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Admirers of, Untitled, Installation image, Marlie Mul, image Ric Bower

Ric Bower visits Frieze Art Fair London 2013 where 150 commercial galleries from 30 different countries gathered in Regents Park last weekend to polish their trinkets.

I suspect that it is no accident that 90%of the work shown at the 11th Frieze Art Fair is suspiciously living room shaped; it is geared for a better class of living room than I am accustomed to lounging in I grant you; not the kind you would be likely to find folk watching Jeremy Kyle on the super-size plasma screens whilst they fart into their settees. I do not mean that Frieze was all art lite by any means, it was a huge ganglion of shows and there was some truly wonderful work to look at, or even to pick up, if you had been left relatively unscathed by the global financial crisis that is. What on earth to make of it all though? Just where do you start when confronted by row upon bewildering row of bright eyed and bushy tailed commercial galleries competing for your undivided attention? As I was obligingly supplying a tissue sample at the press registration desk (a requirement nowadays for accreditation) columns of forlorn arterati were being turned away in tears, their afternoons ruined. That is about as unequivocal an affirmation as an art fair can get from the gallery going /art buying public nowadays.


Tokamak Asdex Upgrade Interior 1, Max Planck IPP, Garching ,2010, Thomas Struth

My first thought is that it was the genres who traditionally and therefore perhaps, most naturally find their home in our living spaces that floated to the top. I felt sure that Eric Fischl would continue painting his delightfully ambiguous forays into the warm waters of human sexuality whether anyone was watching him or not. The poignantly morose, Hispanic motifs of Alberto Garc a-Alix also had me salivating. The piece however I would have, without question, at the top of my sweeping staircase was the 9'Thomas Struth print, snappily titled Tokamak Asdex Upgrade Interior 2, Max Planck IPP, Garching, 2009. Photographing the inside of a giant machine and then printing it on a biblical scale awakened my inner five year old; it has been done before by the likes of Edgar Martins and Simon Norfolk of course, but these days, what has not already been done?


Ryan Siegan-Smith, image Ric Bower

Frame is an area set aside for young galleries and is selected on the basis of a solo presentation. The Malm based Johan Berggren Gallery were there showing a complex performative piece by Cumbrian born artist Ryan Siegan-Smith. I chatted with Ryan about his work and at length to Johan about the challenges facing a small gallery seeking to maintain integrity without starving. Ryan used mnemonic sequences to recall impressively sizable strings of random numbers, writing them in chalk on a blackboard in the gallery space, partly as performance, partly as evidence of performance. The accumulated sculptural detritus that the complex encoding processes engender served as eloquent reminders of his superhuman feat.

Mystifyingly reflective surfaces were a recurring theme. Martin Eder's sparkling figurative representations glistened seductively. Across the way oily puddles apparently besmirched the pristine floor of Fluxia s space. These exotic trompe l'oeil shimmered bewitchingly, seemingly inviting the viewer to jump right into the resin coated illusions, likethe pools between the worlds in C.S. Lewis' The Magician's nephew.

Refreshingly things become more fluid in the Frieze Projects area where Nicola Lees, curator of Frieze Foundation, commissioned seven artists to make site-specific participatory work centered around ideas of play and governance. Ken Okiishi referenced Niki de Saint Phalle s 1960 s Shooting Pictures to create an environment where robot paintball gunsdecorate the inside of a large perspex box with their spendings. A great idea, nodding as it did to funfair amusements, it fast gathered a crowd. Like at the funfair though, the crowds were fickle, paintball dye makes for crap paint and inarticulate robots won t be worrying the Pollock foundation any time soon.

So will I be going back next year? Most certainly, but I will be making sure I bring stout walking boots, sandwiches and maybe even my own tent.

Victoria Falls, 2013, Eric Fischl


Admirers of Untitled, Marlie Mul, image Ric BowerTokamak Asdex Upgrade Interior 1, Max Planck IPP, Garching ,2010, Thomas Struth (title is the number depicted on the board) Ryan Siegan-Smith, image Ric Bower Victoria Falls, 2013, Eric Fischl