Over the past decade, the Frieze Art Fair, which wrapped up this past weekend, has helped to transform London into one of the global art world’s major capitals. The Fair’s ever expanding Hyde Park tent stands as the nexus of seven days of high art and high glamour, with stellar shows, satellite fairs, parties, photo-ops and the smack of air kisses ricocheting all across town.
At the main event 150 leading international galleries set up shop this year, with many standing out from the crowd with solo or themed booths—portraits at New York’s Pace, a megawatt selection of Jeff Koons at Gagosian. The fair’s newly added Focus section, exclusively for curated and solo presentations, boasted the premiere of the art star Omer Fast’s new film. Meanwhile Frieze Projects, the annual round of special commissions, saw artists playfully riffing on the fair’s undertow of people watching, self-exposure and surveillance. Here’s a recap of the most talked about art, people and parties.
Pop Goes the Art—Not to mention the flash bulbs
As displays of art world might go, Gagosian’s was a true knock-out. The blue chip monster dazzled fair goers into submission with its solo presentation of Jeff Koons’s giant foil-wrapped chocolate heart, his inflatable pool float lobster and the upscaled plastic toy, “Cat On A Clothesline.” These immaculate sculptures, fit for an emperor (or a maybe just hedgefund billionaire) were the Fair’s premiere spectacle. (They even had their own security detail.) Their gleaming surfaces were constantly being lit up by flash bulbs. Pop art glinted bright throughout the fair, from Elmgreen & Dragset’s winsome silver boy on a rock and Takeshi Murakami’s comedic self-portrait, with his dog, in gold, at Perrotin, to Yoshitomo Nara’s giant pumpkin head sculpture at Pace. The people’s favorite though, was Rob Pruitt’s grungy army of goggle-eyed, wigged or bulbous-nosed orange traffic cones at Gavin Brown. Still filthy from New York City streets, they made visually raucous companions to Alex Katz’s elegant night-time cityscapes.
Up Close and Personal at Frieze Focus and Frieze Projects
Intimate moments tend to be rather thin on the ground in a crowded, mercilessly well-lit art fair. At Berlin gallery Arratia Beer’s stand Frieze Focus, Omer Fast seemed to capitalise on the disquieting feeling of over-exposure for the debut of his latest film, “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” which is set around the Los Angeles porn industry. This day in the life of adult film actors— in which hard-core content is intricately interwoven with Fast’s fictional explorations of childhood trauma, sex cults and marital breakdown—was surrounded by passers-by and open to the aisles, ramping up the sense of discomfit. Within the Fair’s specially commissioned projects, Lili Reynaud-Dewar also toyed with notions of private and public. The gamine young French artist could be found, dressed in all-white, in her garish and increasingly grubby boudoir. A fountain of black ink spouted from the middle of the mattress where she lay, reading aloud from Guillaume Dustan’s gay erotica, “In My Room,” as punters came and went, occasionally posing for camera phone snaps around her.
Best Bash: Cyprien Gaillard’s dinner at Simpsons
A dizzying round of dinners and drinks kicked off with Cyprien Gaillard’s celebratory bash for his exhibition “From Wings to Fins,” hosted by Russia’s most glamorous art patron Dasha Zhukova. The rising French art star remained unphased as cameras flashed, looking casual in a denim jacket and woolly hat alongside his English supermodel girlfriend Lily Donaldson, who was dressed in chicly minimalist all black. Art world luminaries including the Frieze co-founder Amanda Sharp, the collector Steve Cohen and the uber-curator Hans Ulrich Obrist turned out to toast Gaillard on his first London show with Sprueth Magers, which included a new foray into bronze. The artist, who reportedly requested something truly British for the occasion, could scarcely have gone more traditional than Simpsons; guests feasted on roast beef in the oak panelled splendour of the 170-year-old former chess club and coffee house, where Van Gogh, Dickens and Disraeli all once dined.
Main Event: David Roberts Art Foundation Performance Night with Rodney Graham and Kim Gordon
The Thursday night performances at David Roberts Art Foundation were the week’s must-see event, not least because word had got out that Kim Gordon would be playing with headline act, artist and musician Rodney Graham. When the pair briefly appeared, with Gordon looking every inch the punk rock godmother in a leopard print top, tight black slacks, and sparkly silver glitter ankle boots, alongside Graham, they promptly vanished behind a white screen at one end of a very crowded gallery.
As announced by Graham’s disembodied voice, this would be an improv set, with the pair riffing to the famed sex scene from Antonioni’s counter culture classic, “Zabriskie Point.” With the performers hidden, a moody wall of sound filled the space, as bodies tumbled and tussled in the desert dust in the clip projected on screen. Smooth electric guitar notes soared and thrummed, epic and ominous, becoming increasingly abstract and fragmenting into occasional machine-gun bursts of noise while the film looped on.
The Place to Be: Hoi Polloi at the Ace Hotel
Before the Ace Hotel’s first European offshoot opened its doors last month in Shoreditch, it was hard to believe London’s arty party quarter could make room for another hipster dining destination. A stone’s throw away, The Rivington, St. John’s Spitalfields offshoot and Mark Hix’s recently opened chicken and steak joint, Tramshed, had surely cornered the artworld market. How wrong we were. In a hitherto anonymous block on Shoreditch Highstreet, Ace has quickly become the place to be. The rooms are outfitted with quilts by APC and the café has a real Jean Prouvé bench. It hotel’s night-owl success though rests with Hoi Polloi, the in house bar and restaurant from Pablo Flack and David Waddington, the pioneering duo behind original East End art hangout, Bristroteque. Artists Michael Raedecker and Wolfgang Tillmans, the Mancunian graphic design legend Peter Saville, and the New York Museum of Modern Art’s Klaus Biesenbach were among the throng at Frieze’s closing party there; guests partook of canapés before descending to the basement club for a night of dancing fuelled by house cocktails like, Meshigener Palone, a heady mix of vodka, vanilla and pomegranate, and Meese Shyker, made from gin, Dubonnet and ginger beer.