This is What Happened at London's Premier Art Fair
Frieze London, the spectacle informally known as the annual meeting point of the international Art world, returned to Regent’s Park for its 17th edition this past week. Eclectically dressed culturati dropped in from all corners of the world for the occasion, dashing all over the city for a slew of VIP viewings, satellite fairs, pop up events, and in the case of Four Season's Thursday night soirée, a pop down.
At a time when Brexit tensions loom over London like an unrelenting storm cloud, Frieze Week offered a respite through celebrating different cultural perspectives and points of view. The most international edition of the fair to date, over 160 exhibitors from 36 countries were represented at Frieze alone.
Below, the standout shows and events held in tandem with Frieze I encountered that left me wide-eyed and mind-blown.
MARK BRADFORD'S BREAKFAST AT HAUSER & WIRTH
On Tuesday morning, Hauser & Wirth hosted a breakfast and art tour with Mark Bradford to celebrate the Los Angeles-based artist's inaugural exhibition. Titled Cerebus for the many-headed dog who guards the entryway to Hades, Bradford’s first-ever solo London show features all-new works exploring the theme of ancient mythology—a longtime source of inspiration for the artist. Per Hauser & Wirth, Cerebus is dedicated to “places difficult and in-between, where conflicts, arise but also where the hope of resolution is to be found.”
Chosen to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale in 2017, it's safe to say that Bradford has soared to the top of the art world in the 17 years since he sold his first work at the age of 40. Known for his unique process of using found materials and directly incorporating social and political, Bradford's artwork is visually mesmerizing and poetic. As Bradford reflected during the tour, "my work exists in this middle between the social and the history of abstraction."
1-54 CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN ART FAIR'S VERNISSAGE PARTY
Representing 45 galleries from Africa and the African diaspora, the seventh edition of 1-54 presented narratives so compelling that one easily could’ve made a full day of touring the art. Housed within Somerset House, the fair held its vernissage party on Wednesday evening.
As part of the fair’s special projects program, 1-54 partnered with Somerset House in showcasing South African artist Mary Sibande’s first solo exhibition in the U.K., titled Mary Sibande: I Come Apart at the Seams. Per the fair’s press release, Sibande’s work explores the power of imagination and constructive anger in shaping identies and personal narratives in a post-colonial world. Sibande’s unmissable sculptures and photography will be on view until January 5th.
MARLBOROUGH GALLERY'S VIP PARTY
Back in Mayfair, Marlborough Gallery hosted a VIP cocktail reception like no other on Wednesday night to celebrate American artist duo Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe’s ongoing Colony Sound exhibition. For Freeman and Lowe’s fascinatingly immersive show, the gallery has been transformed into 11 sprawling dystopian rooms, each decorated in remarkable detail.
Art world party-goers wandered throughout, as waiters wearing lab coats offered trays of wine, empanadas, and white chocolate truffles—all of which were inspired by the cinematic work of the artists' San San Universe. Neon-colored cocktails were also served straight from the exhibition's fake drugstore 'Uptown Drugs' in apothecary-style glass bottles with labels taken directly from works in the show. For music, sets that were created by LCD Soundsystem and Lee 'Scratch' Perry specifically for the show played in the background upstairs.
SYMONDS PEARMAIN SS20 PRESENTATION
Symonds Pearmain, the British fashion label created by designer and artist Anthony Symonds and stylist Max Pearmain, became the first fashion brand to ever stage a runway show at Frieze on Thursday evening. Presented by Matchesfashion on the VIP-only day of the fair, the show brilliantly converged art and fashion and gave an emerging brand the spotlight it deserves.
Titled “Potlach Woman,” Symonds Pearmain's mythically inspired SS20 collection saw mainstays in utilitarian-style trenches and raw denim. Injecting their signature playfulness onto the runway, models were accessorized with pelerine school socks and branded kitten heels. One standout look in particular was served by a model styled as a nurse, who fabulously emulated a crossover between a Richard Prince nurse painting and Elle Driver in Kill Bill.
FOUR SEASONS POP DOWN
Held at the unexpected venue of a wharf basement in Camden, the Four Seasons threw their fifth annual Pop Down event on Thursday night. Transforming the lofty, concrete space into a sleek, all-white underground playground—swings, bouncy castle, claw machines and all—Four Seasons Pop Down surprisingly took the cake as Frieze Week’s most unabashedly swoon-worthy fête.
Showcasing the best of the Four Seasons' talent, Michelin-starred chefs and mixologists were flown in from eight different countries and, drawing on the evening’s theme of childhood memories, tasked with putting together a dish inspired by their youth. Each individual creation could be described as a work of art in itself—something I don’t say lightly when reflecting on a week that saw the last privately-owned Botticelli sold at auction. Chef Thomas Croizé of Four Seasons Hampshire fame prepared ‘French S'mores,’ a dessert where a sizable, translucent orb vaporized into salted caramel by blowing a kiss. Meanwhile, Nicholas Trosein of Four Seasons Toronto presented his take on peanut butter and jelly—a miniature brioche with foie gras and beetroot.
For music, Disclosure played new remixes as well as classic hits. The crowd, which comprised of VIPs, mega influencers, and celebrities such as Ellie Goulding and Joséphine de La Baume, went wild when 'Latch' and 'Help Me Lose My Mind' came on. In a week marked by an influx of VIP everything, the Four Seasons also opened up the space to the public for free the following evening to enjoy a screening of Big, complete with Four Seasons luxuries such as comfy seats, cozy blankets, and, of course, delicious snacks.
ALL THE INTERIORS AT PAD
Where Frieze was at times exhausting, PAD London, the design fair created by Patrick Perrin to celebrate cabinets de curiosités, offered an alluring serenity. A total of 68 galleries from 14 countries were represented this year, which allowed for a relaxing pace of perusing. Dedicated to post-war contemporary furniture and fine jewelry, the very design of the Berkeley Square marquee in itself was impressive, with unharmed tree trunks being incorporated into a handful of booths.
Standout booths included Stockholm-based Modernity, which displayed the gallery's expertise of mid-century furnishings by incorporating fabulous wooden beams designed by Emilie Bonaventure in the style of Franco Albini. British antiques dealer Rose Uniacke displayed another Instagram fan favorite from the fair, a set of rare of Mathieu Mategot chairs from the 1950s. Among the most standout gems to be found in the jewelry section were the latest creations from Glenn Spiro—a pair of earrings made from snail shell spiral and diamonds—and Fabio Salini's fascinating use of unusual materials in a pair of sparkling pink rubellite earrings.
MATCHESFASHION'S FULL ITINERARY
A sponsor of Frieze London for the first time, luxury fashion retailer Matchesfashion launched an immersive series of events throughout the week that took art fair sponsorship to a whole other level. Highlights at Frieze included a powerful conversation about art as a means for social change between British artist Marc Quinn and 19-year-old refugee rights activist Maya Ghazal, as well as a stunningly designed lounge—open for all ticket holders to enjoy. Here, visitors had a chance to take in installations created by designer Craig Green and artist Saelia Aparicio, as well as enjoy a RainbowCam photobooth created by London artists Walter and Zoniel.
Back at Matchesfashion's five-story Georgian townhouse at 5 Carlos Place, a private cocktail soirée celebrating the Haas Brothers's new collection with L'Object took place on Friday evening. (Separately, a zoo of new ceramic works by the Haas Brothers were presented at Frieze by New York's Marianne Boesky Gallery). Saturday night saw London's fashion set arriving in droves for a special edition of Matchesfashion's musical matches, headlined by Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor. A theme of fashion as a wearable form of art was also celebrated in Matchesfashion's programming. An intimate dinner with designer Roksanda Ilincic was held on Thursday night, and fabulous curations of luxury confections rotated throughout the week at 5 Carlos Place.
*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com
*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors