Friezing Day 2 Ben Austin Takes On The Mighty Frieze

Frieze Week

So the other night, I went to the opening of the swanky Marian Goodman Gallery in Lower John St. Soho. The New York powerhouse had set up shop in London and how. The well-heeled Euro set crowd, fresh from the fair were out in force. I greeted a dapper Jay Joplin who was entertaining clients inbetween going deals on the phone. This is big business time.

The gallery kicked off with an incredible Gerhard Richter show, now having seen his retrospective in Basel, I was keen to see this show and I was not to be disappointed.

On the ground floor, were darker subtle grey pieces, which did not quite work for me, although delicate in themselves I am a sucker for colour and that was to come.

There was a stunning glass sculpture piece installed, all planes intersecting and deconstructing space in geometrically pleasing way. It was wonderful to walk all the way round it, with every angle there was another effect and spatial play.

In a smaller room was the fluid, pressed to glass and reversed colour abstractions. These were glorious. In a curious place where accident meets intention is when art happens. The swirls and patterns delighted the eye, as it moves us in and around the work. The mixture at times lost in puddles of colour and liquid form.

I know it is a stereotypical thing to say, but when the Germans do anything, they do it efficiently with high production values. I noticed this at the sensational Anselm Kiefer must-see show at the RA. The same is certainly true for Richter.
On the upper level of this open and light space, were his large-scale digital pieces. These were simply staggeringly beautiful. On close inspection, the lines of colour patterns jangle and jar with our vision, creating an unsettling optical effect rather like the Op art of Bridget Riley. Richter though opts for the digital to create this oscillating effect, rather than painting. Repetition and scale makes the work dazzling and inherently powerful. One could imagine these in the lobby of big corporate HQ. They are statement pieces. They speak of power. They vibrate with slickness and success.  

 Also on display in a smaller room next too the main upstairs gallery, were small photographic/painting pieces, with thick impasto paint applied to postcard style landscapes. Here we have something a little more delicate at work, a contrast between the flat idealised image and the paint covering and obscuring part of the image, beautiful yet a little unsettling like some impeding storm or calamity about to take place.

 The next day, I head East for a meeting at the hip and happening Ace hotel in Shoreditch and afterwards popped into Hales Gallery in the Tea Building, where there is a fantastic and rather intimate show of Hew Locke’s work entitled ‘Beyond the Sea Wall’. I’ve always loved Hew’s practice, from the assemblage pieces of old to these newer reworked with painting on top of photographs (very different to Richter’s disconcerting pieces). Hew had awe-inspiring installation at the newly opened PAMM in Miami for Basel, which was a big hit there.

For this series Hew explores and connects ideas of past and present, good and bad fortune combined with memories of his childhood in Guyana.

The title refers the sea wall that protects the coastline and reflects the seclusion and in part isolation of these inland villages.

The show features original photographs taken in 2013, Hew was shocked to see how many houses from his childhood had been abandoned and fallen into decay. The economic climate and floods had brought about this sad ruination.  Hew then paints on the photograph making these images poetic in soft pastel colours tinged with melancholy and loss.

Time, fortune, history and change – Locke’s exploration of these concepts continues also in the ongoing series of painted share certificates. He uses original shares and bonds as a means of not just looking at history and its unpredictability, but also as a way of exploring politics, economy and culture. These paper relics, which often refer to now defunct or bankrupt companies, once represented fortunes. Now most of them, like the wooden houses in the Guyanese countryside, are remnants of the past in the constantly shifting economic landscape.

If you are out East I highly recommend checking out this show.

In the afternoon I head over to Frieze itself, a lot has been written on the fair, there is so much art here it is best you visit it yourself and explore.

On thing I will say is that the layout is much better this year, the floor flatter, the galleries have room and the art is better for it. One can actually move around and view work without bumping into booths or people.

Highlights for me include, the delightful children’s playground by Carten Holler at Gagosian, a wonderful way to get kids to engage physically with art at young age. Art should be about play and our being in touch with our inner child, as they say.

The Hauser and Wirth booth installation was odd and intriguing. Salon 94 from New York, also had a curated booth, with cartoonish yellows and Acid House motifs. Ancient & Modern likewise had a very interesting collection of work, ranging form antique furniture to a pottery owl.

Elsewhere I spotted a strong George Condo, two impressive Wolfgang Tillmans at Mauren Paeley, a fine Dorothea Tanning at Alison Jacques and a good Billy Childish piece at Carl Freeman. Big names to be found here too of course, with a Tracey Emin tapestry at Lehmann Maupin and some tired looking Hirst fishes encased at White Cube.

Always love the sculpture park (when it isn’t raining), look out for the large-scale wooden piece by KAWS of distraught Pinocchio and a play material wooden dinosaur. Do we sense a theme for this year’s Frieze, perhaps?  As Picasso said, ‘Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up’.

And who wants to grow up, right?

Frieze Masters today and hopefully out East for Moniker later.


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