Back To Top


Must See Works at Frieze London

By Martin Gayford

LONDON — I don’t know what the actual acreage of Frieze is, but — even with map in hand — it’s not hard to get disorientated. One finds oneself slipping into a time warp, wandering for hours and then suddenly stumbling on a whole quadrant that seems quite unfamiliar. It is not unlike the Venice Biennale, except with price lists — and a few crucial differences.

Notably, for instance, there is not much film and video, an exception being a nice installation by Amie Siegel at Simon Preston, featuring a swan; the swan is black, as the image is negative. On the other hand, there is a lot of (fairly) old-fashioned painting and sculpture, which suits me well and presumably is what the market wants.

It was in fact sculpture that often caught my eye. Lisson has a massive tree root cast in iron and sprayed with purple car paint by Ai Weiwei, who is also all over the Royal Academy at the moment. Gary Webb’s compellingly wacky combinations of this and that — as if Claes Oldenburg and Anthony Caro had formed an improbable collaboration in the ’60s — look good both outside in the Sculpture Park, where “Dream Bathroom,” 2014, is installed, and indoors in The Approach Gallery’s stall. Tom Friedman’s witty “Cocktail Party,” at Stephen Friedman, is a life-sized figurative group containing many figures eerily similar to the Frieze visitors who are looking at them.

The Korean Do-Ho Suh is another artist who scores with — if not sculpture as Rodin knew it — work in 3D. Examples of his semi-transparent full-sized replicas of rooms and fittings such as a washbasin in colored polyester gauze are on view at both Lehmann Maupin and Victoria Miro. I loved these, but wasn’t so sure about Rachel Rose’s one-scale model of the Frieze tent itself (a Frieze project). Inside this, one can relax to canned music and colored lights. The claustrophobic might feel more at ease outside.

On a smaller scale, Hauser & Wirth have put together 42 table-topped sized sculptures by just about everyone from Paul McCarthy and Martin Creed to Louise Bourgeois and Phyllida Barlow. This is a useful reminder that sculpturally-speaking, small can be just as beautiful as big. Among the masses of paintings on show, I was taken by a group by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye — currently a bit of a favorite of mine — at Corvi-Mora. And also by “Tracy,” a big figurative canvas by Michael Borremans at Zeno X. Both Yiadom-Boakye and Borremans contrive to give a contemporary twist to an idiom that goes back to Manet and Velazquez.

Glenn Brown, given a monographic display by Gagosian, is an artist I can never decide if I truly like or not. This time around it was his sculptures, paradoxically seeming to be formed out of masses of thickly towelled oil paint, that caught my attention.

Gestural, doodle-y abstraction in an idiom that brings to mind Cy Twombly is given a fresh recycling by the Spanish painter Secundino Hernández at Victoria Miro. A more mystic variety of abstract painting is offered by Shirazeh Houshiary’s “The Last Gasp,” 1992, at Lehmann Maupin, almost all-black monochrome with just the faintest breath of grey in the center.

Both at Frieze and Frieze Masters one can observe the resurrection of the late John Hoyland (whose work is also featured in the first exhibition at the new Damien Hirst Gallery). Pace brought out a big, strong early Hoyland abstract — in a style of loosely painted color patches — which does indeed make one think he was a more important figure than he was considered in his later lifetime.

Frieze London 2015 runs through October 17 at Regent’s Park.