Frieze London 2014
By Kevin Jones
Ask most of London’s art scene what they think of the 11-year-old Frieze London art fair and they will likely grit their teeth: too brash, too market-obvious, too self-absorbed. And yet, art-world Londoners flock in droves to the tented Regent’s Park artopolis, as do a seemingly increasing number of culturally curious members of the general public. Like it or not, Frieze London is an institution. But unlike most institutions, it is nimble enough to reinvent itself. Frieze Live, a new segment of performance pieces (undertaken, in most cases, by galleries with little or no background in the genre) seemed to up this year’s ante, as did a palpable push for exhibitors to evolve beyond the ersatz white-cube format and curate spaces that could thoroughly épater la bourgeoisie, without necessarily getting under art-world mavens’ skin.
Curiously, the fair seemed caught in the throes of two opposing currents. One, exuberant and extroverted, was all about spectacle. Deeply curated or high-concept booths maximized the “experiential,” like marketing gone mad—which the programming for Frieze Live and, to a degree, Frieze Projects neatly dovetailed. The other current, self-referential and introspective, ruminated on the very nature of collecting itself, resulting in occasional old-meets-new mixes and a recurring subplot of quiet, thoughtful works, which were particularly evident in the excellent corral of younger galleries in Frieze Focus.