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July 12 2014

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At London’s Frieze With Raf, Hussein,
And A Few Giant Purple Horses, Too

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Why is London cooler than usual? Because it’s Frieze-ing. But, given that Germans seemed to be the dominant nationality on the opening day of the Frieze Art Fair, it made sense that it was Claudia Schiffer’s open-to-buy budget that was giving gallerists chills. Plus, she was appropriately emblematic of the fashion/art nexus that gives Frieze its special flavor. Case in point: The first person I saw as I sailed through security was Raf Simons; the last, as I headed for the exit five hours later, was Hussein Chalayan. And the day began with a press brunch given by COS, Europe’s favorite “masstige” chain, followed by a curators’ tour of Frame, the new art wing of Frieze, which COS is supporting.

Each invitation to the brunch was accompanied by a hand-penned missal from artists Michael Crowe and Lenka Clayton as part of a project called Mysterious Letters, through which they intend to communicate with every single person in the world. (Just two kids with a dream!) Still, the optimistic monumentalism of their scheme felt typical of Frieze 2010, especially after the flatness of last year’s fair. There was lots and lots of really big stuff, taking a cue from the scale of Frieze itself, with more than 170 of the world’s best galleries on display. Sadie Coles was showing a 13-foot-high fireplace cast in bronze by the Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone; Emmanuel Perrotin had Xavier Veilhan’s high-octane futurist-style sculpture of a carriage drawn by four horses. It was almost life-size. And purple, to make it even more inescapable. (That’s it, pictured above, at a previous installation in Versailles.)

If 2009 featured a strong handicraft subtext, 2010 resurrected that old standby, photo-based work. Chalayan’s favorite was Marlo Pascual on Casey Kaplan’s stand. The Tennessee native’s dramatically repurposed images also captured the imagination of Francesca Amfitheatrof and Carlo Brandelli—and enough museums and collectors that Pascual was a first-day sellout. That’s the kind of new-name success story that offers an uplifting alternative to all the grandstanding that takes place at the blue-chip booths. Not to say that that isn’t enthralling, too. In fact, I’ve got to get me back there tomorrow for some more.

Photo: Florian Kleinefenn/Courtesy of Galerie Perrotin, Paris

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Dept. of Culture