Zane Oborenko, Visual Arts Theorist
15.10.–18.10.2009. Regent’s Park, London
The seventh annual Frieze Art Fair, which has become one of the most important dates on the visual arts calendar, was held in London’s Regent’s Park from October 15 to 18. A frisson of excitement was caused by the fact that Frieze was held at all this year, in spite of the economic crisis, and with an even bigger range of events.

Since Frieze was held for the first time in 2003, it has become highly popular with both the public and art professionals, as evidenced by the fact that this year it attracted more than 60,000 visitors and 164 galleries from 30 countries. The galleries included the perennial Gagosian, Gladstone, Marian Goodman, White Cube and David Zwirner, as well as a range of smaller ones. The organisers attribute their success not only to the innovative spirit of Frieze, but also to its location in a building specially constructed every year by an outstanding contemporary architect (this year the firm Caruso St John). Interest is further increased by the opportunity for viewers to take part in various educational events, and to learn about the latest trends in visual arts through discussions with pro¬minent people from the art-world or by viewing Frieze with an artist or critic as a guide.

Frieze Art Fair 2009. London. Photo: Kaspars Groševs
A new addition this year was the section titled Frame, which was created following the example of other art fair (Art Basel | Statements). It was open to galleries that have been running for less than six years. The best 29 applicants were invited to “frame” just one of their artists. These included Amp (Athens), Lisa Cooley (New York), Project 88 (Mumbai), Rodeo (Istanbul), as well as the gallery Tulips & Roses from Vilnius, which exhibited works by Gintaras Didžiapetras.

The projects by young artists in the section Frieze Projects attracted great public interest. A work by Polish artist Monika Sosnowska involving a “cultural meteorite” landing right above the exhibition building was keenly anticipated, but it did not appear in the end. The artist cancelled her appearance in Frieze Projects at the last minute because she did not consider her sculpture to be good enough.

Other artists also displayed works at Frieze Projects, with very interesting results. Art could be purchased for particularly good prices in Stephanie Syjuco’s workshop, but not because of the crisis. A group of artists made copies of masterpieces on display at the Frieze Art Fair, and these could be bought for prices up to 500 pounds. For example, the original self-portrait Anthony Reynolds by Turner Prize winner Mark Volinger was on sale at the gallery stand for 75,000 pounds, but a copy could be snapped up at Syjuco’s stand for just 500 pounds. The 2.5 metre long original by the Korean Gimhongsok, which itself is a version of Jeff Koons’s Balloon Dog, cost $40,000 in the Kukje gallery, while a small painted clay version by Claudia Djabbari went for just 120 pounds at Syjuco.

Stephanie Syjuco. Copystand: and autonomus manufacturing zone. Workshop for creation of copies of masterpieces by artists on show at the art fair. Photo: Kaspars Groševs
The activity at the Syjuco stand showed that although the will to buy is there, the price is very important. It is interesting and perhaps logical that gallery owners and dealers had a neutral or negative attitude toward this project, and it has been opined that the $5,000 earned now – instead of $50,000 – is not satisfactory. When asked if a particular original work had followed the example of its copy and found a buyer, one gallery owner retorted sharply: “Mind your own business.”

Although most of the galleries presented more commercial works, experts such as Tate Director Nicholas Serota declared that this year’s Frieze was better than last year’s, highlighting that dealers have returned to offering high quality works. The Tate collection was expanded this year thanks to the support of the Outset charity fund, acquiring works by Alice Channer, Zbigniew Libera, David Maljkovič, Gareth Moore, Marwan Rechmaoui and Artur Zmijewski for 120,000 pounds in total.

One of the most unusual works in Frieze Projects was Mike Bouchet’s Sell and Destroy: Redrawing the Bottom Line. The work was created for one of the Frieze Talks discussions (it was on view for just 30 minutes). Professional orator Alex MacPhail instructed the audience how to break a piece of wood with a karate chop. In reality, this was a metaphor for how motivation and attitude are the key factors in making any activity a success, and that they are much more important than any practical skills. The truth of this assertion was demonstrated at the end by a volunteer from the audience, who broke the wood on his second attempt, having never done this before in his life. The volunteer’s first failed attempt also served as an illustration of what happens if there isn’t clear visualisation or conviction about the possibility of a positive outcome.

Frieze Art Fair 2009. London. Photo: Kaspars Groševs
The other Frieze Talks discussions covered the more serious visual arts problems, partially coinciding with issues raised by works displayed in the fair: the crisis (financial, ecological and social); the need for state support, especially today (citing the example of the US Visual Arts Program created in 1933); and the relationship between art and theory. Practical advice was also given by John Baldessari, Agnes Varda, Marie Darrieussecq, Sylvère Lotringer and others.

Despite the stated aim of the organisers and financial backers to make contemporary art accessible, tickets for the general public were priced at 20 to 25 pounds. Those who couldn’t afford this could nevertheless view three-dimensional art in the Regent’s Park sculpture garden. On show here were Louise Bourgeois’ work Couple, Eva Rodshield’s Someone and Someone, Graham Hudson’s monument to Edward VIII (the only English monarch without a monument thus far), which will remain here permanently, and Paul McCarthy’s Henry Moore Bound to Fail, which will be on view for an additional six months after the end of Frieze.

/Translator into English: Filips Birzulis/

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