Frieze takes big tent approach to art with all encompassing 2011 fair

By Mark Sheerin | 14 October 2011 | Updated: 18 October 2011
Colour photo of a monolithic sign reading Frieze Art Fair
© Culture24
Event: Frieze Art Fair, London, until October 16 2011

In a pueblo somewhere in Peru is the adobe brick wall of a house on which socialists have painted the Spanish words for Project and Land. It now has a replica: stand R20 at one of the world’s biggest art fairs, Frieze.

This reconstruction is the work of Ximenada Garrido-Lecca, represented by Revolver Galeria in a section of the fair given over to newer galleries called Frame. Columbian and Argentinian spaces are also represented here and there is a palpable buzz, which may or may not just be the sound of a multitude of 16mm film projectors.

Colour photo of a man passing an adobe wall
Ximena Garrido-Lecca, Project Country, installation view
Frame looks to have expanded this year along with the fair's redesigned marquee. So now more than ever, Frieze is an example of big tent politics. It can take fierce critiques of capitalism even as it accepts those hefty cheques from fierce capitalists.

Christian Jankowski's much-discussed motorboats are a case in point. One gleams on its stand in the centre, daring collectors to splash cash for a less than creative status symbol. Or they can be even more audacious and pay extra for the artist to put his name on it.

I hear a moneyed female voice on the viewing platform comment: "It's fantastic, look at the design of that!" It is hard not to agree, but even so, the game is surely to épater les bourgeoisie not to pander to them.
Colour photo of the cockpit of a speedboat
Christian Jankowski's speedboat
© Culture24
Michael Landy tackles the world's inequalities in his own way. Thomas Dane gallery draw crowds with a Jean Tinguely-inspired drawing machine. Ornamented with skulls and stuffed animals, this 12ft-high beast will make you a picture of sorts in return for your credit card. The credit cards get shredded. Sadly, it doesn’t take debit cards.

If nothing else, it reminds you that here at Frieze you are a card swipe away from the real action. But with no prices anywhere, one would have to be careful about making a discreet enquiry. Gagosian gallery does not even advertise its artist's names. If you don't know, presumably you can't afford to know.

One of their works is a mirror warning visitors "It's not about you" but look closely and you can see another line which says "It's all about you." This is the push-me pull-me logic of the entire fair, and if you don’t feel the pull, you do feel the push. Gallery directors save their most approachable faces for those with most obvious means.

Colour photo of a crab living inside a mask
Pierre Huyghe's Project, close up© Culture24
For non-collectors, there are several special Project artworks which pose no menace to your wallet. One is an aquarium by Pierre Huyghe where, oblivious to the metaphor, a crab has made its home in a mask. Another is a television studio, where young guns from Peckham, Lucky PDF are rehearsing, performing and broadcasting.

At either end of the sprawling marquee, these projects demonstrate the ability Frieze has to absorb nature and media, along with every practical aspect of culture. If it can be installed here, it probably will be. Georg Kargl have built a virtual, grey Sims-style house. Ibid Projects and Kate MacGarry have both brought sheds. And in the latter a backwoods film by Ben Rivers takes us as far from the world of art fairs as can be.

But if all human life is here, then so is human death. Perrotin gallery have installed a life-sized morgue by Elmgreen and Dragset. From a look at her possessions, the lady on the slab could have been a collector.

This piece reminds visitors they cannot take any of this art with them when they go. It might not be the most lucrative message to put on show at a trade fair. But that's the madness of the fair; Frieze has room for anything.

Visit Mark Sheerin's contemporary art blog and follow him on Twitter.
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