Mission: Decode London & Paris via Contemporary Art Fairs

Premise: Contemporary art matters because it helps us navigate the changing world.

Target: Frieze Art Fair in London & associated satellite art fairs. FIAC in Paris & associated satellite art fairs.

Part 1

The global art market is valued at $60 billion per year. At any given time, there are crates and crates of art, one of a kind, editioned, occasionally perishable, moving from Basel to Shanghai, Cologne to Dubai, Melbourne to Sao Paulo, Miami to Hong Kong, New York to Beijing. Stop seeing it in your mind as crates and crates of money moving from one end of the world to the other. Instead think of it as crates of puzzle pieces to our hyperactive 21st century psyche.

The mission begins last week in London at Frieze Art Fair.

Gavin Brown Booth, Frieze London 2013, Photo - Charlie Grosso


Under the white tent in Regent’s Park, New York gallery Gavin Brown welcomes you with a brilliant sense of humor: Alex Katz’s black and white nocturnal night scene against the bright orange traffic cones by Rob Pruitt. Little did I know then my first view of would be the most standout some 150 galleries later. Gagosian filled his booth to the brim with all things Jeff Koons. The appearance by Koons himself caused the strangest hububb. The traffic stopped. There is something going on. Except no one is pointing and staring as one typically would with celebrity present. No, no, no, the art world is much too cool for that. Instead Koons and whomever he is talking to is treated to the same kind of detached observation-judgement-Idon’tknowifIreallyunderstandthiswork attitude. Everyone gathered, but no one dared to squealed in excitement, fearing expulsion from the club house.

"Bar at Wilkinson Gallery II" by Marcin Waciejowski  - Photo Charlie Grosso

“Bar at Wilkinson Gallery II” by Marcin Waciejowski took me by surprise when I turned a corner. I was overtaken by how simply beautiful it is. It made me smile. There is not an ounce of irony or cleverness. You felt like you walked into the middle of a chapter in a great existential story, the nuance of the sentence is just perfect. A sentence you would hold in your mind and repeat it through the rest of the day. This is the painting for me.

There was much posturing and pretension all around at Frieze, much like all major art fairs. It is to be expected but after 3-years as a dealer-curator, I can’t say I’d ever really understood the psychology. Much of the work goes out of its way to be as unspecific as possible. If art serves as our interpretation of the world, could the lack of specificity be a reflection of our general ambivalence? Our lack of commitment? A loud declarative sentence was hard to find here at Frieze. Though I am not much fan of Koon’s work, I’m starting to see why he is popular. He is not afraid of being either loud or declarative. Bravo to that!

The Freize Focus section had the greatest sense of energy and newness. Except I was too oversaturated to really take it all and digest it by the time I made it there.

I left Frieze in the same state one leaves a drunken one nightstand. Slightly dissatisfied, much overwhelmed, secretly wondering if staying in and getting a good night sleep would have been better. Sure, there were moments of sweetness and excitement, Gavin Brown’s booth, Waciejowski’s painting, but is showing up to work in yesterday’s clothes and un-brushed teeth really worth it?

Coming up….Thursday, Part 2 – New Sensations, Monikar Art Fair, The Other Art Fair and Tate Modern.

Special Thanks to GoWithOh for the lovely apartment & Telecom Square for the wifi coverage for all the tweets, Facebook posts and more.