December 14, 2017
by Kawther AlKhudairy
The Frieze Art Fair in London brings together a large number of some of the most passionate and renowned artists, gallerists, collectors, dealers, and art enthusiasts from around the globe for a weekend. This year alone, more than 200 galleries from 30 countries participated in the fair. Participating in an organized long-weekend group program of art adventure and exploration, I visited Frieze and also took in a broad array of what London has to offer. Each day had a certain theme. Here are some of the highlights.
The first dinner explored the analytics of the art world market. Artactic presented an overview of how they conduct their analyses on collector behavior, market trends, auction analysis, and art industry research. The reports have endless data—all of which are provided on their website. We were also introduced to Art Forecaster; a website built as a hub for experts, those with no knowledge, and everyone in-between. The founders created an interactive platform for playing games, taking quizzes, and competing against other individuals to try and correctly forecast art pieces’ worth before auctions or sales. It is both a tool for time-passing and building the analytical forecasting skill set.
The second day focused on galleries. First was a gallery-hopping tour in Fitzrovia, where varied types of galleries, media, and artworks are located. From canvases stretching down the walls onto the floor, to hand-molded plasters and still images, this quaint London neighborhood is bustling with art for all tastes—definitely a recommended stop for anyone visiting the city. The day ended with a dinner in Studio Leigh, a gallery around the corner from Damien Hirsts’ restaurant Tramshed. The gallery presented an exhibition titled Fickle Food Upon a Shifting Plate that explored consumption; the contrast between the artwork around us and the food we ate was quite ironic. Right in the middle of Tramshed was Cock and Bull, a famous piece by Hirst. Customers eat farm chicken and marbled steak options, while being in the physical presence of a cow and rooster as a piece of artwork—the customer is forced to look at what they are eating as they consume it, and to acknowledge that it was once a life form.
The third day focused on art fairs: 1:54 and Frieze. The two are set up very differently. Frieze was an open space, where one can view different galleries and artwork all at once as far as the eye can see. Visitors could compare different pieces as they went along. 1:54 was a maze of closed rooms, one after the other. Peaking into rooms from the outside hallway, visitors could decide which to explore further and which to pass by quickly. Each room was a new adventure, with galleries and artists from all around the globe. It was like being on a hunt for a beautiful treasures, either to admire, of purchase, or both. At Frieze, visitors bustled at a constant pace. At 1:54 they seemed to either get excited about a room and rush in, or walk very calmly across the hallway—more of a sharp, up-and-down, switching between neutrality and excitement.
Finally, the end of the trip consisted of a tour of the private Zabludowicz collection. Haroon Mirza had an interactive installation made for the museum’s tenth anniversary. Visitors first went through a series of sensory overload rooms, filled with numerous videos, sounds and flashing images going off at the same time. They confused the mind, and visitors felt uncomfortable as they tried to process such large amounts of information. The experience ended with a sensory deprivation room, with neither light nor sound. The contrast was fascinating: the mind tries to adjust to both unfamiliar extremes, and yet finds it difficult to feel comfortable in either.
All in all, with or without the art fairs, London has a lot to offer experts, enthusiasts, artists, curators, and collectors. The energy surrounding the fair, however, bustles through the city and is contagious. It seems everyone is focused on Frieze, galleries, and auction houses during that weekend, creating an atmosphere of excitement around the London art world that cannot be otherwise matched.
Kawther AlKhudairy is a first year marketing student at the NYU School of Professional Studies. She received her B.A in Sociology from Brown in Spring 2017. She is a graduate intern at the Grey Art Gallery.