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Art Fairs & Collecting
Partial report from London: the Frieze weekend (2007)
by Cecilia Canziani

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Now that most of the gossip, information, and news about Frieze and Zoo and the other three fairs that took place in London on the 10th and 14th of last October have been debated, along with video segments accessed in The Guardian and Artforum’s website, what is left to tell?

It is, indeed, a bit odd to write on a fair some weeks after it ended. A fair, in fact, expires: it does not have the same temporal agency that a biennial or a triennial has. Fairs are about ‘now’, and this in part explains the corollary apparatus of celebrities –and champagne– that accompanies them, and the restyle that The Art Magazine –among others - undergoes during the event, a curious mutation from a serious press into the yellow journalism of the art scene.

Distance though can help us to focus on what remains, freed from the buzzing voices, the excitement of the moment, the fever of collecting, and alas, the physical and mental fatigue that are part of the art fair experience.


Having arrived this year at its fourth edition, the Frieze Art Fair is still one of the best fairs worldwide, thanks to a disciplined selection and the commitment of the participating galleries in offering grand stands and great shows.

One of the main aspects of this year’s edition consisted in the increased presence of galleries and artists from, what we can call, without any derogative intention, peripheral cities. It is an interesting factor that could potentially change the geopolitical art map. This goes hand in hand with a phenomenon that we have already noticed at sites like the Venice Biennial: why does the centre have less to say these days? The current system of production and distribution seems to favor small networks, flexible structures, and dis-location. Macro-structures, fairs as well as art capitals, will have to perhaps rethink themselves.

To a certain extent Frieze was showing some degree of innovation: the usual rich program of curatorial talks was accompanied by a series of what felt like curated shows within the stands.

Foksal Gallery Foundation from Warsaw presented a solo show by Pawel Althamer (the installations was acquired by the Tate), following a trend inaugurated by the Mexican gallery kurimanzutto – which this year devoted its stand to its co-owner Gabriel Kuri, punctuating the wide white space with discreet, poignant objects and interventions – and Tanya Bonakdar, who always engages in a courageous tour de force, organizing her stand with a series of solo shows over the space of four days.

GB Agency from Paris, Jan Mot from Brussels and Raster from Warsaw joined forces and created The Fair Gallery. The project, a collaboration based on exchange, fair play and content, is definitively a statement, and the exhibition, curated by AurŽlie Voltz for this first apparition of The Fair Gallery, responded by presenting a unified, coherent presentation of artist works selected from the three spaces in form of an ambience.

However the mise-en-scène prevailed over the objects, homogenizing a bit too much the different personalities contributing to the show. If at Fair Gallery a prevailing aesthetic was nevertheless rooted in the very artist’s practice, at Almine Rech’s the stand’s curator and invited artist Hedi Slimane, selected pieces by Trouvè, Reyle and other gallery artists following one simple idea: that they have to resemble his own style -sleek, black and lean.

Gavin Brown’s Enterprise invited Rob Pruitt to develop the stand, who put together a very radical and very entertaining show: he arranged an art-flea-market, including ephemera and (affordable!) art editions from a large number of the artist’s friends, the drawings of artist’s children, and enormous amount of sales assistants, ultimately providing a convincing critique of the art market itself.

Another strong feature of this Frieze Art Fair’s edition was that Latin America confirmed a reciprocity of interest with the London art market. New entry Casa Triangulo, presented the public with a lively, dynamic stand animated by works of Rubens Mano, Stephen Dean, Felipe Barbosa and Assume Vivid Astro Focus. Regulars like Galeria Luisa Strina –exhibited Carlos Garaicoa, Dora Longo Bahia, Renata Lucas, among others– and Galeria Fortes Vilaca, where works by Ernesto Neto caught most of the attention, before one would cast eye on a piece by Valeska Soares titled Love Stories, a continuous, minimalist-looking line of books brought together by the word ‘love’ in their titles.

Possibly the most interesting of the series of commissions, and among one of his best works here, is How I made a Flop Out of a Strike (or The Other Way Around) by L.A. based Mexican artist Mario Garc’a Torres. Winner of the Cartier Award 2007, Garcia Torres developed a performance in the form of a public lecture in the Frieze Auditorium. On the stage, an actor, impersonating film-maker Allen Smithee gave a lecture on his filmography, gradually unraveling the complex relationship between the public, the work, and the author, and thus shifting back and forth between fiction and reality, the stories and history. While playing with the element of time –a key issue in the artist’s work– the piece escapes the seducti of nostalgia, thus reinforcing its urgency and agency.

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