Rant 25: Friezing cold

Rant 25: Friezing cold Kathy Dalwood, Swag-Drape Frieze, 2007. Concrete, plaster or Jesmonite. each tile:30cm sq or to commission. Credit: Kathy Dalwood

Now that the annual flurry of the London Art Fairs is over Charlie takes stock of her visit to Frieze and Zoo. She asks if the economical climate resulted in the galleries at Frieze playing safe with the same old names and works, and if the addition of the 'Frame' section at Frieze left Zoo short on quality.

We all know of the Frieze and Zoo art fairs as two of the key events in the UK art calendar. Every year I make the trip down from the Midlands to enjoy the delights of the international art market and achieve my dream of one day being able to scoop up a bargain, unfortunately year on year I am incrementally more disappointed. 

This year, in particular, the art fairs faced financial insecurity both with funding for the events as well as uncertainty about levels of support from buyers and galleries. However, it all seemed to be business as usual, audience figures appeared strong; the events bustled with both art and people watchers and, as Miranda Sawyer put it, ‘the handbags were equally arresting’. But was this at the detriment of real engagement with the current contemporary art world and the cutting edge?

I felt Frieze had jumped on Zoo’s ‘cool’ bandwagon by opening ‘Frame’ a section of space dedicated to galleries younger than six years old, showing individual artists, which possibly left Zoo a little desperate in their search for quality. However, Frieze did not surprise me. It was exactly what I was expecting, which was a shame. The artists were over familiar and there was an excessive of use of ‘on-trend’ retro film projectors. In the words of Jonathan Jones ‘why is there so little art at Frieze which is truly outstanding?’.

The biggest disappointment, though, was the absence of exciting young art at Zoo. I saw nothing new, nothing that gripped me and made my heart stop.

At the end of it I left the art fairs satisfied that I had seen a great deal of ‘good’ art and had another opportunity to see some personal favourites again; like Walead Beshty at Frieze and Moot at Zoo. But I also left feeling underwhelmed and, yet again, empty handed. 

Contributed by Charlie Levine

Charlie Levine is a curator and writer living and working predominantly in Birmingham.


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