What Went Down At Frieze London 2021

by Christina Donoghue on 18 October 2021

Christina Donoghue reports on Frieze London 2021; from experiments in augmented reality to using art work to create alternative sounds.

Christina Donoghue reports on Frieze London 2021; from experiments in augmented reality to using art work to create alternative sounds.

Last month we witnessed fashion's much-anticipated return to the good old fashioned runway show - at points you'd be forgiven for forgetting that the past 18 months ever happened. Last week, the art world diligently adopted fashion's in-person approach with 'Frieze Week', which also saw spectators swirl and gather at real life fairs, exhibitions and auctions to celebrate the best of Frieze London.

Dating back to 1993, Frieze to the art world is arguably what fashion week is to fashion - i.e. the most significant trade event in the calendar. Essentially, the event includes a roster of fairs, dealer exhibitions, openings, auctions, performances and museum shows for spectators to gawk at while showing off their status by simply being present. Ahh, yes, much like fashion week.

Understandably, there was a somewhat elevated hype surrounding Frieze London 2021. Cancelled last year due to COVID-19, this year's Frieze was always going to be an important one. After 18 treacherous months of cancelled exhibitions, shows cut short with little notice, exhibitions booked up months in advance, it's never been harder to get up close and personal with our favourite artworks in real life, experiencing them in real-time. Alas, a Frieze that once again fell home to in-person events does not mean a digital perspective was left out either. It must be said that a lot has changed in the past year, especially when concerned with digital alternatives to the everyday. With the pandemic leaving us with no choice other than to experiment with the infinite possibilities of technology in order to reconnect with our loved ones and the world around us, it's becoming clear that we've never embraced a digital future at such a pace before. Understanding this, of course a physical Frieze event was always going to come with its digital perks, and as Cork Street Galleries perfectly illustrated, Frieze attendees bore witness to the opening of Electronic Hydra Prelude.

Julie Curtiss, Lune , 2021, augmented reality. Courtesy of the artist and Acute Art

Curated by Daniel Birnbaum, Electronic Hydra Prelude was the first interactive augmented reality (AR) exhibition to launch on London's Cork Street during Frieze London. A collaborative project between Acute Art and Cork Street Galleries, the outdoor exhibition unveiled the work of artists Julie Curtiss, Koo Jeong A and Precious Okoyomon. Invisible to the naked eye, the artworks in question required not only a Frieze spectator but an active participant for their works to be discovered and with the help of three trigger point stickers, all located at different points along Cork Street, attendees could interact with the exhibition of works via their smartphones on the Acute Art app.

Speaking of the AR works debuting at a physical Frieze event, Julian Stocks of The Pollen Estate said in a statement:

'We are delighted to be working with Acute Art and displaying these three pioneering AR works on Cork Street, bringing our visitors outside onto the street to engage with artists. After the past year where we have completely relied on virtual, it is wonderful to be presenting the exhibition on Cork Street which blurs the boundaries between the real and virtual. Not only does this exhibition provide visitors with a different perspective on art, but it also encourages them to experience and connect with the surrounding community.'

Precious Okoyomon, Ultra Light Beams of Love , 2021, augmented reality. Courtesy of the artist and Acute Art

Tracing Frieze's events in the physical realm, also taking place on Cork Street was a unique sound performance entitled Transition #5, courtesy of New York-based artist Namma Tsabar at Goodman Gallery. Transition #5 comprises three bodies of work –Transition, Barricade, and Works On Felt, the latter being a continuation of the artist's critically acclaimed Kunsthaus Baselland exhibition, unveiled in 2018. Honing in on a practice that primarily sees Tsabar create work featuring music and sound, adapting to each physical space she exhibits in, the artist's work centres around viewer interaction with the intention to break down an invisible barrier that's permeated gallery spaces for far too long. Her Transition canvases resemble large-scale paintings or drawings from afar, yet upon closer inspection, they are made up of coloured cables, buttons, connectors and parts from amplifiers and speakers to form the basis of her performance. All sound recorded is generated through these works of art, making up an experiential installation which the artist describes as 'sculptural paintings that have the ability to output sound.'

Speaking of the unique energy her work possesses in inviting viewers to interact with the art, Tsabar commented, 'I don't like authority, to be framed – restricted. These works break the borders that were set for them. They do this by possessing the potential to expand to a different field of action; they are in constant states of transition.'

Gathering at 19:00 to witness Tsabar and others create sound through the artwork, for a short time, the Goodman Gallery transformed into a mini-concert hall. Different performers, along with Tsabar, took turns playing the artworks as if they were instruments, creating song-like melodies supported by a vocal singer who took centre stage to align herself with the unique beat produced by the felt canvases lining Goodman Gallery's walls. Through the sensual act of stroking, pushing, drumming and strumming the felt, the show bridged the space between music and visual art, marrying a theme that stays at the heart of Tsabar's work.

Namma Tsabar courtesy of Goodman Gallery

Going back to the fair's fashion narrative, anyone who has attended Frieze knows that personal style plays a central part at Frieze London - causing a flood of articles to comment on the unique flair of Frieze go-ers.Vogue's 'The Best Dressed At Frieze Week In London' and The Guardian's recent piece 'The art of style: fashion at London's Frieze Art Fair' immediately spring to mind. With it being reported that many fashion brands, designers and luxury retailers, including MatchesFashion, Dover Street Market London, and Kim Jones, got involved with Frieze Week, hosting events across the capital in celebration of fashion's relationship with art and culture, we turn our attention to luxury fashion house dunhill and their recent film, created in partnership with Frieze London.

Exploring how creative director Mark Weston and American photographic artist Ellen Carey worked together on the dunhill S/S 22 menswear collection, IDENTITIES, the film dissects the contemporary themes that link both creators' work. Connecting digitally from either side of the Atlantic, Weston was immediately drawn to Carey's curious approach to process, experimentation, and discovery. With the freedom to reinterpret pieces from her existing catalogue, the collaborative result sees selected works applied to dunhill silhouettes, punctuating the collection with bold and colourful prints. Weston said of the collaboration: 'Process and its possibilities are an ongoing fascination for me, and the importance of trusting instinct while embracing the accidentals. The painterly colours, patterns and textures that result in Ellen's work reminded me of similar textiles and treatments I work with. It just seemed logical to ask her to work with us at dunhill – and it is a great privilege that she agreed.'

dunhill x Frieze

Whether you mused from afar or got up close and personal at London's annual Frieze fair this year, there was plenty to sink your teeth into concerning both digital and physical realms, while also throwing in some fashion for good measure too.



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