From yesterday until this Sunday, 17 October, Frieze London 2021 celebrates current modern art at its usual venue in Regent’s Park. After a missed year (2020 had been cancelled), this year’s theme is around ‘elevating new voices’.
The spectacle takes place simultaneously with Frieze Masters, 15 minutes’ walk away, which is showing art from the last 3,500 years. This includes plenty of 20th Century masters.
Next to those two indoor exhibitions, Frieze Sculpture has already been running outdoors in the English Gardens since 14 September and it will continue until the end of October. It’s worth spending at least half an hour to check out the many outdoor sculptures.
FRIEZE LONDON 2021
Frieze was set up by childhood friends Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp, the founders of Frieze magazine. Victoria Siddall manages the art fair.
A BIT OF HISTORY
The first Frieze art fair took place in London in 2003. New York followed in 2012. Los Angeles was the last one in line in 2019.
The Fair focuses on contemporary art in all its forms. As expected, the very vast majority of exhibited artists are alive and well. However, you’ll also find works of deceased artists such as Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008, Thaddaeus Ropac), John Giordano (1936-2019, Almine Rech), Lee Seung Jio (1941-1990), or Kwon Young-Woo (1926-2013, both Tina Kim Gallery).
ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL ART FAIRS
Generally considered to be one of the most powerful and influential art fairs in the world, Frieze London 2021 has over 100 galleries exhibiting in the main space this year.
Additionally there are another 35 galleries sharing space in the ‘Focus’ segment, 6 galleries covering the Editions sales, and another 10 galleries in the section ‘Unworlding’.
So in total this makes roughly 160 or so galleries. Mind you, this is Frieze London alone, not counting Frieze Masters, Frieze Sculpture or any of the other events.
IS BIG BEAUTIFUL?
Some say that over the years, Frieze has attained too much power and influence. We don’t feel that we’re knowledgeable enough to form an opinion yet.
FRIEZE KNOW HOW TO DO ART FAIRS, THAT’S FOR SURE
There’s one thing that holds true without any doubt, though: Frieze is an extremely professionally organised, well-conceived, thoughtful, fascinating and mesmerising spectacle like almost no other. And it is a whole lot of fun.
THERE’S SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
You can bring your date here (I brought mine). You can meet up with friends and combine the visit with a few drinks at the beer garden at the back of the large tent structure.
DON’T JUST LOOK AT ART WORKS, DO SOME PEOPLE-WATCHING
You can come on your own and meet some interesting folk or just enjoy the art and some (discreet) people-watching. There are a lot of people that are worth watching. A good percentage of both women and men dress highly extravagantly and move with abundant grace and effect.
Moreover, you are bound to spot some high-calibre artists. Yinka Shonibare, for example, was having a conversation with one of the gallery owners a few metres away from us while we were pretending to inspect nearby exhibits.
Not least of all, there are a myriad of further events happening during Frieze Week such as talks, forums, live presentations, and online events. However, this blog post is about Frieze London 2021, the art fair, with a focus on the exhibits, mainly sculptures and paintings.
TICKETS START FROM £46
Ellie & I have been visiting the Frieze most years in the recent past, with a few exceptions when we were out of town. We’ve always been huge fans. Yes, it’s true. At £46 for the cheapest tickets it’s not exactly dirt cheap.
EARLY BIRD TICKETS, STUDENT DISCOUNTS, COMBINED TICKETS
On the other hand several dozen large traditional exhibitions would fit into this one. So if you look at it that way, it’s actually pretty good value in our view. Early bird tickets (now sold out) save a tenner, and there are discounts for students and children. Combined tickets (Frieze London and Frieze Masters) start from £82.
ART COLLECTORS HAVE TO DIG DEEPER
Those who are interested in buying art and hence want to be among the first to get a glance at the goods, will have to spend up to £145 for Frieze London 2021, £245 for a combined ticket. We felt very lucky to get two press passes.
THIS FAIR IS ABOUT BUYING AND SELLING ART
When you stroll through the lanes of the grid, let your glance hover across the artworks, and don’t have a care in the world, it’s easy to forget that many people are here to work. They buy and sell art.
DOZENS OF WORKS SOLD WITHIN THE FIRST HOUR
And on a big scale, too. Iwan Wirth from Hauser and Wirth confirmed that his gallery had sold 17 works during the first hour of the fair alone, including a Günther Förg painting for €1.5 million and a work by Charles Gaines for $350,000. During the hours that followed, many millions exchanged hands, including $2.2 million for a Kerry James Marshall (David Zwirner).
Thaddaeus Ropac sold an Antony Gormley for £400,000, an Alex Katz for $950,000, and a Georg Baselitz for a very cool €1.2 million.
MANY BUYERS COMBINE FRIEZE AND FIAC
It seems that the fair profited from moving its dates one week closer to FIAC, the Paris art fair, which now starts just four days after Frieze ends. This means that many buyers who would otherwise perhaps only have made time for Paris, are now doing both London and Paris.
HOW TO GET THERE
The nearest tube stations are Regent’s Park (Bakerloo Line) and Great Portland Street (Metropolitan, Circle, Hammersmith & City). It’s under ten minutes’ walk from either of them.
NO BAG DROP, ONLY HANDBAGS ALLOWED, NO RUCKSACKS
There is no bag drop. Handbags are allowed. Visitors arriving with bigger items like backpacks will be sent away.
There is a cloakroom, but space is extremely limited. It is recommended to arrive with minimal personal belongings in order to avoid having to use the cloakroom.
PROOF OF VACCINATION OR NEGATIVE TEST
You will need to show proof of double vaccination or a negative test result.
HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU NEED?
The art fair is gigantic in size. You don’t need any breaks? You’re happy to focus on those artworks that you like and to walk straight past the rest of them? No doubt, you’ll still need at the absolute minimum two hours.
Frieze London 2021 offers guided tours. We didn’t check them out, but judging from how well everything is organised, we feel comfortable recommending them. The sheer amount of artworks can feel more than a little overwhelming. You’ll find more information about this on the Frieze website.
WHAT’S THE BEST APPROACH WITHOUT A GUIDE?
Like most art or trade fairs, Frieze London 2021 has a rectangular grid. So it makes sense to choose a systematic approach. First row up, second row down, and so on.
Mind you, the distance between the rows is quite wide, so do venture into every single row that crosses and walk all the way up to the next row and then back.
It took us half way through the first row to realise we had been missing out on a lot of the works.
WHAT ARE THE HIGHLIGHTS?
This really depends entirely on your intention and taste. Are you looking for the biggest names? You’ll probably want to check out the works of Georg Baselitz, Antony Gormley, Tony Cragg (all Thaddaeus Ropac), Tracey Emin (Xavier Hufkens), Turner Prize winner Oscar Murillo (David Zwirner) and the like.
Looking for the big players in the market? Can’t go wrong with Hauser & Wirth, Karma, Taka Ishii Gallery, Sadie Coles HQ, Kukje Gallery, and Matthew Marks Gallery. Equally, Mendes Wood DM, Maureen Paley, Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Stevenson, and David Zwirner are safe hands.
WHO’S EVERYONE TALKING ABOUT?
Perhaps you’re more interested in those artists that everyone talks about at Frieze London 2021? A suite of large-scale abstractions by Lucy Bull at David Kordansky, the collage-style works by Deborah Roberts at Stephen Friedman Gallery, Ali Cherri at Imane Farès, Hend Samir at Gypsum Gallery, and Glen Wilson at Various Small Fires are pretty safe guesses.
Looking for something shocking? Compared with previous years, there’s much less sleaze. But don’t despair, there are still plenty of gaping vaginas, pots with protruding penises, blood splatter, mutilation, and voodoo, no need to point you into the right direction.
ART WITH A MESSAGE
Craving some political art and art with a message? Everyone is talking about the dumbing down of society. Quite often not without good reason.
This is why we were pleasantly surprised how many of the exhibited artists have a message and create art with a purpose. From environmental concerns to feminism or racism. To top it all off there’s even a Predator drone sculpture (Ahmed Mater’s The Eagle, Athr).
EXPERIMENTAL ART FORMS
You’re more into pushing the limits of art and into experimental art forms? Almine Rech gallery are operating Dial-A-Poem. Recently deceased John Giorno set this hotline up in New York in 1968.
Callers would end up listening to an answering machine playing recordings of poems by contemporaries like Patti Smith, Vito Acconci, Allen Ginsberg, and Sylvia Plath, read out by the poets themselves.
Not entirely unexpectedly, the hotline was shut down by the FBI two years later. It was seen to encourage the wrong kind of thinking.
For one week, callers anywhere in the UK can access the original recordings. You pay for the call but there are no additional charges: +44 20 4538 8429. There’s a specific dial-a-poem area at Frieze London 2021, too, if you want to get the full vibe.
NOTEWORTHY ‘UNUSUAL’ WORKS
As with every Frieze, there are vast amounts of works that stick out for their unusual approach, techniques, materials, or for other reasons. To give just a few examples from this year’s fair, we’d recommend stopping by Angela Bulloch’s Dynamic Stereo Drawing Machine (Esther Schipper).
You’ll certainly want to see Tomas Saraceno’s Aerosolar Canis Maior (Andersen’s) and Superflex’s This is the Tip of the Iceberg (OMR). Moreover, Atelier Van Lieshout’s Salvation (OMR), Paulo Nazareth’s SACI and Michael Dean’s Unfuckingtitled (remember) (both Mendes Wood DM) rock. Not least of all, Do Ho Suh’s Hub-2 and Damon Zucconi’s Consumption (JTT) are kind of fun.
At Taro Nasu you’ll find some great works by Ryoji Ikeda, whose exhibition at 180 The Strand we greatly enjoyed earlier this year.
Perhaps you are into K-pop, or ideally into Chinese boy bands? You might want to head over to Blindspot Gallery. They are presenting ‘It’s Always You’ by Sin Wai Kin (formerly Victoria Sin). This Canadian-born, London-based Royal College of Art graduate’s work is celebrating queer joy. It is involving music videos and life-size paper cut-outs of the artist dressed up as various different boy band members.
We found artworks of interest at almost every gallery’s booth.
Carol Bove’s strangely decorative crinkled painted stainless steel sculptures (David Zwirner) left a lasting impression.
THINKING EMOJIS, FISH ATTACKS, AND ANARCHIC VIBES
We loved all the works at Galerie Krinzinger, including Thomas Zipp’s A.O.: (Iona attacked by a fish), Angela de la Cruz’s Battered IV (Red), and Brigitte Kowanz’s Thinking Emoji.
As far as we are concerned, Megali Reus’ aluminium sculptures (The Approach) are easy on the eye.
That said, Adam Pendleton’s Untitled (WE ARE NOT) (Pace) has a lovely anarchic vibe about it.
SNEAKY SQUALLS AND GILMORE GIRLS
The Green Horse (David Zwirner) is one of Rose Wylie’s more interesting paintings, even though we prefer her pineapple sculptures.
Beautifully placed right next to Julia Chiang’s Sneaky Squall (both The Modern Institute), Jesse Wine’s Presently made us feel warm around our hearts like normally only Matisse or Picasso paintings do.
Besides, Peres Projects had many works that attracted our attention such as Manuel Solano’s Gilmore Girls, Rebecca Ackroyd’s Direct Source, and Donna Huanca’s Baile Atras De Cueva.
BABY PILLOWS, BATHERS, AND MISSY ELLIOTT
Furthermore, Dorothy Cross’s Baby Pillow (Frith Street Gallery), Gimhongsok’s Untitled (Short People) Red, Pink, Pink, Red, and Ha Chong-Hyun’s Conjunction 21-03 (both Tina Kim Gallery) are all kind of cute.
Finally, we found Becky Kolsrud’s Bather and Sam McKinniss’s Missy Elliott (both JTT) very cool.
Generally speaking, though, we prefer not to have much of an agenda. We like to casually stroll through the lanes, suck in the atmosphere, and see what attracts our attention.
Frieze London 2021 has created several special sections. They are clearly visually marked and separate from the general exhibition area where each gallery has their own slot of varying size.
“Collecting should be for everyone,” Eva Langret, director of Frieze London 2021, says in her introductory video on the fair’s website.
In the past, less than 20% of visitors were interested in buying art. The vast majority are there just to enjoy the art. This year, for the first time, a section called “Editions” offers multiples such as prints or limited reproductions of sculptures at more affordable prices. Sebastian Stoehrer’s ceramic sculptures (Carl Freedman Gallery) appeared to be quite popular.
FRIEZE ARTIST AWARD
This year’s winner, German-Vietnamese artist Sung Tieu (at Emalin), makes art around the topics of sonic warfare and Cold War acoustic weaponry, what’s not to like.
This long-established section is for younger galleries (founded within the last 12 years) to exhibit on smaller and in some cases on shared space.
Typically this is where you also find the most exciting up and coming artists who haven’t yet been pinched by the bigger, and more risk-averse galleries. Installations and video works by Alberta Whittle, last year’s Frieze Artist Award winner, stand out here (at Copperfield).
Bank is parading Lin Ke’s works while Jesse Darling and Rindon Johnson’s combined presentation can be seen at Arcadia Missa. Addis Fine Art features fascinating new works by abstract symbolist artist Merikokeb Berhanu.
This section is dedicated to performance and kinetic art. It has been curated by Languid Hands, the duo made up of Rabz Lansiquot and Imani Robinson. Live is connected to an ongoing research project called ‘No real closure’ which looks at black artistic practices.
As a pandemic-induced precaution, Live is taking place online (for example here, other performances via main Frieze London webpage).
‘Unworlding’ is a new section curated by the very talented Cedric Fauq, the chief curator at CAPC in Bordeaux. This segment explores the undoing of the world as we know it. It touches on themes such as pessimism, destruction, but also the evolution of new ideas and possibilities.
FRIEZE X DEUTSCHE BANK EMERGING CURATORS FELLOWSHIP
Launched last year, the fellowship is offering UK-based, young curators-in-the-making from minority backgrounds 12 to 18-month paid placements.
GALLERY CLIMATE COALITION
The newly formed Gallery Climate Coalition consists of individuals, galleries, and other organisations that want to reduce the negative impact of the art world on climate change. One booth at the fair is dedicated to sharing tools, advice, and resources on how galleries can cut their emissions. The Coalition also actively encourages the fair visitors to discuss climate change.
WORKS WORTH MILLIONS HAVE BEEN DONATED
The non-profit Coalition shares its booth, donated by the fair, with various partners such as Culture Declares Emergency. In the near future, the organisation will launch Artists for ClientEarth, an initiative in collaboration with Christie’s and international environmental charity ClientEarth, with the ambition of advancing the art world’s fight against climate change.
Artists including Antony Gormley and Xie Nanxing and their galleries have donated works worth millions which will be auctioned at Christie’s to raise funds to support the charity.
TALKS, EVENTS, ETC.
As if this was not enough, there are dozens of talks and other events.
FRIEZE LONDON 2021 ONLINE
Even if you can’t make it in person, the Online Viewing Room allows you to explore a good part of the show from your cosy home. Every gallery that exhibits at Frieze London 2021 will have at least some of the exhibited works online. There are also a number of ‘digital exclusives’ which you will not find in the physical show rooms.
FRIEZE WEEK – OTHER LONDON EVENTS AND EXHIBITIONS NOT TO MISS
With myriads of talks, exhibitions, and other events taking place during Frieze Week, we checked reviews, recommendations, the news, blog posts, and organizers’ websites in order to provide you with the definitive list of what not to miss during Frieze Week. We even went to a couple of exhibitions ourselves. No mountain too high, no river too deep, and all that.
Some of these events might be closely associated, officially endorsed, or even organised by Frieze London, others will have no connection whatsoever. Some will involve commercial galleries who have works for sale, others not.
No. 9 CORK STREET
Frieze London 2021’s temporary pop-up art hub for international galleries who want to avoid the cost and buzz of the art fair, features displays by a number of galleries. When we’ll visit later this week, we’ll be particularly interested in James Cohan’s selection of works by Christopher Myers and in Commonwealth and Council’s installations (both until 23 October).
ALMINE RECH’S JOHN GIORNO EXHIBITION
Did the Dial-a-Poem project get your attention? You’ll probably want to see the whole exhibition Almine Rech gallery put up at their Mayfair venue. It presents two bodies of work: ‘Rainbow’ (2015) and ‘Perfect Flowers’ (2017), a series of prints. One of them is called ‘Daffodils Baptized in Butter’. Oh yeah.
ANISH KAPOOR AT LISSON GALLERY
Especially now with Halloween looming on the horizon, you certainly don’t want to miss out on the latest art by one of the all-time greats, Anish Kapoor. Since the pandemic started, his style’s got a lot more violent, or “violent violent” as he called it in a Guardian interview. Prepare for flesh and bones with a few bits of intestines thrown in on top for good measure.
MARINA ABRAMOVIC’S SEVEN DEATHS
Just a stone’s throw away from this massacre is the Gallery’s 67 Lisson Street venue, where celebrated performance artist Marina Abramovic’s Seven Deaths is being exhibited. It is an immersive cinematic experience involving Abramovic, Hollywood superstar Willem Dafoe, several other people, and a giant snake. The music is by late opera singer Maria Callas.
A.A. MURAKAMI AT SUPERBLUE
Founded by Azusa Murakami and Alexander Groves ten years ago, A.A. Murakami have shaken the art world by their hypnotic, ever-crazier ‘Ephemeral Tech’ which aims to obliterate the boundaries between nature and technology.
Their art aims to provoke thoughts about globalisation, climate change, or the future of resources. This installation at a large space at the rear end of the Royal Academy of Art building complex will blow your mind. It certainly blew ours.
SICKERT EXHIBITION AT PIANO NOBILE
Walter Sickert’s ability to put drama into anything he painted made him attractive to illustrious collectors like Alfred Hitchcock and Noel Coward. Sickert could make a tea cup look torn or a curtain in pain. We’re yet to check this exhibition out.
ROYAL ACADEMY OF ART SUMMER EXHIBITION
This ancient and almost sacred highlight of London’s cultural year has had a few very bad years with plenty of calls to put it down for good. However, this year’s exhibition is the best in many years. It’s not quite as fabulous as it used to be, but it’s getting there. We gave it 5 out of 5.
‘LUX – NEW WAVE OF CONTEMPORARY ART’ AT 180 THE STRAND
We absolutely adore this exhibition which explores the use of light (‘lux’) in art. It features immersive art from a’strict, Refik Anadol, Je Baak, Es Devlin, Universal Everything, and others.
We’ve seen half a dozen of exhibitions at this venue during the past two years and every single one of them was outstanding, unexpected, exciting, and thought-provoking. Word of warning: none of their exhibitions are for the faint of heart or epileptics. Lots of sound effects, stroboscopic lights, and other gimmicks.
‘MIXING IT UP’ AT THE HAYWARD GALLERY
Showing works by 31 British-based artists of all types of origins and backgrounds, picked for their ability to ‘mix it up’ and challenge the viewer, we loved this exhibition.
ANICKA YI: IN LOVE WITH THE WORLD AT TATE MODERN
Korean-American artist Anicka Yi’s works are about science, technology, artificial intelligence and such topics. She’s been working on the Tate Modern giant jellyfish installation for the last two years. The moving installation looks absolutely stunning.
Tate Modern is also showing Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Infinity Mirror Rooms’, an installation that kind of redefined the concept of ‘immersion in art’. However, if you haven’t booked your ticket many moons ago and if you’re not willing to queue with thousands of others for a ticket, then this train has passed the station.
THADDAEUS ROPAC IS EXHIBITING MARCEL DUCHAMP
Until 13 November you’ll be able to enjoy more than 30 works. The show focuses on fetishism. Should be interesting. We’ll definitely stop by soon.
TORKWASE DYSON AND MARK ROTHKO AT PACE GALLERY
Pace Gallery’s new home at Hanover Square kicks it off with two brilliant exhibitions. New York-based artist Torkwase Dyson and late abstract expressionist legend Mark Rothko.
Dyson’s ‘Liquid a Place’ multi-media installation looks very interesting on photos, so we won’t miss that one.
1-54 CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN ART FAIR
Since 2013, 1-54 has coincided with Frieze London, so this time of year was always great to delve into African art. During recent years, the gallery landscape all over Africa has prospered and progressed enormously, which means that this year is likely to be the best so far.
‘NO ONE IS AN ISLAND’ – DANCE PERFORMANCE BY WAYNE McGREGOR & RANDOM INTERNATIONAL
This futuristic dance performance involving two dancers and a large robotic machine sculpture has been described as meditative and hypnotic. It explores how we recognise an object as human through movement.
The 12-minute show is running twice per hour at the full and half hour from 3 to 7pm daily until Saturday at Park Village Studios, about 20 minutes’ walk towards Camden Town. We thought it was the best thing since sliced bread.
WHERE TO EAT
Fitzrovia and Marylebone are only a short distance from the venue. As it happens, some of London’s best eateries can be found here. We’d particularly recommend Berners Tavern as well as Michelin-starred The Ninth.
THE BEST BARS IN THE AREA
We are not big drinkers, so haven’t been to many of the hip bars in the area. However, we did visit the Artesian at The Langham a couple of times and loved it. It has been ranked as one of the best bars in the world by some reputable drinkers.
Purl near the Wallace Collection is a true gem and cultivates its speakeasy vibes. There are dozens of great bars in Soho, just a tad further away. Personally I also like the slightly less elegant but very fun scene in Camden Town.
Did you miss some information about Frieze Masters? Our review of Frieze London’s sister fair will go live soon, too.
Should you be looking for more posts about art & culture, then by all means feel welcome to eyeball our reviews of UVA’s ‘Other Spaces’ & Transformer at 180 The Strand, JR Chronicles at Saatchi Gallery, or Antony Gormley at the RA.