From the Economic Grave: Frieze





The Regents Park tent this weekend was filled with breathless talk about the future of the Frieze Art Fair franchise. Dealers and collectors giddily speculated that Frieze would launch a hip competitor to New York’s stale Armory Show. Rumors of a Frieze: Old Masters version abounded. The rumors weren’t a distraction from the fair, but rather validation of its buzz.

VIPs at the opening included art-world luminaries alongside Claudia Schiffer, Keith Richards, and Suzy Menkes. And sales were stellar. The Gagosian Gallery booth stocked the expected array of Hirst, Warhol, and Koons, which sold as anticipated. Another unsurprising sight were the detractors and dissenters whose antics added to the festivities. A woman from the Hoxton-based “Pop Porn” performance troupe, wearing neu-raze neon and a paper mask, was literally carted out of the V.I.P opening in her own shopping cart filled with flyers.

For the actual invitees, the opening had the warm sense of a family gathering. The first sight after the entrance was Elmgreen and Dragset’s “Catch Me Should I Fall” at Copenhagen’s Galleri Nicolai Wallner. The first burst of buzz was over the question of whether the sculpture of a handsome lad in a loincloth tittering on a diving board depicted Simon Fujiwara, the winner of the Frieze 2010 Cartier Award, and boyfriend of one of the artists. “If it is him, that is really sweet,” said model/ designer Ben Grimes with evident affection. “It’s his moment.”

However, while Fujiwara was the star, one of the best works initially appeared to be just a group of innocuous guys. Frieze Projects frequently play on the notion of “insiders vs. outsiders” to the fair. In past years, Paola Pivi packed 100 impassive Chinese people into a booth. This year, there was a pose of schlumpy-looking men meandering through the fair, chewing on their fingernails and looking endearingly bewildered. They wore identical untucked white office shirts and brown trousers, like a group of cubicle dwellers who were forced to take a field trip the fair. The poor guys were all actors in Annika Ström’s project “Ten Embarrassed Men,” but their awkwardness was contagious. After seeing them sheepishly looking lost,  I found myself fighting the urge to help lure them into the inner circle’s fun.