Art The Frieze week Marathon 2019

Traveling from north to south, from east to west London, Thierry Somers, founding editor of 200%, gives his all to take in as much art as he can in a week.

During Frieze week I wouldn’t mind if a day had more than 24 hours as there is so much fantastic art to see in London. I will be traveling all over town to attend press views and openings of new shows, talks with artists and conduct interviews. This year’s edition is very exciting with a fantastic Frieze Talks program and a number of leading artists are presenting new bodies of works at their galleries. The week will provide a lot of content to write about. I will share my itinerary of the week in chronological order.

Saturday 28 September

My week started with the viewing days at Christie’s and Sotheby’s with the top lot being Banksy’s ‘Devolved Parliament’ (yesterday at Sotheby’s Evening Sale it became a record for the artist selling for $12,160,000). Damien Hirst’s ‘Mandalas’ at White Cube were impressive and Grayson Parry’s show at Victoria Miro was amusing.

Sunday 29 September

The highlights of my East London gallery tour were Rhys Coren’s show at Seventeen gallery and Liam Gillick at Maureen Paley.

Monday 30 September

I read more about the work of the artists whose press views I was going to attend and prepared my interview with Bernard Piffaretti. I first saw work by this French artist at Kate MacGarry and I became intrigued by his ‘duplication method’, abstract paintings that appear to be two identical halves, split through the vertical axis. I interviewed him at the fair where he has a solo booth at Kate MacGarry and we will post the interview later this month on the 200% website. In the evening I attended the preview of the immerse exhibition by United Visual Artists. Although Frieze week is not finished I’m sure this show will end up in my top three of highlights of the week. I will talk about the show later.

Tuesday 1 October

The day started with a press view of Mark Bradford’s new body of work at Hauser & Wirth. He gave an insightful walkthrough of his show and I was able to ask him a few questions. We will post his answers on our website later this month. Then I rushed to Lisson Gallery where at the same time a press view took place of Ai Weiwei’s new body of work. Unfortunately his time to speak with the press was very limited and I was not able to speak with him face to face.

Ai Weiwei is an incredible example of an artist who went to great lengths for his art. The Chinese government has arrested, harassed, detained him and demolished his studio. I was able to speak with one of the directors of the gallery, Greg Hilty. I discussed with him how the gallery mentally supported Ai Weiwei through these horrendous times for the artist. The interview will be posted on the 200% website later this month.

In the afternoon, I went to Gagosian gallery in North London to the press view of Sterling Ruby‘s new show ACTS and Tables. The ACTS sculptures consisting of prisms made of liquid dye inside clear urethane resting on spray painted Formica bases are impressive. I loved the fabric collages by Tschabalala Self at Pilar Corrias and works by Jean Arp and Yves Tanguy part of the show ‘Peggy Guggenheim and London’ at Ordovas.

Wednesday 2 October

The Preview day of Frieze Art Fair! First I had a press view of Prada Mode, a travelling social club with a focus on contemporary culture. The fashion brand invited the artist Theaster Gates to do an installation at 180 The Strand. In his work Gates reactivates derelict spaces and brings people together to create thriving communities. I spoke with him how to create a community, what is in and out of his control, and attaching your name to a fashion brand. I will also post a story on that later this month.

Then I attended the press view of exhibition ‘Aire and Angels’ by Elizabeth Peyton at the National Portrait Gallery. The show features intimate portraits of David BowieJulian CasablancasKurt Cobain and scenes of films such as Daniel Day Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer in ‘The Age of Innocence’ and Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer in ‘Call Me By Your Name’. Some of Peyton’s works are displayed within the permanent NPG’s collection, juxtaposing her work with historic portraits from the Tudor, Victorian and seventeenth-century collection.

Then the contemporary fair Frieze London. Most galleries presented the usual suspects and didn’t present work by new artists. Perhaps later in the week when dealers are rehanging of their booths. I saw some great works by Joyce PensatoHarold AncartDana Schutz and Patrick Goddard’s parakeets.

In the evening I went to Mayfair to see the show ‘Ride the Wild’ a group show featuring some fantastic works by Christopher WoolAlbert Oehlen and Franz West at Lévy Gorvy.

Thursday 3 October

The atmosphere of Frieze Masters is very relaxed compared with the contemporary fair. I saw some great works by Roy LichtensteinLouise NevelsonFrank AuerbachEgon SchieleEuan Uglow and Nicolas de Stael. I also attended two talks: the artists Mark Bradford and Elizabeth Peyton were interviewed by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Nicholas Cullinan respectively.

The first talk was very animating and Bradford spoke clearly and personably about his life and work. Before becoming an artist Bradford was a hairdresser at the salon of his mother in Los Angeles. At the end of the talk I asked Mark if there are any similarities between hairdressing and making art. I have posted his funny answer on my Instagram account @thierrysomers

The Great Animal Orchestra

As mentioned earlier, one of the highlights of my Frieze week is United Visual Artists at Other Spaces. The show consists of three immersive installations: Our Time, Vanishing Point and The Great Animal Orchestra. The latter is a wonderful sound sculpture based on Bernie Krause’s recordings of animal sounds from nature. Some of these sounds are incredible and magical such as a herd of trumpeting elephants recorded in Central African Republic. Or the sound of two howling packs of wolves that was recorded in Algonquin Park in Ontario. It is an exhilarating work and if you have a chance to see it I can highly recommend it.

If you’re interested to read more about UVA … they feature in the third issue of 200%. I interviewed the founder and creative director of UVA, Matt Clark, in-depth on immersive experiences and the spectacular visual light shows they created for Massive Attack. You can order the issue here: 200 #3

Friday 4 October

I was very much looking forward to Frieze Academy’s Art and Architecture summit with a fantastic line-up of speakers. The day started with an intellectually stimulating talk by the artist Theaster Gates discussing ‘What Else Art Can Be?’ Other highlights were the architect Elizabeth Diller discussing The Shed and Tom Emerson of 6a Architects on the design of the new MK Gallery in Milton Keynes. Very topical was the panel discussion ‘Insta-tutions? How Social Media Is changing Exhibition Design’ with insightful viewpoints by Ralph Rugoff (director of the Hayward Gallery and curator of the Venice Biennale 2019), the artist Anthea Hamilton and exhibition designer Sam Jacob. In the last session the architect Sou Fujimoto talked about his grid architecture for the 2013 Serpentine Pavilion and a remarkable project: an all-glass public toilet set within an enclosed garden.

The program book gave an accurate description of Theaster Gates practice: “Theaster Gates’s work has long been rooted in creating spaces for communities and cultures that are politically and economically marginalized or under threat.” In a conversation with Elvira Dyangani Ose, Gates shared his motives:

“I have been thinking a lot about why did I build these spaces? I have to admit that the intent was not kindness to black people. It wasn’t I want to make the conditions better so that people could experience streams of gold. I think it was much more a cerebral intent. I wanted to play with space and I thought there are a lot of ways to play with space. If this building is abandoned what changes the state of a place from being considered abandoned to not abandoned? In some cases the change was simply that I would be in the building and as soon as I occupied the building it not longer had the preconditions of abandonment.

Then there were other things that I could do. Does it mean, abandon has something to do with whether or not a building has been cared for or not? So we could say if I would care for a somewhat abandoned building that by that care and by its caretaker, the caretaker then has the authority to invoke its abandonment and bring it to another place.

At what point will the world recognise with me some other term besides vacancy or decay? At what point is it not recognisable as the former crack house? And if the former crack house is the only title that we have for it, could I call it The ‘Listening’ House and at some point people might forget that it is the former crack house. People start to think, ‘It used to be a crack house and now it is The Listening House’. By naming the thing I was taking away from the disruption then by changing its location in our brain in abstraction so that if I could help people understand a new abstract form that might see the building differently in its concreteness”.

In upcoming articles we will report more on the Art and Architecture summit. Frieze week is finished for me, but no art break for me. The marathon will turn into a triathlon as my next destination is Venice to visit the Biennale.

Written by Thierry Somers