Thursday, October 22, 2009

Frieze 2009: Small Paintings and Smaller Egos

Left: Tony Cragg's "Bolt", stainless steel, at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac.

What I loved this year about Frieze was the hordes of youngsters, toting cameras and notebooks, looking intently and arguing about the works at the fair. Had the collectors all come and conquered already? No, for here was a tall blonde vaguely Eastern European stunner with her trophy-holder, eyeing works picked for her by a famous art consultant. And there was a nattily-dressed lady, begrudgingly letting me take her photo. All is not lost, long live the art fair!

In contrast to last year's Frieze, several trends could be observed: a fascination with the pedestal, small geometric paintings with a labored hand, less video and shock value, and more conceptual sculpture. Booths were all tightly packed, with even the blue chip galleries cramming in 2-D and 3-D works, on the floor, on the dealer's desk, and in front of other works.

David Zwirner showed a prominent Neo Rauch, a gigantic Luc Tuymans (at right), and a naughtily-pierced Annie Sprinkle portrait by Alice Neel (at left).
White Cube had a crowd-pleasing marble portrait of the "pregnant man" by Marc Quinn, but also a series of twelve small ceramic sculptures by Rachel Kneebone (at right) titled "The Stations", whose intricate and layered meaning counteracted the obviousness of the Quinn work. Carter's black and white paintings were sold at several galleries, as were the dark yet faint Gothic-y paintings of Michael Bauer, the chopped photos of John Stezaker, and small paintings by Phillip Allen (at left) combining delicate geometric areas with borders of gloppy thick paint.

Right: Gareth Moore "Neither Here Nor There" at LuttgenMeijer, Berlin.

A big hit this year was the "Frame" section of Frieze, showing smaller galleries that presented a single artist's work. Gareth Moore's sculpture installation looked great, with no booth walls to interfere with its sea of dismantled chairs. Lisa Cooley presented black and white photographs of knives hand-made by the artist, Erin Shireff (at right), that first looked as old-fashioned as Irving Penn, but still held their own as a documentation of odd objects. Daniel Silver at IBID Projects showed abstracted marble busts on idiosyncratic pedestals, using auto-biographical materials. Even at Frame, there were echoes of art history and a longing for tradition, but re-imagined by younger voices.

Above left: Daniel Silver, at IBID Projects, London.

Right: Peacock lady preening.

Left: Towering heels on an abstracted concoction.