The Booths Everyone's Talking about: Frieze Highlights 2017
What to see at Frieze Art Fair: read our insider's guide to navigate the scrum with aplomb
Impossibly beautiful galleristas, head honchos in crisp white shirts, haggard journalists and heiresses in real fur with plastic faces and this season's trend-setting sock boot: it can only be Frieze London.
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Frieze London is absolutely monumental and an impossible task for one day. So, for a quick fix, these are the 2017 highlights.
THE WIRTH BRONZE GALLERY (D10)
The Wirth Bronze gallery stand, Frieze London 2017
Curated in collaboration with Cambridge classicist Mary Beard – you can download a free app to hear Beard give an audio tour of the exhibit – BRONZE AGE c. 3500 BC – AD 2017 is a hodgepodge of ancient objects and significant bronze sculptures by artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Paul McCarthy, and Rashid Johnson.
Around 50 of the objects are on loan from official museums, roughly 50 are on loan from private collections, and another 50 were bought on eBay to bolster the display. It's an immersive experience, which has you trying to spot the multi-million-pound treasures from the brick-a-brac dug up from someone's garden. This is undoubtedly one of the most Instagrammable booths at the fair.
SEX WORK: FEMINIST ART & RADICAL POLITICS: Section S
Renate Bertlmann, Detail: Cactus, 1999, © Renate Bertlmann
Sex Work features nine monographic presentations of women artists working at the extreme edges of feminist practice during the 1970s and ‘80s. This section – a first for Frieze London – pays homage to the women who transgressed sexual mores, gender norms and the tyranny of political correctness and, as a result, have not been exhibited for more than 20 years. Featuring seminal works by Betty Tompkins, Judith Bernstein and Renate Bertlmann, the section is raw and frank in its sexual explicitness, and most definitely not one for the kids!
The solo exhibition of work by American artist Marilyn Minter (Baldwin Gallery S6) and Austrian artist Renate Bertlmann (Richard Saltoun S7) stand out for their head-on confrontation with voyeurism. While Bertlmann has been criticised for being ‘phallus-obsessed’, this collection of works positions the man as the object of sexual denudation.
In the exhibited works the male body is stripped bare, patriarchal oppressions appear to collapse. At Richard Saltoun, expect to see pink dildos sprouting from green cacti and latex-clad phalluses garnishing the walls. Sex Works is definitely one of the fair's major talking points this year, so don't miss it.
TIMOTHY TAYLOR GALLERY (B16)
Timothy Taylor stand, Frieze London 2017
The solo exhibition of works by Mexican contemporary artist Eduardo Terrazas is so eye-catching, you can't help but swerve off the well-trodden circuit and into the spotlit booth. Terrazas first rose to fame as the co-designer of the logo for the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City and has experimented with the formal relationships of geometric shapes through drawing ever since. The vibrant, bold splashes of colour at Timothy Taylor's stand provide welcome relief to the monumental number of minimalist white artworks occupying neighbouring booths.
WHITE CUBE (D8)
Chuck Close, Self-Portrait, 2007
Always a crowd-pleaser, this year's White Cube booth is bigger and better than ever with works by internationally-celebrated artists including Michael Armitage, Damien Hirst and Liu Wei. However, our favourite work this year has to be Chuck Close's Self-Portrait, 2007.
Celebrated for his monumental portraits rendered with exacting realism from photographic sources, Close plays with ideas of scale, colour, and form. In Self-Portrait, Close employs a gridded application of individual black, grey and white squares, which are abstract up close but form unified, a highly realistic image from afar. It's interesting to note that Close’s very distinctive painting techniques stem in part from his physical disabilities – he is unable to recognize faces and suffered a spinal injury in 1988 that left him largely paralyzed.
MARIAN GOODMAN (C6)
Leonor Antune, Mary, 2017
High-heeled Vetements-clad wearing collectors, galleristas from neighbouring (less impressive) booths and high-profile museum curators all flocked to Marian Goodman’s stand for one very clear reason: the Instagrammable giant bronze sparkly backdrop by Portuguese artist Leonor Antunes. While it's easy to be mesmerised by the cascading ladder-like structure, don't miss the stand's highlight feature by Spanish installation artist Cristina Iglesias. The working fountain, (Bajo La Superficie (Under the Surface), 2011), is truly a sight to behold. Built into the booth's floor, it trickles a quit calm that offers a much-needed respite from the rest of the fair's frenetic buzz. Top tip advice: locate booth C6 on the floor plan and make a beeline for it.
While Frieze Masters is a little more manageable than Frieze London, there are some outstanding booths that are worth making a beeline for as soon as you get there.
PACE London (C9)
Saul Steinberg, Pace Gallery stand, Frieze Masters 2017
This year, Pace is dedicating its stand to a solo presentation of over 50 works by the late Saul Steinberg. Spanning his entire career, the exhibited installations, watercolours, works on paper and photographs reflect the defiant curiosity of an emerging Modernist working predominantly in the chaotic post-war period. If you are a fan of Pace London, head to their Burlington Arcade Gallery this Frieze Week where they are exhibiting a monumental retrospective of works by fellow Modernist, Jean Dubuffet.
WADDINGTON CUSTOT (G2)
Paddington Custot stand, Frieze Masters 2017. Image courtesy of Culture Whisper
Everyone is talking bout Waddinton Custot's Frieze Masters stand. This year's booth recreates the private, dare we say compact, West-London studio of British pop-artist Peter Blake. The intimate space is jam-packed with curiosities, Blake's own seminal works, and knick-knacks acquired over the last seven decades – the trick is spotting the wheat from the chaff.
In collaboration with Anna Pank and Robin Brown, Waddington Custot's booth provides an unexpected insight into Blake's creative process and working practice. Entering the booth becomes an all encompassing sensory experience, and is quite frankly, a tour de force.
THADDEUS ROPAC 1984 (B7)
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente & Andy Warhol, Cilindrone, 1984
Presenting memorable works from the year 1984, Ropac’s Frieze Masters stand contrast artists’ perceptions of the era with the dystopian vision foretold in George Orwell’s 1984. In this much-read novel, Orwell predicts a world where despotism suppresses all individuality and independence. Orwell’s nightmarish vision was also of a world in which all creative output was annihilated.
But contrary to popular belief, 1984 was a year of dynamic and diverse individual creativity. We see a show-stopping exhibition of pieces by contemporary masters such as Georg Baselitz, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys and Robert Rauschenberg. Amongst the treasures, look out for the prominent presence of the enduringly maverick British duo Gilbert and George who, in 1984, received a nomination for the first-ever Turner Prize.
The sculpture park was, quite possibly, our favourite bit of the whole affair. Freed from the claustrophobic and overwhelming interior of the tents, the artworks are allowed to breathe. You wander through the park, dodging joggers, and are surprised by sculpture behind a corner, or hiding underneath a tree. It's great fun. Walk from Frieze London to Frieze Masters (or vice-versa) to take it all in.