There are two words that can sum up 80% of what you will see at Frieze Art Fair in London this year. Abstract. Painting. It was everywhere. Like money hanging on a washing line. Some of it was OK, a lot of it was generic, but everything was chasing collectors in the most blatant way possible.
Thankfully not all the abstraction was bad – pieces worth checking included Jayson Musson’s Cosby inspired fabric abstract piece at Salon 94, Sterling Ruby’s spraycan painting at Hauser and Wirth, and in particular Matt Connors' incredible blue and red painting at Herald St. Nonetheless figurative was a dirty word and there were very few risks here. Gagosian went all out and just stuffed their booth with Jeff Koons.
There were some things that made a change from the monotonous swathes of painted canvas, digital scribbles and sleek product. Prem Sahib’s presentation in the Frame section with Southard Reid was brilliant. An unenterable white cube with the sound of a pumping club muffled within in. Andrea Longacre-White’s photographic explorations of our relationship with technology felt fresh and intelligent. Yet over the gallery choices in Frame felt a bit lacking, the solo presentations off key, the work a bit boring.
The best work of the fair is probably Cory Arcangel’s digital portrait of P Diddy at Team Gallery near the fair’s entrance. It shows Diddy about to board a private jet, with a rippling digital pool of water at his feet. It was ever continuing proof of Arcangel’s cultural resonance. Mark Leckey’s booth for Cabinet gallery was a miniature version of a solo exhibition – and a perfect extension of his The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things touring show – and not surprisingly won best booth at the fair. (Stuart Shave Modern Art’s forest of sculptures was tough competition). Alex Hubbard’s mini bar sculpture installations were worth a peek at Maccarone. Bernadette Corporation has an amusing fashion tech advert intervention. The big discovering a video at Long March Space of some kind of weird street clown dance battle – though I lost his name.
Overall the fair felt like just another fair. A supermarket where the status quo rules. The historical bombast of Frieze Masters and the edge of Sunday Art Fair on the horizon look like very refreshing alternatives (once the hangovers calm down).