Top Pieces of Frieze London '22
The art world is descending on Regent's Park in London this weekend, with the concurrent Frieze London and Frieze Masters fairs showcasing the best of what the market has to offer. I've picked out my favourite works from the 160+ gallery stands, so you can plan your visit accordingly, or experience the fair vicariously.
1. Emma Talbot, 21st Century Herbal (2022) at Frieze London - Entrance
Spanning the length of the Frieze London entrance corridor, British artist Emma Talbot's monumental silk installation revisits medieval illustrated manuscripts that describe the healing properties of plants, as a starting point to create a 28-meter-long painted silk hanging garden. This combination of history, mythology and spiritualism is all-encompassing, an extension of Talbot's work which won the MaxMara art prize in 2020. Her monumental paintings, drawings, animations, and sculptures straddle the line between fantasy and reality, weaving together mythologies and historical narratives. For this work at Frieze, Talbot has created a ceiling of silk sheets, printed in pastel colours and illustrated with imagery from cross-sections of seeds to descriptions of plant-based hallucinogenics and poisons used for witches flying ointments and spells. It acts as the portal to another world, a step both back in time and into the present, i.e. the showcase of the best and brightest contemporary artists, and the Masters exhibition of some of the most treasured artists throughout history. Talbot's work is the perfect entry point to this vast pantheon of art.
2. Celeste Rapone, Ripe (2022) at Marianne Boesky Gallery, Frieze London
Initially presenting as an ornamental work that draws on the formalist elements of Japanese woodcuts (a cropped composition, the singular colour palette and floral arrangements), this work reveals more and more the closer you look. From the fallen marble bust at the bottom of the picture, to the Michael's Rewards tag hanging off the purple carabiner keychain, the Esprit logo on the bag and the folded hands sketched in dark pencil, the image is full of clues that confound and resist a straightforward interpretation. Aside from the painting's content, it is overwhelming an exercise in colour and composition, as is typical of Rapone's works on canvas. She blurs the lines between figuration and abstraction, giving just the outline of a narrative which the viewer is then invited to flesh out for themselves.
3. Cornelia Parker, Endless Coffee (2022) at Frith Street Gallery, Frieze London
These works recall those by Parker which have been on view in her retrospective Tate Britain - items which might otherwise be seen as everyday, unremarkable, utilitarian, transformed into unrecognisable forms through the art of destruction. For this work at Frieze London '22, Parker crushed a series of ornate, and perhaps not so everyday silver coffee pots with a 250 tonne press, and has suspended them just above the ground in a single row. Parker's work with found objects highlight our culture of consumerism, perhaps drawing attention to the way that these beautifully crafted pots, once highly prized and valuable, have fallen out of fashion in favour of more simplistic, minimalist objects. Or perhaps it's a sly wink at contemporary culture's obsession with coffee, our ability to endlessly consume the drug that seems to keep us all going.
4. Tara Donovan, QWERTY (2022) at Pace Gallery, Frieze London
In what to me appears to be a world-first at the Frieze London art fair, Pace Gallery will showcase a series of NFTs by artist Tara Donovan, alongside their traditional offering. The project is the result of a collaboration between Pace Verso, the gallery's Web3 offering, and Art Blocks, a leading platform for generative art. Donovan has previously worked across sculpture, installation, drawing, and printmaking, exploring the talismanic qualities of everyday materials and objects. For QWERTY, the artist has used a complex arrangement of algorithms to produce generative works that use single letters and characters as the building blocks for art. The some 500 NFT works are an extension of Donovan's works in 2D, and obfuscate the distinctions between language, art, and technology. For me, this is a watershed moment to have NFTs on view at a booth like Pace gallery, in the environment of Frieze London, and it's indicative of a gradual but definitive shift in the art world towards digital and crypto-art.
5. Niki de St Phalle, Remember (1970) at Gallerie Mitterand, Frieze Masters
This tender, colourful silkscreen work might not immediately stand out next to Niki de Saint Phalle's more famous sculptural works that fill the booth at Frieze Masters, but it's this unassuming quality that draws me closer to it. It's also the heartbreakingly brief yet incisive text captions next to the picture book images, like "remember when we thought our love would last forever?" It's a rumination on memory, loss and the grieving we do for the past each and every day. Part of her Nanas series (meaning 'girls' in colloquial French), the work captures the artist's unapologetic celebration of femininity, performance, and collaboration as crucial ways to reject notions of the 'lone male genius' that were prevalent in the post-war art world.
6. SixnFive, 06:05am (2022) at Phillips Berkeley Square
Although this is technically a satellite event to the Frieze London Fair that runs until 23 October, I couldn't leave this work by digital artist SixnFive off my list. It is part of a group show at Phillips Berkeley Show called 'Once Upon a Time in Mayfair,' curated by art advisory and curatorial platform Dynamisk. The work, which is the artist's first-ever physical sculpture, is metaphorically and figuratively a reflection of the artist's transition from an artist making work in his spare time, after he clocked off from his day-job at 6:05pm. This was when, as he describes, his work and life really began. Now, the artist reflects on being able to make art for a living, with his day starting 12 hours earlier at 6:05am. The form itself is reminiscent of natural time-keeping elements - the sun or moon, or some other planet or natural element that guided the rhythm of life prior to clocks and digital watches. The artist writes, "think of this piece as a quiet place among the dunes overlooking the horizon as the sun, our time machine, rises again for another day."