Frieze Art Fair


FRIEZE Art Fair & FRAME: london, october 2009


The seventh edition of Frieze Art Fair closed yesterday, after exhibiting 165 contemporary art galleries, representing 30 countries and presenting new work by over 1000 artists. Frieze is still one of the most important contemporary art fairs worldwide, and an undeniably influential showcase for contemporary artists and galleries. The fair may have been calmer, slightly more pared down than the last few years, but leading names from America and Europe returned to exhibit and there was a strong contingent of galleries from across Asia and Eastern Europe, many of whom were new to Frieze. In addition to the main body of exhibitors, the fair reprised the annual programme of original artists’ commissions, Frieze Projects and introduced Frame, an invigorating new section dedicated to solo artist presentations by 29 galleries under six years old.

Frieze Projects

Frieze Projects presents art that is drawn from the specific circumstances of Frieze Art Fair, and is intended to create works that could not exist elsewhere. This year’s programme of seven projects “create aesthetic opportunity out of the uncertainty that has become the hallmark of our troubled times”. Monika Sosnowska’s Untitled was removed by the artist before it opened, but had intended to draw attention to the edifice of the fair.

The remaining works dealt directly with the particular context of Frieze, and several focused on turning visitors into participants. For the piece Players, Kim Coleman and Jenny Hogarth placed CCTV cameras around the fair and projected the footage, transforming the entire space of Frieze into “a site of visual production and consumption where visitors, gallerists, collectors and staff are all central, both as performer and audience.” Jordan Wolfson’s Your Napoleon, winner of the Cartier Award 2009 was a complex piece addressing how “appropriating a scientific theory as a piece of popular culture is inherently difficult”. Viewers were asked to participate in one of two ways: either by joining a recorded discussion with a theoretical physicist, or as an audience while the previously recorded dialogue was played out by two actors, directed by the artist himself. Ryan Gander’s We are Constant offered visitors the opportunity to be photographed looking at their favourite work in the fair. One copy of the portrait was given to the subject, and the other hung on the wall at the entrance to the fair, thereby allowing the visitor to become “a collector, a subject and a participant”.

Other works addressed questions of value and authenticity. Stephanie Syjuco’s Copystand: an Autonomous Manufacturing Zone featured small-scale reproductions of works in the main Frieze exhibition, and on the last day of the fair, numerous billboards dotted the stand, proclaiming “Everything must go!” “50% off!” Per Oskar Leu’s The Bachelor Machine staged a signing of Franz Kafka’s The Trial, using autopen technology. A number of copies of the book featuring the posthumous signature were on sale for the retail price of £12.00, posing questions about how validity and legitimacy are declared, and specifically how art attains true worth.


The 29 galleries featuring in Frame were tucked away in one corner of the Frieze tent. Curators Daniel Baumann and Sarah McCrory advised on the selection of galleries, and the resulting mix was lively and coherent. The chance to view one artist’s work at a time provided a rewarding change after the vastness and variety of the stands in the main area. Frame is a vibrant, creative branch of the main Frieze fair and it is clear that the exhibiting galleries share an alliance.

Such is the influence of Frieze that young galleries leapt at the opportunity to exhibit. Even those founded as little as a year ago have made the trip. Nancy Dantas from Lisbon-based Marz Galeria, which has been up and running for just one year explained that they had not intended to exhibit for two years. “It is very important to build a solid base first. We would only consider exhibiting within such an important framework as Frieze.”

Apart the opportunity to make significant sales, Frame was an occasion for these galleries to promote one artist in an extremely high-profile context. Several galleries chose to exhibit work by British artists, a trend also evident throughout the main section of Frieze. Others selected artists who either had recently exhibited in the UK or US, or had an upcoming exhibition.

In keeping with the international spirit of Frieze, exhibitors at Frame were drawn from many different countries. Co-directors Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover commented, “Applications to the new Frame section were so strong that we were able to almost double the anticipated size of the section which means that collectors, curators and general visitors alike will be able to enjoy not only a wealth of solo presentations from the UK and the US but also less well-known territories ranging from Australia to Lithuania. The art world is increasingly global and we are proud to have that represented at the 2009 fair.”

Frame is a stimulating addition to Frieze. It communicates the energy and excitement of contemporary art in a way that the main fair, for its scale and success, somehow cannot. Furthermore, it seems such a desirable and logical step that Frieze provides a platform for the next generation of galleries, who are accessible and fresh, and feel as yet undiscovered. We have good reason to hope it returns next year.

NB. This article first appeared on in October 2010 and is currently offline during archiving.