Frieze Week Day 1

Francesca Gavin checks out Sarah Lucas' penis sculptures, Henry Moore drawings and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's newscaster faces.

Sarah Lucas sculpture
I’m not quite sure I’m going to make it. This week London gives in to the world of art with hundreds of openings, parties, breakfast, meetings and fairs to coincide with the Frieze Art Fair. Last year I began to wonder if I had contracted an ulcer from a diet of coffee and cocktails. Survival this year is debatable. Things kicked off on Sunday in a low key way. RSA were launching their latest artist’s chess set – this time a portable patchwork number with rough clay pieces by Tracey Emin. Functional, beautiful and an interesting addition to her work. Part of the joy of this space is glimpsing the other pieces – rare Chapman improved paintings and skulls, Paul McCarthy’s giant chess set, rare Korda photos of Che Guevara. The afternoon tea party was like a YBA sandwich – with Gavin Turk, Noble and Webster and Tracey (as well as friends like Kate Moss, Jerry Hall and Jo Wood) eating cheese and biscuits in Hoxton’s sunshine.

On Monday the international art crowd began to ship in – the Whitecube and Victoria Miro spaces were heaving. I went to some quiet previews at Sadie Coles’ South Audley Street space. Sarah Lucas had made some plaster sculptures of bones and cocks on wood plinths. including an interesting swastika sculpture. Fell in love with the porous texture on one penis. In the mews behind the gallery a sculpture by Gabriel Kuri made me smile. He made an entire year’s receipts made into a kind of minimalist totem.

Went to the nearby Free Art Fair – the grimy more lo fi end of the art world. Artists including Jasper Joffe, Matthew Collings and Cathy Lomax had taken over six small shops in Marble Arch to show their wares – which will all be given away free to the keen fans who will queue up on Sunday. There was a lot of rubbish including a man ranting on a megaphone but there were some things worth seeing. The Adam Dant print of little ghost people was worth the journey – and getting a balloon from a man in a bunny costume emblazoned with What’s the Worth. After an interlude in an Iraqi restaurant, we ended up getting drunk til 4am with Jose Parla who opened his truly awesome one man show at Elms Lester Painting Rooms last week. Things disintegrated when I started accosting Sienna Miller at the piano of the Groucho – both of us attempting to drunkenly play Debussy. Life gets very stupid indeed during Frieze week.

Tuesday the full chaos began. After a chat with Jack Persekian, who is curating the Sharjah Biennal, I ran to the Henry Moore/Zaha Hadid show at Hauser and Wirth on Old Bond Street. The old school space was filled with Moore drawings, of his ideas of sculptures, that were truly amazing to look at. Hadid had created large polished silver tables to display Moore’s sculptures. As critic Gabriel Coxhead noted, they looked a bit like big sugared almonds. Went with artist Sam Griffin to see Toby Zeigler at Simon Lee – a slightly cooler crowd squeezed in amongst Zeigler giant cardboard sculptures and much looser paintings. Say hello Lou from New Young Pony Club and lovely artist Neil Rumming before heading up to Stephen Friedman gallery to see Catherine Opie’s photographs of glaciers. Beautiful but not jaw dropping stuff.

Sadly was unable to make it up to Paul Fryer’s installation in a Marylebone church in time, so we went to Haunch of Venison for a very busy opening for Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. The top floor was the best – two giant screens with hundreds of faces from newscasters in Mexico and the USA. The faces would be split between male/female, Mexico/United States, lighter/darker – an interesting comment on media manipulation. After the art hattrick, the only thing to do was give into the parties – Whitecube and Soho House’s glamorous number in their Dean Street building site was first (spend most of the time blabbing nonsense to Steve Lazarides) then got to the Lisson party filled with sake in a cavernous warehouse behind the University of Westminster and Haunch of Venison’s party at Bloomsbury Ballroom. As I stumble home bump into Keith Tyson who said he’s got his checkbook in hand for Frieze shopping. As I drift off remember that all the booze and glamour is really about selling art for cold hard cash.
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