This year, Frieze London and Frieze Masters, two massive annual art and cultural events in the heart of Regent’s Park, took place from the 4th to the 7th of October. Whilst the Frieze Art Fair puts an emphasis on modern and contemporary art, Frieze Master dwells into the relationship between historical art and contemporary practice on an international scale. I, therefore, was able to wander amongst the works of some of the world’s most exciting famous and established artists and thinkers such as Pablo Picasso, Egon Schiele or Lucian Freud, and got to understand what drives more than 60 000 people from all over the world to visit the event annually.
For the 2018 event, the fair’s organizers had a strong desire to address the gender gap imbued in Art as a visual language. This was well emphasized in the coordination of the fair – all the artists who came to intervene and express their ideas were women. I attended Julie Mehretu’s talk; a contemporary and abstract painter whose recent exhibition at the White Cube was an acclaimed success. She acknowledged how art as commonly understood, is profoundly embedded in racism and misogyny and how, she herself, as a black female artist, almost has a necessary political duty to constantly reinvent the process of representing and abstracting. More than ever this year, the emphasis is on the connection between art and people of colour, and especially women, is particularly prevalent.
Looking at the works of so many distinctive and talented individuals was a good way for me to understand what Mehretu meant. In the unfinished sketches of Schiele or Hockney lied a profound sensibility and eagerness to adopt a different gaze at the human body. Parallely, exclusive works from Alex Von Jawlensky or Fernand Léger illustrated how one can reinvent its vision and perception through the use of colours and shapes. Art is a way to express what language cannot, and this very idea could be exemplified in all the different stands.
Frieze Masters was not as diverse in terms of genders as it was advertised to be, as most of the art pieces exposed were made by men. Therefore, can one diversity justify the lack of another one? However, the historical heterogeneity of the exhibition was strongly noticeable – reliques from 3000 BC were a few meters away from the new Grayson Perry creation. This distinctiveness, and how it allowed experiencing the evolution of the human perception of nature and beings across time particularly moved me.
Be it a political act or not, the fair was a wonderful way to reunite people who all share the same interest for art and visual expression, from the well-known curator to the normal visitor. The medley of the audience allowed comical moments, as a discussion between people negotiating the price of artworks in millions of pounds could be overheard. Famous internationally, this exhibit is a way to promote London as a vibrant cultural and artistic centre and, art as a way to express or denounce, an aesthetic pleasure, and a way to unite. What happened recently with the destruction of Banksy’s piece right after it was sold genuinely raised questions about the motivations inside the art market. Spending a day inside this world somehow reassured me and scared me in the same way – art is still of great importance but I cannot help but leave this place with an uncanny concern regarding its future, its evaluated worth and its spectatorship.
Further information on ‘Frieze’, both in London and Globally, can be found here: https://frieze.com/fairs/frieze-london