All the fun of the fair
Linda Khatir and Michele Whiting are back from Frieze. Linda reports:
Well here I am, just nesting down again in deepest darkest Devon after a truly wonderful trip to London where the best experiences were the Jerwood drawing prize, the Saatchi gallery’s photography show, and of course the un-missable Frieze London, the international showcase for contemporary art.
The Jerwood Drawing prize is always a delight, the galleries small and comfortable and every year we find surprises (you can see the catalogue for this, and previous year’s shortlisted artists on the Jerwood Space website). Look out for news of an OCA study visit to the Jerwood Drawing prize when its on tour to Birmingham.
On the Thursday morning Michele and I arrived early at Frieze in Regent’s Park and queued in the rain for our pre-booked tickets, people spotting while wondering if we would ever reach the desk. Three quarters of an hour later we had been joined by OCA student Lucy, and tickets in hand, we sprinted the perimeter of the park in search of the cafe where (we hoped) the rest of our group would be waiting. With half an hour to go before our timed entry, students gradually arrived and after a quick cuppa, we explained how best to navigate the aisles, who and what to look out for, and where and when to meet up later. We also handed out a sheet of information and a task list. These included: 1. try to spot the prize-winner for the most innovative stand, and say why you think it is worthy of the prize, 2. select three pieces that might be appropriate for the Tate collection, and 3. Try to spot a repeated trend, thread or theme.
On arrival at the main hall the group dispersed, each of us drawn like a magnet towards a different stand. Half way through the afternoon we met up again and discussed questions raised by the work, for example: a set of images of Henry VIII and his wives where the hands seemed real but far too big for the bodies, and the faces stiff with dead and glassy eyes – perhaps waxworks borrowed from a museum juxtaposed with real human hands? We discussed whether the images were photos, drawings, paintings or all of those things.
After the fair some of us braved the rain and met up again in the cafe to discuss the proliferation of painting this year, also the revisiting of arte povera and nouveau realism (sculptural assemblages of found objects) and the lack of moving image, installation and porn. We wondered if this reflected the current financial crisis and the issue of art as investment; paintings and other ‘crafted’ objects perhaps a safer bet than highly conceptual or temporary approaches.
After a long but rich day we all went our separate ways and agreed to carry on our conversation via the OCA blog.
The next morning, before heading back on our long journeys home, Michele and I stopped off at the Saatchi gallery for the opening day of a major photography show featuring works by artists from around the world including the mesmerising ‘magic of Persia’ (film, photography and found objects) and Karl Lagerfeld’s ‘little black jacket’; with stunning black and white images of beautiful people wearing the ubiquitous Coco Chanel jacket (designed, believe it or not, in 1916).
The huge rooms that make up the Saatchi space allow photography to be viewed in a range of ways – as stills, moving images and installation, and the Yoko Ono space combined all of these in a simple and elegant manner. But by far the most impressive work of art was Saatchi’s only permanent installation – a quiet space occupied by Richard Wilson’s lake of black oil called 20:50. I had only ever seen this in photographs – in ‘Installation art, space as medium in contemporary art’ (de Oliveira, 1996) – but to visit the work ‘in the flesh’ is unforgettable; an immersive multi-sensual experience, almost impossible to measure in visual terms; the mirrored black surface seeming fathoms deep, or not there at all – like the night sky or the ocean depths. Catch it if you can ….
IMAGES. 1-3. Frieze London, and 4. Saatchi gallery (photos taken by Linda Khatir)