Frieze Art Fair / London / #2


Frieze Masters 2016 / Photograph by Mark Blower. Courtesy of Mark Blower/Frieze.

Wherever possible, I try to use professional photos provided by the gallery or artist I am featuring. At Frieze Masters however, I did find myself fumbling with my mobile phone occasionally to take a shot of a painting I never thought I would see in the flesh, and which I knew I was unlikely to see again. Here is my own effort, a sort of personal keepsake from a special encounter. Apologies to the artist.


Photograph taken by the author with the kind permission of Helly Nahmad, Frieze Masters booth G1.

Picasso always has this effect on me. His last work in particular, from the late 1960s to his death in 1973, I always find fresh and packed full of effortless but inventive passages of paintwork. There are many observers who believe that Picasso stopped being relevant at various stages up to the 1950s; with one author even intentionally omitting the artist’s last work from a monograph on the grounds that it was an unfortunate blemish on an otherwise flawless career. Of course periods in an artist’s work, and entire careers for that matter, drift in and out of relevance over time. One of the most interesting aspects of Frieze Masters is the opportunity it affords for making discoveries or for revisiting artists and groups of artists who don’t typically receive a lot of exposure. Some of the most exciting booths are those in which the gallery has staged a sort of mini survey.


Courtesy Blum & Poe, Los Angeles / New York / Tokyo. Photo: Andrea Rossetti

Blum & Poe (booth C10) have done this exceptionally well with an installation of work which takes as its starting point the CoBrA group (Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam). It features artist who were involved with the movement, Asger Jorn, Karel Appel and Pierre Alechinsky, and also artists not directly affiliated, such as Jean Dubuffet and Alfonso Ossorio. Blum & Poe present “…a revisionist history of CoBrA as a layered and multi-tentacled avant-garde movement, spanning three decades and many…countries…”. Using the design aesthetic initially conceived by the architect Aldo van Eyck for the 1949 Cobra exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Blum and Poe’s installation leads the visitor cleverly into the heart of the movement, where even the backs of these sometimes intentionally ugly paintings can be seen.


Courtesy Blum & Poe, Los Angeles / New York / Tokyo. Photo: Andrea Rossetti


Courtesy Blum & Poe, Los Angeles / New York / Tokyo. Photo: Andrea Rossetti

Luxembourg & dayan (booth D7) mark the 20th anniversary of the exhibition L’Informe: mode d’emploi curated by Yve-Alain Bois and Rosalind E. Krauss at the Centre Georges Pompidou in 1996. Bois and Krauss’ exhibition took Georges Bataille’s concept of l’Informe as a point of reference with which to explore what they termed ‘base materialism’. They saw modern art as following a discernible impulse towards formlessness. The works they assembled to articulate this concept were typically difficult to pin down; their apparent lack of form being muddier, more earthen, and of a quite different variety to that of the luscious colorations of either a Pollock or a Rothko. The book which accompanied the exhibition is dense and as opaque as the work it discusses. Re-presented here in a beautifully laid out selection, we get a sense of the weight behind this project. It was difficult to walk away, as each work seemed ready to disclose something if only we could look at it for a little longer.

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Installation view of ‘Formless Re-Examined’, Luxembourg & Dayan, Stand D7 Frieze Masters 2016. Image courtesy of Luxembourg & Dayan.

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Installation view of ‘Formless Re-Examined’, Luxembourg & Dayan, Stand D7 Frieze Masters 2016. Image courtesy of Luxembourg & Dayan.

Georges Bataille was also central to the introduction of African statuary into the lexicon of 20th century visual art. In his seminal publication Documents Bataille sought to identify, and often create, links  between diverse sources. His open-ended approach has arguably left one of the most significant legacies in modern art, and informs much of what artists create today. The influence of African masks and statuary on artists such as Picasso is well documented, and it is no surprise to see examples peppered around the Frieze Masters tent. Some fine examples can be seen at Galerie Bernard Dulon’s impressively laid out booth C14.


Senoufo figure 19th century, image courtesy of Galerie Bernard Dulon, photo by Vincent Girier Dufournier. 

Time is an issue at Frieze Masters because there is never enough of it to allow for a full appreciation of individual works. Two scene-stealing paintings worth mentioning, and alone justifying the visit, are at Kukje Gallery’s booth at F18. Park Seo-Bo and Lee Ufan show us how it’s done. Their work is simultaneously fast and slow. The paint marks on these canvases echo with the immediacy of their production. And yet it is impossible to experience them without trying over and over to imagine the moment they appeared from under the brush. It is like trying to remember a passage of music after leaving a concert.


Park Seo-Bo (Korean, b.1931), Ecriture(描法) No.47-78, 1978, Pencil and Oil on Hemp cloth, 91 x 71.5 cm. Image courtesy of Kukje Gallery.
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Lee Ufan (b.1936), With Winds, 1987, Oil on canvas, 100 x 80 cm. Image courtesy of Kukje Gallery.

I will discuss more from Frieze Masters in tomorrow’s feature, plus more highlights from Frieze Art Fair’s contemporary art tent.

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Author: Robbie O'Halloran

Artist and writer working in Madrid

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