‘Contemporary art is struggling to address real events in the art world right now,’ claimed Gregor Muir, executive director of the ICA, two weeks before Frieze opened. As co-curator of the fair’s talks programme, he chose the theme ‘Borderlands’ in a bid to galvanise this year’s speakers into exploring mental, physical and political boundaries.
Witnessing oversized mens’ trousers, pink plastic, Barbie-style detritus and sculptures made of scaffolding tubes, Muir’s words resonate. There are always lots of gimmicks at Frieze, but there’s good stuff too and Universal Design Studio – the fair’s architects – and the galleries, have gone to great lengths to make this year’s fair navigable and exciting. At the Modern Institute, recycled corrugated panels from Glasgow’s Tramshed are used by artist Martin Boyce as effective backdrops, while Hauser & Wirth tapped into the vogue for recreating the artist’s studio with a chaotic, fictional space filled with works by 46 practitioners.
Installation view of Hauser & Wirth's ‘L’atelier d’artistes’ stand at Frieze. Courtesy of the artists, estates and Hauser & Wirth. Photography: Ken Adlard
Applied arts headlined at Gagosian in the form of black and white ceramics by Edmund De Waal and at the Viennese Galerie Meyer Kainer artist Lucy McKenzie created furniture wrapped in oil canvases inspired by Ettore Sottsass and Memphis, and Adolf Loos. At Mother’s Tankstation, this year’s Frieze Artist Award winner, Yuri Pattison, evoked 1970s California with an installation that explores the workspace and communal campuses.
For the first time, Frieze looks back this year, to the 1990s. Fourteen galleries revisit seminal shows from what was an impactful decade. Galerie Buchholz has recreated the bookshop in Cologne where Wolfgang Tillmans first showed photographs pinned to the walls, while Thomas Dane’s focus is on Michael Landy’s exhibitions in warehouse spaces
Berlin galleries Esther Schipper and Johnen Galerie's booth hosted works by Ryan Gander, Liam Gillick and AA Bronson. Photography: Andrea Rossetti
German gallery Rüdiger Schöttle also looks back, to 1926 and the International Institute on Intellectual Cooperation, an advisory body that acted to unite a fragmented Europe (and of which Albert Einstein and Marie Curie were members). Visitors are encouraged to take a seat at a concrete table and discuss the pressing issues of the day. The first session was full – Muir might just be proved wrong.