Speculative heat surrounding market ambiguity carries the mood as galleries play it safe in this year’s installation of Frieze

A conflicting take on the feverous return of Frieze week with all its trimmings and consequential boost in market morale… A spike in surrealism, dizzying rainbow rooms, and a maze of decorative wall works all came to form a rich tapestry for this years frenzied fair.

As frieze goers flocked through the booths it seemed there were a few takeaways worth unravelling. Whilst the market remains robust and the post covid relief has cooled off, there appeared a concerted effort by galleries to remain as universally palatable as possible.

(…quite literally palatable)

Market Manoeuvres

Jadé Fadojutimi

The fair and by extension the city’s endurance to maintain market momentum was made abundantly clear from the first day. Gagosian standing front and centre at the entrance proved fruitful following the immediate sale of every Jadé Fadojutimi work going for over 500k a piece.(…Although the US herding in with practically a 20% discount certainly gave a push both in the booths and even down the road in the auction house… cc Sothebys contemporary evening sale) Though there was patchy sales elsewhere as Christie’s suffered with some works going unsold which consequently pokes a minor hole in this seemingly impermeable market bubble…but we an all agree, a change in such weather was due at some point.

The youthful presence however was a promising sign of encouragement for emerging artists flaunting their wares amongst the more established house names. Even beyond the makeshift white walls, external galleries capitalised with some strong instalments. As we see from the adjacent art world merrily evolving in east London’s Hackney ends, the likes of Guts gallery, soft opening and many others offer a reprieve from the glitz and glamour of Regent’s street.

Installation view at Guts Gallery’s October show “The Artist is Present”. Above shows works from Elsa Rouy and Thérèse Mulgrew.

Guts Gallery truly never misses.



Arcadia Missa coming in hot as a contender for the best booth…

Nothing like a good bench

Psychedelic and straying from figuration by some distance

‘Toes to Toes’

A strong contribution to Project Native Informant’s booth from Joseph Yaeger, whose deeply seductive, painterly style somewhat echoes that of Issy Wood. Though rather than the searingly sardonic tone that bolsters her work, Yaeger instead formulates an investigation into the fetishisation of images in contemporary libidinal economies. His work is forcefully attuned to the vagaries of contemporary cultural memory, yet simultaneously suggests fantasy and even unhinged vulgarity. It is both alluring and unsettling. I love it.

“The images appear at first glance immediately recognisable and equally untraceable, an uncanny déjà vu.” PNI.

Spotted at Gypsum’s booth, we find a sleek leather bed, replete with a harness bisecting it, that comes courtesy of Berlin-based artist Mahmoud Khaled. Titled For Those Who Can Not Sleep. A punchy piece indeed, and a curatorial reprieve from the wall works elsewhere.

In the same vein we have another unfamiliar favourite…

This plush purple patek is so utterly gauchely grotesque, that naturally, I love it. Artist Bruno Zhou notes his curious canon of works roots from the boredom ‘of seeing images and subjects being stabilised in artistic production’ and, by that, he means ‘how categorical things have become in an era of supposed fluidity’.

For me Rachel Jones’ puzzle of colour never fails to itch a scratch, however I felt she could’ve had more air time, maybe some more booth real estate. cc Thaddaeus Ropac.

An old familiar at Timothy Taylor was the sea of Sahara Longe canvases, showing a real progression since her debut at 1-54 last year. Although I must say, her previous stint was more to my taste than this year.

Final remarks

As someone who delights in the delectable big sexy canvas, I felt there was an over indulgence in this years white walled labyrinth. Very few booths failed to avert from this concoction where the only variety was canvas scale and perhaps a mildly crude ceramic plopped between. Whilst I am bias to the output of certain cult classics, Issy Wood, Rachel Jones, Sahara Longe, even Emin comes to mind here, I felt there was some serious lacking in oomph or even obscenity.

Let’s just say, if the most provocative piece was Anthea Hamilton’s bulbous pumpkins laying betwixt, yet again, more paintings, we could rest easy knowing instagram provided enough coverage to save us all the trip (and ticket fare). 

Across the pond…

This year seems to have enforced some sort of cosmic shift by which the typically lesser hip neighbour Frieze Masters, has taken the thrown in the hot seat. Perhaps this year’s Frieze London dealers are so desperately on their best behaviour as to insure the surging market continues to have enough supply for its current demand. However, no such concern is required for the Masters markets where one, if they so desire, can purchase a meteorite and a Freud in one swift sitting. The risk for riches is truly revealing in this sense, as the splendour and rather stupendous display is actually much more appetising.

Alas..bring on Paris Plus.

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