Making Sense of the Madness: A Curated Selection of Frieze Highlights

by Christina Donoghue on 11 October 2023

As the celebrated art fair toasts to its 20th anniversary this week, art and culture editor Christina Donoghue has compiled all of London's must-see shows for an unforgettable Frieze London experience.

As the celebrated art fair toasts to its 20th anniversary this week, art and culture editor Christina Donoghue has compiled all of London's must-see shows for an unforgettable Frieze London experience.

Still recovering from Fashion Week? Don't rest just yet, as it's time to get your Sunday best on because early October in London can only mean one thing: Frieze Week. This year's festival also marks the trade show's 20th anniversary and will see over 160 galleries from 40 countries huddle together within the show's now trademark white minimalist cubes to bring you the very best the art industry has to offer today.

Due to its scale, it is easy to feel overwhelmed when navigating Frieze and Frieze Masters, which is why we've compiled a top ten list of this year's highlights spanning painting, performance and film-based works, all offering a new perspective, helping to reshape the art canon today.

Please Don’t Hurt Me | A Multisensory Artistic Exploration of Romantic Love by Kai-Isaiah Jamal

Nothing connects humans like the desire to love and be loved, and when it comes to matters of the heart, there's one collective ask that overrides all: please don't hurt me. Kai-Isaiah Jamal's latest body of work makes art out of this request, colliding film and poetry with an immersive experience that approaches sentimentality with brutal honesty. Taking place between 12th-14th October at Brixton House, Please Don’t Hurt Me encourages a deeper look at the raw optimism love - and heartbreak - can offer. Too often is such a feeling associated with pain, Jamal wants you to see it differently. 'The aim of the piece is to make you feel a little less in pain; like a small weight has been lifted off your chest, making way for a sense of freedom to rush over your body', noted director Cordelia Grierson. Sounds like this is a leave-the-tissues-at-home type of event; save them for tomorrow's date.

Kai-Isaiah Jamal 'Please Don't Hurt Me'

Carlo Brandelli and Ewa Wilczynski: PNEUMA at Daniel Katz Gallery

Frieze Week can mean many things to many people. To us? It symbolises the art world's favourite fashion duo reappearing on the map: designer Carlo Brandelli and artist Ewa Wilczynski. Their latest exhibition PNEUMA - Released Energies 2023, spins a new take on the duo's breath paintings, as the artists take gold and pure mineral powders that are pushed down through frictional and gravitational forces, allowing them to fall and form plumes; all through the act of controlling one's breath.

Laure Prouvost at Poiret

Staging an ‘activation’ at Frieze London in Poiret’s lounge is artist Laure Prouvost, whose latest exhibition addresses female empowerment, freedom and interpersonal relationships within a wider cultural context. The display will see a selection of existing works - including a tapestry and a hypnotic video diary - sit alongside a community project Oui Grow, encouraging engagement and support for greener spaces in cities around the world.

PNEUMA by Carlo Brandelli and Ewa Wilczynski

Frieze Masters: The Laughing Torso

Recognise the show's title? You'd be right to. Borrowing from the eponymous memoir of British artist Nina Hamnett, Marlborough Gallery's The Laughing Torso honours 20th-century female artists who refused to be anyone else's muse but their own. Including works by seminal figures like Paule Vézelay, Gluck and Valentine Hugo, historian Anke Kempkes' thoughtful curation offers up a selection of artists who chose to change their female birth names in favour of male or gender-ambiguous titles, allowing them to transcend the narrow parameters imposed on women during this period. Hugo and Gluck may not be from this time, but the poignant gender themes both their works touch on couldn't feel more relevant in 2023.

Still life with a scallop shell and blossom, Gluck, 1972

William Brickel at The Artist Room

Marking the artist's largest UK solo exhibition to date, the show brings together artist William Brickel's new paintings, watercolours, charcoals, and drawings ranging from intimate to large scale. At the core of the work is Brickel's experience growing up in the English countryside, with the works on show continuing the artist's investigation into formative human experiences and the inner psyche. There's a strange beauty to Brickel's artwork and style, akin to the tension in an Edward Burra painting. Frieze writer and editor Sam Moore observed of the show, 'oversized hands and limbs contort into impossible positions. The strangeness of these men and the apparent power of their desires give the works an unusual kind of beauty...' If figurative painting is your thing, William Brickel is the man to know.

William Brickel at The Artist Room

Cristina BanBan's La Matrona at Skarstedt Gallery

Featuring a series of eleven new paintings, La Matrona marks Cristina BanBan's first solo London exhibition since she resided here in 2018. Holding a strong visual identity to Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, the artist's own explorations of the female body symbolise both the arduous and awe-inspiring elements of womanhood. Larger-than-life, dramatic and vivid, BanBan's works show sisterly solidarity through a polarised lens.

Marina Abramović at Galerie Krinzinger

Moving away from London's institutional shows and jumping straight into the temporary Frieze tent, Galerie Krinzinger is spotlighting Marina Abramović's 2001 Energy Clothes series. These garments, crafted from vibrant silk and magnets, were designed for everyday meditation, aiming to channel body energy, classic-Abramović style. The exhibition showcases pieces untouched for 20 years, alongside recent photographs, underscoring Abramović's ongoing exploration of energy and its public interface.

Cristina BanBan at Skarstedt Gallery

Artist to Artist

Participating this year is Olafur Eliasson, Tracey Emin, and Wolfgang Tillmans who have all selected peers for solo showcases, continuing to build on Frieze's tradition of artist-led programming. The presentations delve into themes like memory, diaspora, and the environment while helping expose the talent of tomorrow. Our personal favourite? Watch out for Emin's fellow, former triathlete-turned-artist Vanessa Raw whose intimate paintings explore female identity.

Julian Knxx: A Chorus Performance

No other artist has had such a quick meteoric rise to international acclamation as visual poet and filmmaker Julianknxx. Want to know the reason why? Take yourself to his first institutional solo exhibition at Barbican's Curve Gallery, or just drop by St James' church in Piccadilly on Saturday 14 October to witness a glorious spectacle bridging history, art, and cultural memory in a soulful journey as an ode to Cugoano’s legacy, curated by Ekow Eshun to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Cugoano.

Sin Wai Kin at Blindspot Gallery

Sin Wai Kin is the Turner-nominated artist you need to know about. Intent on blurring perceived ideas and memory with contemporary culture, Kin traverses a myriad of mediums including speculative fiction within performance, moving image, photography, writing and print to disrupt identity and belonging. Drag is used as a lens to question gender, race and stereotypes, just as film is used to observe the artist's own unique shifting practices and transformation.

Vanessa Raw, 'Gonna find you' as proposed by Tracey Emin



Interview: Marina Abramović

07 December 2014
Performance artist Marina Abramović discusses the limits – if there are any - of her body and mind with Carrie Scott at the Miami Beach EDITION hotel.

Iranian Artist Pourea Alimirzaee Presents 'Tear Gas' At The Artist Room

26 April 2023
Responding to Iran's Woman, Life, Freedom movement last year following the death of Masha Amini, 'Tear Gas' at The Artist Room marks the artist's first UK exhibition.

Why the World Is Watching Esben Weile Kjær

06 October 2023
On Thursday night this week, Little Portland Street's new contemporary art gallery Albion Jeune threw open their doors with an inaugural exhibition I Want To Believe by performance artist Esben Weile Kjær.
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