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London Frieze Master's

This year’s edition of Frieze was definitely worth the trip thanks to the inauguration of Frieze Master’s, which offered a new (albeit old) twist on the typical contemporary art fair experience. Even Frieze, undoubtedly one of the finest art fairs in the world, can be a tad tiresome, culling from the same pool of blue chip galleries, top tier artists and fashionable curators every year. Whether you are in London, New York, Miami or Hong Kong, these tastemakers de rigeur are ever present, and with all this predictability you find yourself longing to see something completely and utterly different. So this October, upon arriving at Frieze Master’s, across the park on Glouscester Green, instead of being greeted by the usual gargantuan Gagosian booth, I was pleasantly surprised with a refresher course in Art History 101. The fair offered a unique contemporary perspective on historical art with over 90 galleries showcasing work made before the year 2000, ranging from the ancient era and old masters to the late 20th century.

While one could still find William Eggleston, Cecily Brown or Robert Gober, what seemed to delight viewers was the unlikely juxtaposition of these late 20th Century Master’s with Ancient Egyptian art, Medieval gargoyles, 1st and 2nd Century Roman marble torsos, Megalithic axeheads and delicate 15th Century carved wooden angels from Sienna. Between the usual mix of Calder, Picasso and ubiquitous Warhol and Basquait works, one could find an exquisite marble Carpeaux of Daphnis and Chloe, and even a Théodore Géricault canvas for less than the price of a Hirst. I found it amusing to pick up invitation cards from Geneva’s De Jonckheere Gallery, featuring a miniature painting by Peter Brueghel the Younger, and a portrait by 16th century Dutch painter Corneille De Lyon - it was like getting an invitation to the Louvre. It was no surprise then, when I to ran into Richard Feigen himself, holding court at his own booth, in a black lacquer Louis XIV chair. As a long-time collector of old master’s, with his own contemporary art gallery in Chelsea, and the much more established Richard L. Feigen and Co. uptown, he seemed the perfect embodiment of the concept of Frieze Master’s, successfully straddling both the ancient and modern.

According to fair director Victoria Siddall, “The worlds of contemporary and historic art – often institutionally sealed off from each other both in the academic and the commercial worlds – are opening up towards one another. Non-contemporary art is what artists have been buying for years. Jeff Koons has been buying up old work, Corot and the like, for a fraction of the price of what his own work sells for. Frieze is picking up on what its own artists have been doing for a long time. They are brilliant at finding the right current, and picking up on what works commercially. We are being offered a new way of looking at art. It's something of course that artists have always done – to look at their own work in relation to that of the past – but the rest of us are catching up."

This is a trend I welcome. When I think back to all of the private collections I have worked on or the ones I have had the privilege of seeing as a guest, my favorite standouts are those that couple the old with the new. One that still remains in my memory is a private collection in East Hampton that featured a pair of Chinese Ming dynasty stone horses, an organic Henry Moore bronze, and monumental Baselitz and Basquiat canvases, all housed in an airy wood and glass beachfront home replete with Prouvè. As a consultant I always encourage this approach. Diversify. Especially with the skyrocketing prices of Contemporary Art, now is the time to look back and invest in something besides just Post War and Contemporary.

Cécile B. Evans Performance

With the “old” still fresh in my mind, I moved on to Frieze proper, on the other end of the park, only to be greeted by one of my favorite British art historians, Simon Schama. I wondered…was the art history lesson to be continued here? The eloquent art historian, critic, and writer, and host of those wonderful BBC specials, starred as the host in an artwork titled “This is your audio guide” by 29 year old Belgian artist Cécile B Evans, who won this year’s EMDASH Award. The guide is an alternative audio tour that does not provide names, dates or any other contextualizing historical information. Instead, it offered the commentary of people from outside the art world, responding to works of art in an entirely personal way. With tiny holographic projections of Simon Schama posted in locations throughout the fair (a la R2-D2), the audio tour featured such diverse figures as Astronomer Yan Wong, former model, novelist, and television chef Sophie Dahl, and just for a dose of sarcasm - RT’s outspoken Max Keiser. Evans approached around 120 people to take part and said "I've never been rejected so many times. Even luminaries such as Malcolm Gladwell and Adam Curtis demurred because they didn't feel qualified.” It’s a shame that Adam Curtis demurred, as I am positive he would have some extremely interesting perspectives on this year’s work at the fair, especially Grizdale Arts “Colosseum of the Consumed,” the most engaging project I have seen at an art fair in a long time.

Angry Farmers Milk Bar, Fernando García-Dory, 2012

The “Colosseum of the Consumed,” a bespoke wooden structure, was built for Frieze Projects as a theater, market place, dining hall and project space. Centered around the themes of art and food, it was conceptualized with the purpose of “translating artworks into useful action.” According to their leaflet, Grizdale Arts is “an arts organization based on a farm in the middle of nowhere. Or if you look at it another way, the most culturally complex 885 square miles in the British countryside: The English Lake District, home to the romantic movement, self righteous art, and avant garde refugees…” My interest was immediately peaked by this, since I recently relocated to a farm in the middle of Andalucía myself, where we are surrounded by shepherds and like to refer to our house as “Walden II.” The Colosseum structure conceived of by the Yangjiang Group, was meant to “reset the most basic building blocks of society, that is eating, the basest and most essential of all of our behaviors and the great leveler.” This socially engaged project reflected an interest in the politics of food production and sustainability, as well as the passing along of tacit knowledge about farming and food cultivation. I bought a potato from SPUD, which came in a brown paper shopping bag and included a history of the potato, its “diaspora papa,” and instructions on how to plant it and cultivate my own potatoes. There was a fruit and veg stand, tea and cake stall, shelves chock full of fortifying “Ruskin Soup,” and Peter Liversidge even opened a “Sloe Gin Bar.”

My favorite project however, was Fernando García-Dory’s “Angry Farmers Milk Bar” where pints of milk could be purchased at whatever price the customer was willing to pay, as an action highlighting the major crisis the dairy industry in Wales has suffered caused by imposed price cuts. Dairy farmers are now paid less for their milk than it costs them to produce it because supermarkets and retailers force down prices. The result has been that there are now 40% less dairy farmers in Wales than there were in 2002. Dory’s concept store may be read as an alternative way to build up an alliance between the liberal creative class (Frieze audience and participants) and the farming class, or as he states, “a Neo-narodnist impulse bringing together intelligentsia and peasantry as a historical social subject for major change.” This brilliant, prescient and influential project has highlighted Dory as one of the most important contemporary artists working in Spain today and I look forward to following his work in the future, (and hopefully joining one of his mobile cheese production units!)




Terénce Pique, Maldicion y Prosperidad

Before flying into London for Frieze I spent three days between the 4th and the 7th of October, visiting over 30 artists studios for Open Studio Madrid. While I have attended many galleries, museums and of course ARCO every year, I have never really had the chance to get to know the artist scene in Madrid before, so this was the perfect opportunity. Spread out across all barrios in Madrid, I “schlepped” my way from the glitzy neighborhoods of Salamanca and Retiro to the historic and quaint Zona Sol-Palacio and Justicia-Universidad, with its narrow, winding streets, and much less enticing neighborhoods filled with low rent artists studios and light-filled, lofty warehouses. Of note was RAMPA, an independent production space for artists, located in the suburb of Carabanchel. This residency for development and cultural exchange featured the work of several artists, some Spanish and some foreign, including Terénce Pique, a young French artist from Monaco, who presented a photographic archive that reflected upon the concept of “dwelling” through the effects of the Spanish real estate bubble with photographs, maps and a well designed leaflet that included grainy black and white photos of over-developed areas and now abandoned real estate projects around Spain. Also of interest at RAMPA were the drawings of Theo Firmo, a young artist from São Paulo, whose tactile works on paper focus on the narrative process, language, its contexts and possible relations.

Over by the vibrant neighborhood of Malasaña I attended a lively opening at the engaging Boa Mitsura space. Boa Mistura, which means "good mixture," in Portuguese, refers to the diversity of perspectives of each member of this collective of “graffiti rockers” whose slogan is “Cinco cabezas, diez manos, un solo corazón.” The collective is composed of an Architect, a Civil Engineer, an Advertising and Public Relations grad, and two Fine Artists. This young group does some of the slickest and most socially engaged street art I have seen and have developed projects in South Africa, Norway, Berlin, and Río de Janeiro. They recently collaborated with the architecture firm Ecosistema Urbano to intervene in the Spanish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale and have also taken part in exhibitions at the Museo Reina Sofía and Casa Encendida. Watch out Bansky these kids are off the hook.

Down the street, at another opening that evening, there was more street art to be found, in an old abandoned building called Estudio Noviciado. This was another graffiti collective, which consisted of Spok, Remed, 3ttman, Nano4814 and Luciano Suárez. While I am not normally a huge graffiti fan, I remained impressed with the projects I had just seen at Boa Mistura and wanted to see more. As it turned out, this group of artists at Estudio Noviciado had also done some impressive “interventions” of their own, and 3ttman, Remed and Nano4814 all proved to be just as adept “off the wall” as on. These artists have done major wall murals in Tokyo, New York, Berlin and Rio de Janiero, and each had some wonderful works on site as well. Given a private tour by their gallerist, the lovely and engaging Pilar Lleó, whose iam gallery is located over on San Blas, I got some great insight into the Madrileno art scene, “from the ground up” so to speak. In yet another re-purposed building, El Espacio Vacio, I was given a tour of a group show by the artists themselves, since the curator was not present. One standout here was the work of Carla Andrade, whose atmospheric landscape photographs are quite impressive for someone who has not even been formally trained. Born in 1983, in Vigo, Spain, she is currently a philosophy student at the University of Madrid, but has already done 2 artist residencies in Sweden and Iceland and produced some wonderful work there. SBFA has invited Carla to join our online roster and we will be showcasing her work next month in December’s issue.

Boa Mistura studio

Carla Andrade, Paisaxe Suspendida Negativo, 35 mm, 2011-2012

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