Once more into the fair: Inside Frieze Art Fair 2012

By Ben Miller | 11 October 2012

Frieze Art Fair logo
© Photograph by Linda Nylind Courtesy of Linda Nylind/ Frieze
Fair: Frieze Art Fair, Regent's Park, London, until October 14 2012

Noseying around this year's Frieze complex, it's hard not to be struck by some of the drifting works of art outside each gallery block.

There are, within a few feet of each other, dandies in eye-melting pink and orange cravats, women in mauve, red and mustard-coloured wellies, photographers who appear to have left their pyjamas on and visitors seemingly labouring under the illusion that they might be called to an impromptu catwalk at any moment.

Perhaps the rows of bright spotlights make everyone want to put on a show, although the thin slopes of carpet underfoot must make for hazardous walks in heels.

Even if it looks like a mental test for the bouncers - who are, without fail, asked by every entrant where the maps of the place are, to the point where it resembles a mass conspiracy - there's stackloads to enjoy here.

In the case of Richard Long, it's typically transportive. Huge panoramas, hosted by Germany's Konrad Fischer Galerie, announce exhausting walks across Irish coasts and mountains. Peter Fischli and David Weiss go airborne for 800 Views of Airports amid the crammed shelves of Koenig Books.

Some works are grotesque, such as the endless bleeding and rotting offal written large by New York's Gavin Brown's Enterprise, or the gloopy, meringue pink mottled head on a pole that is Paul McCarthy's White Snow Head at Hauser and Wirth.

Inside their space, spaghetti neons stand on trays in front of a ceramic white donkey created by Jason Rhoades using materials including a tuna can. And if that makes you hungry, a pop-up sorbet stall on the back of a truck is advertising blackcurrant custard, quince and pear, fig and watermelon and papaya flavoured ices.

The queues to get in are long and the queues for coffee are longer. I babble at Miranda Sawyer, various Tate curators, packs of ticket holders from Berlin and local daytrippers. Most of the talk is of Frieze Masters, the fair at the other end of the Park devoted to ancient works at purportedly lower prices.

The consensus is that its contemporary companion is stronger than it was last year. The main throughfare is relaxed yet buzzing, but it's good fun finding stuff off the beaten corridors. Image Movement, of Berlin, play a bunch of weird films you listen to through headphones connected to a record player.

The slightly scary sleeve features two young men naked behind a shower curtain, their faces blotched with fake blood. Nude chess is the vision of Yasumasa Morimura, who's made a massive Self Portrait of Marcel Duchamp in a kind of hyper-real c-print take on an existing photo for Juana de Aizpuru, of Madrid.

"To be an artist, you have to dare to be different," says one onlooker, observing abstract paintings by Jean Dubuffet at Waddington Custot Galleries. "What I like about this place is that there's something for everyone," says his new-found friend next to him, declaring herself a fellow artist despite her less profound conclusion.

Inevitably, via a mock-up crime scene and police investigation, I find Culture24's favourite shaman, Marcus Coates, covering his entire head in what looks like cream, and issuing a black and white photo of a man with a foot-long beard for Kate MacGarry Gallery.

Paul Kasmin, of New York, have made a hall of curvy mirrors accessible through crimson theatre curtains. Business is brisk either side: to the left, curators charm buyers; to the right, the sushi bar is bustling. "What an art show is, is basically a trade show," explains a hoarse curator in a broad American accent. She tips Ryan Trecartin as one of the hottest sensations of the young artists the Andrea Rosen Gallery is trying to push.

Trecartin's videos include a girl talking in text speak, her words speeded up to sky-high pitch in a truly maddening video. "It gives you something to think about, something to talk about," adds our commentator. A pregnant pause follows, and Mark Wallinger walks past, looking faintly baffled. It's a second of unintentional comedy any performance artist would kill for.
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