Frieze Art Fair / London / #1

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Frieze London 2016 / Photograph by Linda Nylind. Courtesy of Linda Nylind/Frieze.

My first day at Frieze was spent trying not to get disorientated as I walked around the booths with their sharp white walls under an immense, homogenising white tent. The other challenge for the visitor is not to get too distracted by a sudden performance, a scene-stealing outfit, or a heated debate about a commission sum which would easily allow for the purchase of an entire row of terraced houses in almost any city outside London.

But I have come to Frieze to see some of the best work being produced today, particularly painting, under one roof; albeit a roof large enough to be spotted without effort from an inbound plane. In some other art fairs it can be a challenge to find more than a handful of top class works of art. At Frieze there is no shortage of artwork which will stop you in your tracks. And this is still true even after you have discounted the value adding effect of great lighting and the generous presentation each piece is afforded. Trying to visualise an artwork in a less glamorous setting, and then deciding if it still holds up, is a skill in itself, especially when there is so much to take in.

Perhaps it was partly due to the scale of the event that I found myself drawn to several sizeable installations which incorporated painted elements. There are countless individual paintings and small sculptural works on display which deserve a mention, but it is the nature of such an event that smaller work attracts less attention. (I will list a few artists below, and in the next Frieze report, who have great individual pieces on show, sometimes with two or more galleries.)

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Installation view of ‘White Model for a Big Still Life’, Nathalie Du Pasquier, Exile Gallery Booth H30 Frieze Art Fair 2016. Image courtesy of Exile.

Of the painterly installations, one of the more surprising was by Nathalie Du Pasquier, whose work entitled ‘White Model for a Big Still Life’ occupies Exile Gallery’s entire booth at H30. I hung Du Pasquier’s paintings in Dublin many years ago, at which time the artist was consistently producing slow-burning complex still lifes in a palette of light ochres and muted off-whites. There were occasional moments of stronger colour, but the overall effect of looking at an exhibition of her work was like having spent a day walking slowly through an old European city on an afternoon silenced by heavy sunlight. ‘White Model for a Big Still Life’ sees the artist moving more towards the abstraction which was always implicit in her earlier paintings.

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Installation view of ‘Cukrovarnická 39, Prag’, Laurent Dupont and Lucy McKenzie, Meyer Kainer Gallery, Booth D10, Frieze Art Fair 2016. Image courtesy of Meyer Kainer.

Another notable painterly installation is at Meyer Kainer’s booth at D10. This is a collaborative piece by Brussels based artists Laurent Dupont and Lucy McKenzie. The title, ‘Cukrovarnická 39, Prag’ refers to the address of SVIT, a gallery in Prague located in a suburban villa in which the works were made and exhibited in early 2015, and for which the artists designed a series of ornamental features. McKenzie, who studied decorative painting in Brussels, has provided a classily-executed marbling effect canvas structure with which to support Dupont’s ongoing series of sculptural objects. The marbling here adds an extra layer of artifice; one which further blurs the line between decoration and ‘higher’ purpose.

Madrid gallery Maisterravalbuena at booth H12 is showing a tidy set of small works by Antonio Ballester Moreno alongside a strong canvas by  Néstor Sanmiguel Diest.

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Installation view of Maisterravalbuena’s booth H12 at Frieze Art Fair 2016. Image courtesy of Maisterravalbuena.

As I mentioned above, I will be listing some strong individual pieces over the next couple of days, and where possible I will add quality images. For the moment, some other artists to check out are Jack McConville at IBID Booth H7, Berta Fischer at Galerie Karin Guenther Booth H5, Victoria Morton at The Modern Institute and, also at The Modern Institute, Liz Larner whose luscious wall mounted ceramics were, for me, the highlight of the first day of Frieze.

There will be more to follow from today’s fair including Frieze Masters and more highlights from exhibiting galleries.

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Author: Robbie O'Halloran

Artist and writer working in London

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