The much-anticipated fair of this year was Frieze London. Frieze London announced that it exceeded expected sales, especially with its Frieze Masters section. Thus, many people and art writers had only one question in mind: Are we back to the old ways of working?
The return of mega fairs, which was seriously injured in 2020, was with sudden and unexpectedly high sales. The most-awaited fair of this year was Frieze London. Frieze London announced that it exceeded expected sales, especially with its Frieze Masters section. Thus, many people and art writers had only one question in mind: Are we back to the old ways of working? And will the old international sales and the return of mega fairs be this fast? Fair director Eva Langret who says, “We are very happy to be back”, tells that the fair is “really” returning to its old days with the newly added Mayfair (Mayfair Cork St., No. 9) venue.
The first year I visited the Frieze Fair was 2008 and it had been five years since the fair started. At that time, the fair was not yet making headlines in London but there were many articles about the news that a new breath was brought to the city, how art can become more popular, the increase in the influence of galleries, and how this fair, which has a high sales potential, made its name in the international art environment. The fair has grown over the past 18 years and has managed to become one of the world’s mega art fairs. Over the years it has expanded to Los Angeles, Seoul, and New York and, more importantly, has expanded its headquarters in London.
After a very rapid rise in London, it signed an innovation that set an example to the whole world with the Frieze Masters section in 2012. Thanks to Nathan Clements-Gillespie, director of Frieze Masters, the fair has moved beyond simply being a contemporary art fair and has taken on a larger role. It offered a new perspective to the art of the 20th century by bringing together the art history that has been shaped and changed over the centuries, collection pieces and ancient works in the Old Masters section. Frieze London’s perspective on art was clear: bringing contemporary art together with old times and offering a new perspective. It did not take long for it to reach everyone with the sales and innovations at the fair, and to gain value in the international arena.
While Frieze Masters brings together 130 art galleries from all over the world in 2021, in the field of contemporary art, the fair manages to present 159 galleries in Regent’s Park. This year, it aims to reach art audiences all over the world, not just physically but also with its Online Viewing Room by considering the hybrid system, in Frieze London. Artists, collectors, art historians, art writers, curators, and art professionals from 40 countries are also participating in the talking program of the fair.
The Importance of Art History and Curating
Eva Langret, the art director of Frieze London, says that for 2021, specially prepared and curated by different people art programs have been carefully selected and focused on the problems of the world. On the other hand, she states that the fair is not limited to just one area and that its program, which spreads throughout the city, is assertive in cooperation with different galleries. Of course, this statement is very important because it indicates that there may be those who have experienced the online fair, but that the fair, which includes London as a city, wants to attract everyone physically instead of being visited online. This tells us that the usual fair trips and mega fairs come to life again. According to the Frieze London director, it is important to keep museums, art institutions and creative industries together, with a perspective covering not only art but all creative industries.
It is a heartwarming situation for anyone who comes to see a real art show after Covid. This year, galleries usually host single or double artist exhibitions. Carlos/Ishikawa is hosting Issy Wood’s solo exhibition, Pilar Corrias is hosting Sabine Moritz, Stephen Friedman Gallery is hosting Deborah, Casey Kaplan is hosting Ella Walker, Lisson Gallery is hosting Garrett Bradley, Lehmann Maupin is hosting Liza Louand’s solo exhibition. Solo exhibitions stand out as one of the most interesting parts of the Frieze London Fair. In fact, while promoting the exhibitions this year, Artnews magazine even included a statement stating that solo exhibitions show the best art ever seen.
David Zwirner Gallery presents new works by Oscar Murillo and Carol Bove. It is not a coincidence that big galleries include solo or duo artist exhibitions. Since carefully prepared exhibitions all over the world become prominent, the fair does not lag behind in this regard. At the beginning of October, Faart Gallery was a gallery that hosted a solo exhibition at with Şükran Moral exhibition at Contemporary Istanbul, the only contemporary art fair in our country. This should be added as a note. The return of the galleries at the mega fairs is again with the new and unseen works of the artists.
Four Sections, Four Different Friezes
This year, Frieze London takes place in four different sections by Eva Langret, who is the exhibition director for the first time. In the Main section, we can see the big galleries. In the Focus section, there are galleries younger than 12 years old. In the Editions section, the fair hosts the five largest galleries offering editions and prints in the world, and the mostly talked section of the fair this year is Unworldling. The Unworldling section is a special exhibition by Cedric Fauq, curator of the Bordeaux Museum of Contemporary Art. The theme of the exhibition touches on today’s world problems and seeks a way to describe the world we know in a way we do not know.
According to Langret, it is very important that some of the galleries in the Main section pass through the Focus section for the first time this year. It expresses both the power of the fair and its sustainability. Frieze London, in this new edition, has been the result of long meetings on how to reach artists and art audiences more effectively. Langret explains as follow: “Each gallery shares that which working style the artist whose works are exhibited has, how he produces, which creative path he follows, and this provides a kind of learning environment. More importantly, we see this both physically and digitally.”
Apart from the four sections, Frieze Sculpture (sculpture exhibition in Regent’s Park) stands out as a free event that connects Frieze Masters and Frieze London this year. Frieze Masters presents old conceptual sculptures in a section called Stand Out this year. This exhibition is curated by Luke Sysson, curator of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. This exhibition is also among the first to be held. Frieze London, making another innovation this year, hosts speakers and international galleries at the fair as part of the Frieze Talks program at its No. 9 venue on Cork Street in Mayfair.
Among the works eagerly awaited at the fair are Issy Wood’s paintings. Wood’s paintings presented by Carlos Ishikawa Gallery, are inspired by her own life, especially her experiences during the Covid-19. Wood takes her inspiration from the TV series Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Gilmore Girls and characters from the Coen Brothers movies that she watches over and over again. Wood, who interpreted the scenes in these TV series and the scenes in the movies and depicted the enlarged versions in her own way, says that “The TV series I watched on my computer made me think that I could paint these people very closely. I drew close-ups as if I had eaten and spent time with them in the same environment.”
Three large-scale horse painting by Susan Rothenberg between 1974 and 77, which was exhibited at the Gray Gallery and rediscovered and valued years later, is among the most striking works. Michael Auping is the curator of the exhibition titled “On Both Sides of My Line”. Auping says that when he saw these paintings by Rothenberg for the first time in 1975, only minimalism and pop art were talked about in art history. Rothenberg draws these paintings as a reaction to this period and developed a new discourse and language in painting by using the painting language of the previous period.
Another remarkable artist at the fair is Gregory Barnett, a dancer and performance artist living in Los Angeles. Barnett’s video takes place in a California desert. In the video, which is divided into two parallel broadcasts, the images are divided into blue and red. In both colors there is a movement that intertwines and goes back and forth. Barnett states that he seeks violence in visuality in this work.
Anna Walker is one of the young artists of the fair and shown for the first time. The fair director Langert says about her that they are happy to include a solo exhibition of a young artist like her this year. Walker’s paintings, inspired by medieval icons and discourses, focus on myths and how myths are formed.
With all its exhibitions and artists, Frieze London received the best marks from world art writers this year. Although it was crowded, tiring and sometimes difficult to travel, it once again showed the irresistible beauty of art.