Experimenting with experimental art
Billed as the “contemporary art event of the year”, GARETH MOHEN searches for meaning at London’s Freize Art Fair.
“It’s like a people walking to a concert.”
These are the words of one patron, entering Frieze Art Fair on the weekend of 11-14 October. It is an underwhelming statement that doesn’t quite capture the controlled strolling of people entering the civilised venue.
The fair, set amongst the trees of Regents Park in a giant white tent, hosted artworks from London, New York and galleries from around the world. An amazing array of contemporary and classic art were housed to be sold off; a life sized hot-pink walrus, a red neon door, ten panels of glass with a rock thrown on top of them, and an Anish Kapoor giant blue circle.
It also played host to a set of artworks featuring a dripping tap and a set of blank dice with a shadow projected of its shadow. Confusing, yes. Art, maybe.
A lady approaches this particular exhibit espousing how it isn’t art. Typical of these non-artsy types, she claims it has no meaning and if you wanted to see real art you should turn behind you and look at a large oil painted canvas of a man’s behind.
Turning to look, a couple of young Japanese tourists point towards the aforesaid man’s posterior hole, thinking what right comedians they were. They then proceed to take numerous photographs of themselves with the painting. Take that to your cultural bag-of-meaning, lady.
Walking past the auditorium, late afternoon, there is a buzz in the air. John Waters is about – not Australia’s John Waters from Offspring, but the other John Waters. American artist and recipient of the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale. Flogging a book, the punters want a piece of him. The auditorium is full and I can’t get in. Instead I stare pointlessly at the Marina Abramović in the DVD stall outside, wondering whether she is hidden underneath the temporary flooring recreating Seedbed. Not likely. I don’t know why they have her DVD here.
My attention is turned to a wall festooned with photographs. Just the usual 4×6 – nothing special. But with in excess of one hundred photos, the wall taps into feelings of nostalgia despite the viewer not knowing any of the photos’ subjects. There are all the clichés. A photo of someone with teacups in front of their eyes, one with some children in the bath, the requisite Christmas family photo, a university rugby team, graduation photo and people in a spa. The list goes on. These are album photos. Not Facebook photos.
Another wall nearby continues the nostalgia. It is a different gallery but is solely exhibiting oil on canvas paintings of model electric trains and die-cast cars. Vivid images of childhood piled high and painted in detail. The undercarriage of the vehicles show the detail of the timeless toys we take for granted.
Is this what contemporary art is? Seemingly yes. It is a menagerie of artworks screeching in the face of tradition. I have deliberately ignored the names of the artworks and artists, because the content itself was entirely engaging.
Finally, the pièce de résistance – a piece of video artwork lasting no more than two minutes. It features four snowmen being hacked to death by a crazed axeman, before he runs for the camera and the footage cuts.
More than 55,000 visitors were welcomed to view the 175 galleries from 35 territories were present at the tenth edition of the Frieze Art Fair.