Frieze London 2012

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart on one of the most avant-garde fairs in the world

London: The time of the year when all contemporary art lovers descend on London for one of the greatest international art fairs has just passed. Regent’s Park in the heart of the city just hosted the Frieze Art Fair & Frieze Masters 2012 for four days (11-14 October).

With its overwhelming size and number of participants, Frieze allows you to view some of the best art from all over the world and immerse yourself in a sea of colours, shapes and unspoken words.

The presence of South Asian art at the fair seemed to be more evident in this edition compared to previous years. Two Indian galleries, Chatterjee & Lal and Project 88, which was in the Frame section of the fair last year, confirmed their presence and many of well-known international galleries included works by Indian artists in their exhibits.

Nikhil Chopra, Yog Raj Chitrakar, Memory Drawing IV, 2010

Nikhil Chopra, Yog Raj Chitrakar, Memory Drawing IV, 2010
Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/4973/1083

Chatterjee & Lal focused its attention on performance art, with Nikhil Chopra and Hetain Patel, two artists who approach this form of expression in different ways. While Chopra mainly uses costumes, drawings and photography, Patel works with self-decoration, video and photography. The latter explores issues of identity using characters to which he contrasts and compares himself. Nikhil Chopra, on the other hand, expresses himself through live performances whose characters are quite auto-referential and discuss the issues of the modern world. Time is an essential element of his performances. The artist is fascinated by how things transform over time and how the repetition of events is almost ritualistic. However, once the performance is over we are left with pictures and drawings which document the act and have the task of bringing the emotions provoked by the performance back to life.

Hetain Patel, Mehndi 9, 2012

Hetain Patel, Mehndi 9, 2012
Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/4973/1058

Project 88 had on display a selection of works by Sarnath Banerjee from his project on the London Olympic Games, “Gallery of Losers”which ironically tackles the theme of winning/losing. For the first time in the history of the Olympics the attention is focused on the losers and the people who almost made it.

Sarnath Banerjee, High Jump (set of 16), 2012

Sarnath Banerjee, High Jump (set of 16), 2012
Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/4953/1381

In “Poise II” Neha Choksi engages with themes of detachment and disappearance using installation art. The piece comprises a mattress held up by vases containing faded flowers.

Neha Choksi, Poise II, 2010

Neha Choksi, Poise II, 2010
Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/4953/1377

The feelings of sadness provoked by this work are soon lightened by an installation by Raqs Media Collective called “Whenever the heart skips a beat”.

Raqs Media Collective, Whenever the Heart Skips a beat, 2011

Raqs Media Collective, Whenever the Heart Skips a beat, 2011
Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/4953/1379

The unusual clock moving forwards and backwards, skipping beats regularly, creates witty combinations of words. Also on display is Raqs Media Collective’s “The Philosophy of Namak Haram Revised”, a picture reflecting on all the things we should do but we cannot. One of these is the debt we have towards books which give us knowledge without being repaid. Thus, we all are ‘Namak Haraam’, innate debtors for the knowledge we constantly steal from books in our daily life. The other artists on display at Project 88 were Huma Mulji and the Otolith Group.

Raqs Media Collective, The Philosophy of Namak Haram Revised, 2012

Raqs Media Collective, The Philosophy of Namak Haram Revised, 2012
Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/4953/1378

Other Indian art works on display at Frieze were by Dayanita Singh at Frith Street Gallery, Shilpa Gupta at Yvon Lambert, Bharti Kher at Galerie Perrotin, and Anish Kapoor at Lisson Gallery. Corvi-Mora Gallery exhibited works by the Pakistani artists Imran Qureshi and Aisha Khalid.

Imran Qureshi, This leprous brightness, 2011

Imran Qureshi, This leprous brightness, 2011
Image Credit: Picture by the author.

This year, for the first time, Frieze opened the door to galleries displaying work by old masters as well, perhaps to attract visitors and illuminate some of the forms, techniques and concepts behind contemporary art. This newly opened section had on display different kinds of art up to the year 2000, leaving the exclusivity of the last 12 years to the main area of the fair. Frieze Masters enjoyed great success, rivalling TEFAF Maastricht, perhaps because of the merging of old masters, antiquities and some modern artists. In this section Indian art was on display at the booths of Sam Fogg and Francesca Galloway.

After this deep immersion in the art world, we will need a few days to process all of the images and the concepts behind the works. Frieze is definitely a unique yet overwhelming experience. Nevertheless, as always, I’m already looking forward to seeing what will be on display next year to please our eyes and stimulate our minds.

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