• Zoltan Alexander

nº45 / FRIEZE LONDON 2019

The most significant contemporary art galleries at FRIEZE LONDON and FRIEZE MASTERS 2019. Report from Regent’s Park.


“Galleries went strong on painting. There was certainly a renewed interest as many exhibitions were focusing on the traditional medium.”


Interviews and featured galleries, artists by Zoltan Alexander

Antony Gormley at Frieze London opening, Tracey Emin, Tom Sachs, Leiko Ikemura at Frieze Sculpture, Massimo Agostinelli at Frieze London, Koo Jeong A’ at Frieze Sculpture / Acute Art (London), Kara Walker at Tate Modern (London), Sandro Botticelli at Trinity Fine Art (London), William Forsythe at Gagosian Gallery (London), Patrick Goddard at Seventeen Gallery (Paris), Lara Favaretto at Galleria Franco Noero (Turin), Kiluanji Kia Henda, Yinka Shonibare, Misheck Masamvu at Goodman Gallery (Johannesburg, Cape Town, London), Monica Bonvicini. at Galerie Peter Kilchmann (Zurich), Vik Muniz at Maison Ruinart (Reims), Tony Cragg, Georg Baselitz at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac (Paris, Salzburg, London), Joseph Kosuth at Lia Rumma Gallery (Milan, Naples), Joseph Kosuth at Castelli Gallery (New York), Gina Pane at Galerie Kamel Mennour (Paris), Manuel Espinosa at Stephane Friedman Gallery (London), OMR Gallery (Mexico City), Wolfgang Tillmans, Jeff Koons at David Zwirner Gallery (London), Urara Tsuchiya at Union Pacific Gallery (London), General Idea at Maureen Paley Gallery (London)


Frieze London & Frieze Masters 2019 / © video by Zoltan Alexander ZOLTAN+MEDIA

From Botticelli to Tillmans. 160 of the world’s leading galleries at Frieze, 130 at Frieze Masters, over 1000 international artists. No sign of the Brexit-uncertainty and escalating political instability. No sign that Britain is in the midst of an economic and political crisis.

Dealers did good business.

Galleries went strong on painting. There was certainly a renewed interest as many exhibitions were focusing on the traditional medium.

It’s not the time for expensive and ambitious installations, but for small and medium scale paintings. It’s equally not the moment to take risks and introduce an unknown figure to the current art world.

Painting is always a safer bet. “When a recession looms, everyone goes back to painting. It is the equivalent of gold in art terms” artist, Shezad Dawood.

Tate Modern / “Fons Americanus” by Kara Walker / Photo © Courtesy of Matt Greenwood, Tate Modern

Although paintings were having a strong come-back, during Frieze Week Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall hosted the much acclaimed New York artist Kara Walker’s exhibition. “Fons Americanus” is a 13 tall working fountain, an environmentally conscious production built from recyclable and reusable material, inspired by the Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace. Rather than a celebration of the British Empire, Walker’s fountain explores the interconnected histories of Africa, America and Europe.

Walker is best known for her use of black cut-paper silhouetted figures, referencing the history of slavery and the antebellum South in the US through provocative and elaborate installations.

Frieze London / "Freeze" by Massimo Agostinelli / Photo © Courtesy of Giogiana Theiler

Extinction Rebellion also gathered at the entrance of Frieze to engage dealers and VIPs to recognise the climate emergency. An art-piece or shall we say an ice-piece titled "Freeze" by Massimo Agostinelli was left to melt outside the entrance and a second piece "XX" in Roman numeral numbers inside the fair.

Should artists have a sustainable practice?” I asked Antony Gormley during collectors’ day. “We are all in the middle of the climate crisesI think at the end you want to touch people”.

Frieze Sculpture / "When I Sleep" by Tracey Emin / © Courtesy of Stephen White

Walking distance from Frieze to Frieze Masters, every year, Frieze Sculpture turns the English Gardens of Regent’s Park into an outdoor art installation. This year Tracey Emin slept on the grass in a monumental bronze form “‘When I Sleep”, giant bunnies were hopping with Tom Sachs “My Melody” and Leiko Ikemura “Usagi Kannon II”.

Frieze Sculpture / Acute Art / “Density” from the series Prerequisites 7 "augmented reality" by Koo Jeong A / Photo © Courtesy of the artist and Acute Art

Acute Art presented the first Augmented-Reality art piece that Frieze has ever mounted, Koo Jeong A’s “Density” from the series Prerequisites 7. The artwork required to download an app to view the piece through a mobile phone, where the sculpture resembled a giant, floating block of ice.

Trinity Fine Art / “Michael Tarchaniota Marullus” by Sandro Botticelli / Photo © Courtesy of Jack Hill

Meanwhile, Trinity Fine Art has certainly got the attention for the Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli’s $30 million painting of “Michael Tarchaniota Marullus”, the most expensive work ever to come to Frieze Masters and reputed to be the final work by the artist in private hands.

Gagosian Gallery / "Live L3" by William Forsythe / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


On Preview Day Frieze opened with a dance performance "Live L3 - Towards the Diagnostic Gaze" by William Forsythe Gagosian Gallery. Participants are instructed to engage with the object to experience what their bodies ultimately can or cannot do.

The feather duster's highly susceptible components mechanically register the subtle continuous motion of the human circulatory and neuromuscular systems that are not available to normal human perception. Make sure to "Hold the object absolutely still."

Seventeen Gallery / “Blue Sky Thinking” by Patrick Goddard / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


Artist Patrick Goddard used dead parakeets to give voice to the climate change. The creative industry is often criticised for its carbon footprint, yet some artists were acknowledging the climate crisis this year at Frieze.

Blue Sky Thinking” is composed of 180 dead parakeets made from reclaimed lead and strewn across the floor; “It is designed to strike a chord” said Dave Hoyland, the director of Seventeen. “It’s going to take a disaster, like all the birds dying, for people to take notice of the climate crisis”.

However, others argue that, despite the strong visual message of this work, the amount of money that spent on fine art compared to that spent on the climate crisis is outstanding. Goddard’s piece was valued at £18,000. Make sure you don’t step on dead birds

Galleria Franco Noero / “Taboo” by Lara Favaretto / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


Italian artist Lara Favaretto at Galleria Franco Noero presented a kinetic art piece, two coloured car-wash brushes that take turns to spin against a wall of iron slabs, gradually eroding and changing them over time. The friction creates heat which melts the tips of the plastic bristles, while also creating an electrostatic charge which causes the metal to attract detritus and dust.

Taboo” is brilliant ode to minimalism, but do we get replacement brushes?

Goodman Gallery / “The Fortress” of “The Building Series IV” of Kiluanji Kia Henda at Somerset House / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA

GOODMAN GALLERY / Johannesburg, Cape Town, London

The gallery has held the reputation as a pre-eminent art gallery on the African continent since 1966. Goodman Gallery is an international contemporary art gallery with locations in Johannesburg, Cape Town and now in London. The gallery represents artists whose work confronts entrenched power structures and inspires social change. The London gallery opened during the summer 2019 railed against “heightened nationalist sentiment and populist politics”. The gallery’s owner and director Liza Essers said, “It’s about promoting social justice.”

Her words came true. Goodman Gallery returned strong to Frieze London and also to 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair at Somerset House. Installed in the courtyard “The Fortress” of “The Building Series IV” of Kiluanji Kia Henda opened the art fair.

Simultaneously, at Frieze the gallery presented Yinka Shonibare CBE. He was born in London, at the age of three moved to Lagos, Nigeria and returned to the UK to continue his studies at Goldsmiths College. He is known for his exploration of colonialism and post-colonialism within the context of globalisation.

Goodman Gallery / (left) "Trophies and Sycophants” by Misheck Masamvu and (right) “Diadumenos” by Yinka Shonibare / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA

Through his interdisciplinary practice, Shonibare’s work examines race, class and the construction of cultural identity through a political commentary of the interrelationship between Africa and Europe, and their respective economic and political histories. In 2013, he was elected as a Royal Academician. For Frieze, Shonibare created dynamic figures in motion, dressed in Victorian costumes reproduced in batik fabric. In his ongoing series of classical figures, the bodies have been hand-painted with batik designs.

Goodman Gallery’s Zimbabwe born artist, Misheck Masamvu exhibited some large-scale paintings, exploring on the socio-political setting of post-independence Zimbabwe and drawing attention to the impact of economic policies that sustain political mayhem. Masamvu raises questions and ideas around the state of being and the preservation of dignity. His works serve as a reminder that the artist is constantly socially engaged and is tasked with being a voice to give shape and form to a humane sociological topography.

Galerie Peter Kilchmann / "Les Fleurs du Mal" by Monica Bonvicini / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


The gallery presented cowboys and glass penises, one of the most photographed art pieces by Monica Bonvicini. Bonvicini’s broad body of work deals with complex issues of gender, power and control. The carefully choreographed scores often start with her investigations on violence and manipulation are juxtaposed with beauty, desire and intimacy.

In the “Under the title bind me! torture me!” the space opens with an architectural installation, a wall with silkscreen images of the iconic and stereotyped romantic male figure of the strong, uncommitted cowboy.

In the center “Les Fleurs du Mal”, the erotic interpretation of Bonvicini turns Marcel Duchamp’s work into an almost domestic object by adding anthropomorphic forms, hand-blown penises in glass to the rack’s empty bronze spikes, evoking the notion of frustrated male flesh.

Maison Ruinart / "Flow Diptych" by Vik Muniz / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA


In 1729 “wine with bubbles” was a business gift for cloth purchasers as Dom Ruinart’s brother was a cloth merchant, but six years later the Maison Ruinart terminated its fabric trade due to the success in champagne. Since Maison Ruinart has built a long-standing relationship with the Arts.

Maison Ruinart / "Shared Roots” time-lapse video by Vik Muniz

Although Maison Ruinart is not a gallery, their philanthropic work is outstanding. Year after year they express their commitments to art, working with international artists, building a year-long travelling exhibition worldwide. At Frieze London they presented large-scale photographic prints and a time-lapse animation from the series “Shared Roots” of Brazilian artist and photographer Vik Muniz.

Muniz was inspired during the harvest in Sillery, near Reims, and created a series of works based on the idea of flow with pieces of blackened wood and charcoal.

Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac / (front) "Gate” by Tony Cragg and (behind) “Nicht, Nicht, Verloren” by Georg Baselitz / Photo © Courtesy of ZOLTAN+MEDIA

GALERIE THADDAEUS ROPAC / Paris, Salzburg, London

At the center of the gallery booth a large stainless-steel piece emerged by Turner Prize winner sculptor Tony Cragg. In the late 70s Cragg questioned and tested the limits of a wide variety of traditional sculptural materials, including bronze, steel, glass, wood, and stone. One of the most unique qualities about Cragg’s sculptural process is the primacy of the material. “I’m an absolute materialist, and for me material is exciting and ultimately sublime”. Signature to his work are the employment of horizontal extensions of the biomorphic form, or inversely, the verticality of his pillar-like sculptures.