Frieze Favourites

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New discoveries amongst old friends and Old Masters

Frieze Masters is an uncanny experience, familiar and unfamiliar at once. There’s a sense of security in the inevitable flashes of recognition – hey, that’s a Bridget Riley! – and defeated expectation when you forget quite where you are; a few times I wondered, whose is that sketch? If the answer wasn’t Man Ray, it was Picasso.

There’s a sense of security in the inevitable flashes of recognition – hey, that’s a Bridget Riley! – and defeated expectation when you forget quite where you are; a few times I wondered, whose is that sketch? If the answer wasn’t Man Ray, it was Picasso.

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Picasso sketch

It’s a hall of fame, separated into booths, wherein plenty of gems sidle into the canon. Monoliths of art history are displayed alongside far more niche offerings and this lends an interesting levelling to proceedings. The prestige of a gallery’s name holds relatively little sway here; offerings from across the fair range from the ancient era to Old Masters and extend into the late 20th century. Our enthusiasm for novelty, commonly at the heart of London’s art scene, is displaced, and each piece is examined based on its own merit and context. Below are our favourites from amongst the melee.

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Ed Ruscha at Gagosian

I was relieved to be able to concentrate on a single artist’s work in Gagosian’s booth in the midst of the madness of the fair as a whole; the exhibition felt carefully curated, knowingly hung, and as quietly assertive as the exhibition itself.

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Ed Ruscha at Gagosian

Well, they just occur to me; sometimes people say them and I write them down and then I paint them. Sometimes I use a dictionary.

Ed Ruscha

Ruscha graduated from Chouinard Art Institute (LA) in 1960, and the attitude of both the era and location in which he began his career runs clearly throughout his oeuvre. His mediums span painting, printmaking, drawing, photography and film, and he was a contemporary of Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. Work from all three artists was included in the groundbreaking ‘New Painting of Common Objects’, 1962, historically considered one the first ‘Pop-art’ exhibitions in America. His interest in language and typography make words a primary subject of his works on paper; on his inspiration for these pieces, he says: “Well, they just occur to me; sometimes people say them and I write them down and then I paint them. Sometimes I use a dictionary.”

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Dóra Maurer at Vintage Galéria

Having recently covered Dóra Maurer at White Cube I was delighted to see her work at Frieze Masters, represented by Vintage Galéria from Budapest. Then, as now, I’m particularly touched by her frottage works on paper; they seem to me the most elegant means of evoking three dimensions in two, and tracking the traces of human intervention on a surface both for its own sake and as a means of thinking about Art at all.

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Terry Fox at Anglim Gilbert Gallery

Anglim Gilbert Gallery showed a selection of work from American artist Terry Fox’s fifty-year career. After settling in San Francisco in the 1960s, Fox made his mark by innovating in both conceptual and performance art. His films, sculptural installations and drawings remained relatively unknown during his lifetime but now feature in major public collections like NY MoMA and the Whitney. In the context of an art fair, where sales necessarily take centre stage, concept can be dismissed in favour of prestige and materiality. Fox, though, cut through the white noise and felt like a real discovery.