The art packed Frieze week began on Sunday when I arrived in London with a visit to the Royal Academy to view two distinct exhibitions, Ai Weiwei and Edmund de Waal.
Weiwei, one of China’s most important artists today and famous for his outspoken criticism of the government has created 8 individual trees, made from parts of dead trees brought down from the mountains of southern China and reworked in his studio. They were transported to the UK with kickstarter funds and are installed in the Annenberg Court. He has been working on “Trees” since 2009 and this is his largest installation to date. Recalling the opening of the “Sunflower Seeds” installation, filling Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern in 2010 with 100,000 ceramic seeds, the “Trees” reminded me of how his unique projects create both simple and complex, poetic and disturbing works.
Edmund de Waal’s “White”, a unique project in the RA Library and Print Room and explores the color white and “the impact that white objects have on their surroundings: an interweaving of words and books with sculpture, paintings and photographs.” A stunning project and well worth finding it in the Museum.
Gagosian’s newly opened (15th) gallery on Grosvenor Hill showing Cy Twombly paintings, sculpture and drawings designed by UK architects Caruso St. John creates an unparalleled viewing experience bathed in soft light and dark oak floors. I recalled attending the opening of Cy’s drawings exhibition in the Hermitage in 2003 in St. Petersburg and was thrilled to see several of them installed in the vitrines.
Anita and Poju Zabludowicz’s current commission of Canadian born Jon Rafman’s work in the former Methodist Church on Prince of Wales Road is one of the most compelling shows following his first major solo exhibition at Musee D’Art Contemporain de Montreal, whose opening I attended this past June. “He has transformed the spaces into a playful series of new installations that immerse visitors within his video and sculptural worlds”. The implication of technology on our lives fascinates the artist and his ideas about the infinite possibilities of the internet, resulted in several new works including “Sticky Drama” where he cast 35 children in his first fully live-action movie. It is a fantastical, violent and disturbing work and speaks to his continuing “investigation into the nature of memory and the horror of data loss”. His use of Oculus Rift technology in his “Manifold figure” installation along with his digitally manipulated sculptural busts “heightens an awareness of a collapse in the distinction between the real, the digital and of locations in time.” Wearing the Oculus Rift headgear and headphones to experience this work was a glimpse into an unfathomable future. Are we ready for this new virtual world?
Another young talented artist is Rachel Rose, a New Yorker, who was awarded the Frieze Artist Award whom I met in August at the Kent Ideas Festival. I was totally bowled over by her presentation. Her scale model of the Frieze pavilion at Regent’s Park at Focus presented another interpretation of reality. We crouched into the space via a tiny opening and sat on the floor. “Inside, lighting and sound design simulates the sonic and visual sense frequencies of animals inhabiting the Regent’s Park”. “I was thinking about Frieze as a place where we go to experience representation. But our perceptions are shaped by what we see and hear, like any animal. This is an attempt to experiment with that perception in a playful way”. Rachel Rose, NYT, October 13, 2015. I was intrigued by her videos “Palisades” and “A Minute Ago” which I viewed at the Serpentine gallery. Her upcoming exhibition “Everything and More” at the Whitney Musuem featuring “Palimpsest” promises to intrigue as well.
At the White Cube’s Bermondsey space, Jay Joplin was holding court for his guests. It was exciting to be whisked into the back room to view Damien Hirst’s new color chart paintings. The next morning at the VIP Frieze opening, a similar work from the series sold in the first hour.
Having color chart paintings on my mind, it was fascinating to view Gerhard Richter’s first exhibition of his earliest colour charts at Dominque Levy’s gallery on Old Bond Street. Richter had created a group of 19 colour charts in 1966 and today Damien’s new paintings are color charts. Was he possibly inspired by Richter’s group of paintings 49 years ago?
One of the highlight’s of the week was Damien Hirst’s new Museum “Newport Street Gallery” opened last week designed by the architects Caruso St. John in Lambeth. It’s inaugural exhibition entitled, “Power Stations” features 33 large scale paintings (all owned by Hirst) of the British abstract artist John Hoyland. In chatting with Kate Davies, head of the Murderme Collection(Damien’s own collection), she discussed the intent of the artist who has been collecting and curating since he did “Freeze” in 1988, to encourage the younger generation to enjoy the works on view and return as often as they wish. There is no admission fee and this is a great gift to London!
On the way to the airport, my last stop was the Timothy Taylor gallery to see Josephine Meckseper’s new exhibit. Upon entering the gallery, I had an immediate feeling of cohesiveness. It is masterfully installed and continues her practice addressing politics, capitalism and art history “through paradoxical juxtapositions of images and objects, in order to create open narratives”. The work is highly challenging and the artist invites the viewer to engage in her world of examining culture, past and present and the influence of advertising, cinema and early twentieth century display architecture on our world.