Economic doom and gloom may be swirling overhead, but during the Frieze Art Fair wealth, glamour and decadence still reign supreme. At the VIP opening, fat-walleted, fashioned-up collectors queued in droves to get in and scope out the 173 galleries and their artworks, which, as always, ranged from incredible to inscrutable, to downright annoying.
See more of our highlights from the Frieze Art Fair 2011
What to make of the swirling umbrellas placed on upside-down zebra print wallpaper designed ’in homage to famous new York restaurant Gino’ by Alex Zachary? How to respond to Andra Ursuta’s ’bog body’- a life-size sculpture of herself dragged from a marsh and covered in splodges of silicone to represent semen? A little goes a long way at Frieze; its size guarantees sensory overload, but straightforwardly beautiful pieces such as Doh Ho Su’s fabric sculptures of doorknobs, pipes and lightswitches, or Carsten Nicolai’s tableaux at Galerie Eigen+Art provide anchors in the storm.
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yacht could be bought either as a boat or an artwork, depending on how much you were willing to pay for it, and had men clustering to take their picture next to it. Though it was meant as a symbol ’to open wide the structures behind selling art’ in the words of the artist, it felt more Ideal Home Show than art show. Less oblique was Michael Landy’s Credit Card Destroying Machine, first shown, remarkably, in the Louis Vuitton store in Bond Street last year. You put in your card and receive a signed drawing.
Now in its ninth year, the fair is as buoyant as ever, if a little more conservative than in previous years, and 2012 will see a sister event in New York and an additional Frieze Masters fair in London, dealing in artworks made before 2000. At the Frame part of the show, in which 24 young galleries exhibit one artist, curators whispered that South American artists especially those from Brazil and Argentina, are the ones to watch.
The ripple effect created by Frieze means galleries across town pull out all the stops to woo collectors, and a host of excellent shows, among them Ahmed Alsoudani at Haunch of Venison, run long after the tent has gone. Opportunists too, pitch in; on the south side of the Regents Park, a strip of John Nash terraces have been converted into millionaires pads with price tags of up to £45m. During Frieze, one mansion is turned into a temporary gallery of works from private collections for a show called The House of the Nobleman. Around 700 guests sashayed across the park to the opening party - and this time it wasn’t art they were after.