out works were sea creature-inspired vases costing 6,500 pounds each by Lindsey Mendick, and a series of drawings by Tracey Emin, her first new work since her cancer surgery.

David Hoyland, whose gallery Seventeen on Kingsland Road in East London’s Hackney, presented a solo presentation by Ney York-based Erin O’Keefe, said this Frieze provided a great opportunity to see so many of his friends and collectors from abroad.

“We show emerging art, often by younger or as yet unknown artists, so the fair is an important platform for building an audience and market. Frieze has been very successful in doing this. We have had a positive response and sold out all the works by Erin,” he added.

At Thaddaeus Ropac, which showed Robert Rauschenberg’s “Spread,” a large-scale multimedia work on panel from 1978, and Alex Katz’s 2013 painting “Night House 2,” the number of international visitors who were excited to have the opportunity to view pieces by some of the gallery’s major artists like Georg Baselitz, Tony Cragg, Gilbert and George, and Antony Gormley, as well as to discover newer names such as Megan Rooney, Mandy El-Sayegh and Martha Jungwirth, exceeded the gallery’s expectation.

“The biggest impact we saw was with restrictions when traveling from the U.S. and Asia, but engagement levels remained high both via direct gallery communications and the Frieze online viewing room and we’ve been pleased to see the impact was far less than we might have imagined – the week was a huge success,” a spokesperson from the gallery said, adding that sales at the fairs were good, with the major works having sold by the end of the first day.

Lyndsey Ingram, whose eponymous gallery is located on Bourdon Street in Mayfair, showed as part of Frieze Masters for the first time. She described the mood at the fair as “perky” and said sales have been “consistent and respectable,” given the current moment.

Inside Frieze Masters 2021. - Credit: Courtesy of Deniz Guzel/Frieze
Inside Frieze Masters 2021. - Credit: Courtesy of Deniz Guzel/Frieze

Courtesy of Deniz Guzel/Frieze

Asked about the crowd at Frieze Masters, she said there had been some out-of-towners, and a lot of locals, “a reminder of the strong and vibrant art community” that exists in London. “It’s been fun. The days are long, and the turnout has been good – it’s clear that people are keen to be seeing new work.”

Ingram said the gallery’s show of Ellsworth Kelly’s early work alongside ceramic Moon Jars by Korean artist Kim Yikyung had been “unbelievably popular.”

The Turin-based gallerist Franco Noero took a multi-faceted approach to Frieze, with a spectacular stand at the fair resembling a work of art, and two separate exhibitions in London.

“Hell in Its Heyday” showcased work by Pablo Bronstein and was taking place at the Sir John Soane Museum, while “The Oedipus Complex,” a collaboration with Trinity Fine Art, featured the work of Francesco Vezzoli, a longtime friend and collaborator of Miuccia Prada.

Vezzoli, acting both as artist and curator, created an installation of his own work, alongside a group of Baroque busts by the 19th-century sculptor Alessandro Rondoni. Vezzoli swathed the busts in the scarlet silk of Roman Catholic cardinals sourced from Gammarelli, the ecclesiastical tailors in Rome.

“We had some concerns before we came, due to the pandemic, but we were pleasantly surprised by Frieze – and we’ve been so busy in London,” said Noero, adding that sales at the fair had been good, and the response to both outside exhibitions had been positive. He said he plans to return to London next year.

Eva Langret, director of Frieze London, said this edition, as a whole, aimed to highlight “new voices” in the art community.

“We are excited for this moment, for London, our community of artists and collectors and to bring everybody back to celebrate art. I think at this particular moment in time, and after everything that we have been through, it was really important for us to think about what the fair means as a platform, and how it can contribute to elevating new voices,” she said.

She named Alberta Whittle, who won the Frieze Artist Award last year; Sammy Daloji; Ali Cherri; Jesse Darling; Rindon Johnson; and Sin Wai Kin as emerging names to watch in this year’s edition.

Hong Kong-based artist Sin Wai Kin’s exhibition at Frieze London. - Credit: Linda Nylind/Courtesy
Hong Kong-based artist Sin Wai Kin’s exhibition at Frieze London. - Credit: Linda Nylind/Courtesy

Linda Nylind/Courtesy

During the week, a wide array of satellite events and parties kept guests busy.

Alexander McQueen hosted its spring 2022 women’s wear show and an after-party at The Standard the day before the opening of the Frieze VIP preview.

Sitting alongside Daphne Guinness, Lara Stone and Emilia Clarke at the show was the Hong Kong gallerist and collector Pearl Lam, a longtime supporter of the late Lee Alexander McQueen. Lam was later seen at Frieze Masters browsing the Flemish paintings and 20th-century art. Also spotted at Frieze Masters was Prada’s co-creative director Raf Simons and Bianca Quets Luzi, chief executive officer of Simons’ namesake brand.

Simons was not the only big European designer in town. On Thursday, Donatella Versace hosted a talk at Central Saint Martins, which the brand supported in 2017 with the Gianni Versace Scholarship. She was promoting the upcoming book “Versace Catwalk: The Complete Collections.”

Matchesfashion held a dinner at 5 Carlos Place with guests including Erdem Moralıoğlu, Roksanda Ilincic and Christopher Kane, while Dunhill hosted a cocktail reception and screening of a new short film. It was created in partnership with Frieze, documenting the collaboration between the brand’s creative director Mark Weston and photographic artist Ellen Carey on the spring 2022 collection.

Prior to that, guests were checking out a thoroughly renovated townhouse on Hanover Square, which is now home to The Maine Mayfair, a New England-inspired brasserie by the Canadian restaurateur Joey Ghazal, designed in collaboration with Brady Williams.

The same night, Stella McCartney marked the launch of the genderless Stella Shared 3 collaboration with South London-based artist and slow fashion designer Ed Curtis. The designer held a party at the brand’s flagship on Old Bond Street, which was cohosted by Buffalo Zine and the set design was by Lydia Chan.

Ed Curtis attends the launch celebration for the Ed Curtis for Stella Shared 3 collection. - Credit: Dave Benett/Courtesy
Ed Curtis attends the launch celebration for the Ed Curtis for Stella Shared 3 collection. - Credit: Dave Benett/Courtesy

Dave Benett/Courtesy

Fashion label Zilver unveiled its pop-up store and exhibition experience “Do Disrupt” with a cocktail party in Soho. The exhibition features works by Marc-Aurele Debut, Andreas Greiner, Armin Keplinger, and Giuseppe Lo Schiavo.

Meanwhile, Fiorucci cohosted a party with Emma Weymouth, Marchioness of Bath, in Knightsbridge to celebrate the launch of the brand’s collaboration with Lakwena and Black History Month.

“What she does fits so well into the Fiorucci universe. We have a long history of collaborating with artists. Keith Haring, in the ’70s, before he was known, spray painted the entire store,” said the brand’s creative director of men’s wear Daniel Fletcher.

On Friday, the winner of this year’s Hublot Design Prize was unveiled at The Serpentine Gallery. American illustrator Mohammed Fayaz, who designs posters for parties and protests with digital tools, took home the grand prize – 100,000 Swiss francs, or $108,312.

The Italian designer Federica Fragapane, who turns data into artistic graphics, and Eva Feldkamp, founder of All in Awe, a nonprofit organization that connects charities with creative professionals, won the newly created Pierre Keller awards.They will receive 15,000 Swiss francs, or $16,236 each.

Hans Ulrich Obrist, artistic director at the Serpentine Galleries and a jury member of the Hublot Design Prize, praised Fayaz’s innovative and politically charged approach to poster design.

“It’s extraordinary how Mohammed reinvents illustration. These posters have a real significance for his chosen LGBTQ community in New York. At the same time, it transcends the beyond time, because he also writes the history. I am sure he will document that community for decades to come,” he said.

Collaboration between Mira Mikati and Javier Calleja - Credit: Ed Reeve/Courtesy
Collaboration between Mira Mikati and Javier Calleja - Credit: Ed Reeve/Courtesy

Ed Reeve/Courtesy

During the Frieze weekend, fashion designer Mira Mikati hosted an intimate dinner with Spanish painter Javier Calleja to celebrate the launch of their fashion collaboration. One of Calleja’s new paintings, a large portrait of a young girl titled “Really?” was presented at Frieze London with Almine Rech Gallery.

The artist said he is happy to see that the world of art is springing back to life after 2 years of the pandemic. Regarding the collaboration with Mikati, Calleja said it’s been a dream coming true journey.

“I met Mira’s works a long time ago and I thought there is a perfect connection between my work and her designs. For years I was dreaming to collaborate with her. She’s a big artist and a big designer with an amazing team. When someone gives you more than you can give in a project, you feel this is a beautiful gift,” he added.

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