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May 03 2012

New York warms to Frieze as fair muscles in on US art market

US debut features a 250,000 sq ft tent devoted to contemporary works on Randall's island in the East river

"Attention galleries, the fair will be opening in three minutes!" As the announcement blasts, military style, over the intercom, gallery owners could be seen frantically slapping final dabs of white paint on walls, clearing away ladders, dusting frames and polishing picture glass.

But, by 11am on the dot, all was calm. All was pristine. The Frieze Art Fair 2012 was open.

Regular visitors to Frieze, the annual showcase of contemporary art that began from a standing start in 2003 and grew to become an essential fixture in the global art calendar, might be surprised to hear that it is opening in May this year. They would be surprised too by the location: an island in the East river tucked under the monolithic span of Robert Kennedy Bridge (the Triboro Bridge to old-timers).

But then this is not the Frieze art fair of London fame, that will celebrate its 10th year in Regent's Park in October. This is something new and previously untested: Frieze takes on New York.

Being Frieze, they've taken it in spectacular style. The centrepiece is a giant, luminous white tent that slinks along Randall's Island overlooking the river and uptown Manhattan.

The space, all 250,000 sq ft of it, lays claim to be the longest tented floor in the world into which is packed giant clay noses, video installations, neon sculptures, marble torsos and a vintage car stretched like an unfolding tin can.

The first New York fair is the creation of Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover, who co-founded Frieze as a magazine in 1991 above an Islington swimming pool. It is a particular passion for Sharp, who has lived in New York since the late 1990s and has long wanted to make her contribution to its civic sparkle.

"New York has a sophisticated gallery infrastructure, but we wanted to see if we could find a point in the year which brought people to the city," Sharp said.

Even before it opened, the fair had begun to attract extravagant praise. Milton Esterow, editor of ARTnews magazine, said that despite recent debate over whether there was a glut of art fairs, Frieze New York was drawing dealers from around the world. "Folks are waiting to see how this will go, but judging by the early interest it's going to be extraordinarily impressive," he said.

Andre Balazs, an American hotelier, was even more effusive, telling the New York Times that the fair was one of the most exciting things to happen to the city in 20 years.

While the first Frieze fair in London had relatively little competition, the New York spectacle enters an already crowded market, with Art Basel Miami, the Armory Show in New York and the Art Dealers Association of America fair all being established players.

The others are professing not to feel threatened by the interloper. "New York is a major art capital and can support multiple fairs throughout the year," said Michael Hall of the Armory Show.

Where Frieze hopes to make its mark is in the connection between the professional galleries and dealers, and the art-savvy general public. From Friday morning until Sunday, they hope to lure visitors in their thousands – some 60,000 attend the London Frieze shows – by combining the attraction of cutting-edge art with the feel of a day out at the fun fair.

Water ferries will bring in the hordes, picking them up at 35th Street and giving them a tour of the east side of the Manhattan skyline, passing under the nose of the UN headquarters and the Chrysler building. As the ferry arrives at Randall's Island the slithering tent comes into view, and sculptures commissioned especially for the fair are on display on the lawn outside.

A third – 60 – of the 180 galleries taking part are American. UK galleries come second with 28, then Germany with 24, and lower down in the league table Japan has five and China three.

Many of the big US galleries are present, including Gagosian which is showing a single artist, Rudolf Stingel; Gavin Brown's enterprise is showcasing a bunch of hanging chrome sausages by Rirkrit Tiravanija; and David Zwirner which has a Minimalist collection that features Sol LeWitt and Dan Flavin.

Tom Heman of New York's Metro Pictures gallery said they wanted to come because, although there were many art fairs in America, there were not many good ones. "Frieze has a fantastic reputation and we wanted to be here because in its first year they will get enormous attraction and attendance. They put a lot of intellectual currency into the fair, as well as pull in the public."

The timing of the fair is not coincidental: New York is filling up with buyers drawn by the big spring auctions of contemporary art. As the sale of Edvard Munch's The Scream for a record $120m (£74m) at Sotheby's in New York on Wednesday night demonstrated, the art market is continuing to buck the trend of global economic misery.

Sharp swears though that the enduringly buoyant state of the art market is not her driving motivation. "This had less to do with the market, and more to do with logistics," she said.

"We'd been considering putting on a fair in New York for some time, but it was only when we found Randall's Island that everything fell in place."

The robust market may not be the point of the first Frieze New York. But it certainly helps. An hour after the event opened to dealers, the news came in: all six of Gagosian's Stingels – voluptuous screen paintings in purple and silver – had been sold.


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February 22 2012

Frieze for all: London 2012 brings public art to East End

A project by the people behind Frieze art fair will see silver doorknobs and inflatable sculptures displayed by Olympic host boroughs

The six east London boroughs hosting the Olympics are each to get a public artwork courtesy of Frieze, the people behind the annual art fair. Called Frieze Projects East, the project is part of the London 2012 Festival, the climax of the Cultural Olympiad.

Greenwich will receive the only permanent exhibit, a sculpture by local artist Gary Webb which can also be used as a playground climbing frame. The other artworks, by artists who have either lived or studied in east London, include inflatable sculptures by Anthea Hamilton and Nicholas Byrne which will fill the empty pool in the disused Poplar Baths, Tower Hamlets; billboards by Sarnath Banerjee inspired by his own sporting failures, situated throughout the boroughs; and specially sculpted doorknobs which record the touch of people who use them by Can Altay. Silver and spherical, the doorknobs will be situated on buildings around Waltham Forest including the town hall, some council housing and the YMCA.

Two further projects by another artist will be announced at a later date, once Frieze have overcome what curator Sarah McCrory described as "engineering issues and battling the laws of nature and physics."

The artworks are the first Frieze has commissioned away from the fair, which attracts international collectors to Regent's Park every October. They have been financed by Arts Council England, who according to Frieze director Matthew Slotover put in around £100,000; and the National Lottery through the Olympic Lottery Distributor, who contributed around £350,000.

Slotover said that while the perception of Frieze is "big money, big glamour", the company's aim has always been "more low key, but with scale and ambition."

He added: "I think clarity and accessibility are really important, otherwise it's pretentious. This is broader than the fair, it's going to the general public and that's really exciting."

Slotover hopes that the project can provide a bridge between east London's 13,000 artists and the rest of the community in the boroughs, some of which are among the most deprived in the country.

"I think there are communities who don't feel that they're getting something out of the Olympics, so to try and give them something that they can engage with, that they're proud of and that they're excited by is a great thing to do. The projects we've found so far will be of the highest international quality but they're also approachable projects that you don't need a PhD in art history to engage with."

McCrory invited Webb to make a playground after being impressed by the "extreme colour and form" of his preview sculpture. "Creating projects for the Olympic period is quite difficult when you're putting something into someone's community and we wanted there to be a thoughtfulness and a generosity to the project," she said. "Whereas an art audience can go to Greenwich and look at it in situ, it is a sculpture that also has a permanent life and will hopefully be loved by the community that ends up getting it."

The sculptures will be launched on 25 June. Ruth Mackenzie, director of Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival, said the chosen artists "will delight east London residents and tourists from around the world."


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October 15 2011

The best and worst of Frieze 2011 - review

Regent's Park, London

Frieze art fair has become a monster. A giddy, hilarious, silly-shoed one that looks slightly like a hedge-fund manager and slightly like a madcap genius and quite a lot like FUN. But still: a monster. After just eight years of existence, we now talk of "Frieze week": the seven days when, to coincide with Frieze's opening, London's galleries unleash their big guns.

The list of shows is staggering: Gerhard Richter at Tate Modern, with Tacita Dean in the Turbine Hall, Doug Aitken at Victoria Miro, Rebecca Warren at Mauren Paley, everyone and everything at the new White Cube. Tracey Emin, Jeremy Deller, Sarah Lucas, Ryan Gander, among others, have one-off works on show across London. And that's before you get to the big, white tents of Frieze in Regent's Park, packed with art art ART from all over the world.

Fine by me: I like being overstimulated and having too much to do. Plus, Frieze is amazing for people-watching: scruffy-bearded artists mingling with pink-chinoed money men, all sozzled and chatty. There are a lot of impressive women around: they stalk through the week, hard-boiled in Botox and Pantene. No matter what their age, their legs are slim and lovely.

On Tuesday, the day before Frieze opens, my art friend Louise sends me a list of parties and private views. We plan to hit the opening of White Cube Bermondsey, the Lisson Gallery party and finish off at the poolside shindig for Doug Aitken at Shoreditch House. But then Louise cries off with a cold, so I go to what I want instead. Which is: Charles Avery at Pilar Corrias and the Museum of Everything party. At the Charles Avery show – which builds on his Islanders project, with work including a utopian yet scary depiction of a shopping precinct – I bump into my artist friend Keith Wilson, plus Ian Dench, ex-EMF (who was an art student for one year, pop fact fans). We go to the pub for a bit with their mates. "Don't peak too early," I am advised. "It's like a massive wedding. There are parties all week."

Yes, but some of us have only one night out. So off to the Museum of Everything party I trot. Held in a derelict hotel behind Selfridges, also the site for the Judith Scott retrospective (runs until 25 Oct), this turns out to be a proper, old-school, warehouse knees-up: big queues for the portable lavatories, free booze and plenty of it. A brass band plays bonkers mariachi. People wear stupid hats. It's great.

The partygoers mingle between Scott's colourful wrapped pieces, which hang in groups from the ceiling. Judith Scott, who died in 2005 aged 61, was born deaf and with Down's syndrome. She was institutionalised until her 40s, when she started making art. I really recommend this exhibition: not just for the artwork, which is impressive, but also for the environment – it's so exciting to be in a big, rough space slap in the middle of London.

M of E also has a group show, displaying pieces made by artists with learning disabilities, held in a series of ram-a-jam rooms at the bottom of Selfridges (to 25 Oct). I found it very moving; there is some beautiful work. You're left with interesting questions, too: can a creation actually be art if its creator doesn't – or can't – classify it that way?

At Frieze proper, on Wednesday afternoon, we queue between barriers like we're at the log flume at Disneyland. Once in, the fair is bewilderingly big. I sit down to consult my map and see Matthew Slotover, Frieze's co-founder. He tells me that "you need to do your research before you come". All the artworks at Frieze are online and you can search for, say, "European photographers under 35". I've done no research at all. Still, I wander about and manage to clock the Chapman brothers' warped Virgin and child piece, Michael Landy's Heath Robinson machine, which chews up credit cards, and Pierre Huyghe's aquarium, one of Frieze's commissions. A hermit crab bobbles about, wearing a shell that looks like a Brancusi head, clacking its pincers, happy in its new home. The aquarium is in a darkened room, lovely and restful.

Slotover tells me that this year, although buyers are cautious, there isn't the panicky feeling that there was during Frieze 2008. Then, the fair came straight off the back of the collapse of Lehman Brothers "and no one was buying anything, not art, not property, nothing for about three months". He says that worries about the euro are holding some back – the majority of buyers at Frieze come from Europe and the US – but that Latin Americans are investing. "They buy more contemporary stuff, by living artists under 50. And they live with the work, rather than put it into storage. It's not a trophy or an investment." Unlike the Russians, apparently, who are still in search of blue-chip, high-end, modern works.

I wonder if anyone will buy Christian Jankowski's piece, which is all about art and money. He has bought a beautiful motorboat, made by a specialist boat builder, and is offering it for €500,000. Or €625,000 if Jankowski adds his name, in shiny letters, to it. The letters are scattered on the carpet, waiting. You can also commission a 65-metre super-yacht, via him, at €65m; €75m with his name plaque.

Jankowski is a cheerful bloke. We have a chat: he says he's trying to stop rich buyers just investing in a Picasso and then displaying it "with matching cushions in the colours of the Picasso". He wants to encourage them to be more imaginative. "Maybe they want a boat. With this, if they use the boat, and it's not an artwork, its value goes down. But if it's art, its value should go up." I can't believe that anyone will buy it, but he says he's had interest from one lady, who is bringing her husband to see him on Saturday.

Frame is my favourite section of Frieze. Established in 2008, it showcases smaller galleries, which are allowed to exhibit just one artist in their allotted space. The floor is uncarpeted, there's a rougher feel. Mostly, the work is made by younger people, though I was happy to see that Channa Horwitz, who's almost 80, is displaying her playful sequences at Aanant & Zoo. At Hunt Kastner, a gallery from Prague, I liked Eva Kot'átková's work: her collages of old books and photographs, as well as a slideshow, cluster and fold together. Apparently, she's exploring identity disorder, where troubled individuals create parallel personas to cope with their roles in society. We can all relate.

Outside Frame, in the main corridors, which increasingly resemble an out-of-town mall, or an insane asylum, I pop into Gavin Brown's enterprise, winner of the Stand prize. Bright canvases by Joe Bradley and poppy pieces by Martin Creed encircle an enormous golden, folded coat hanger by Mark Handforth. I dislike that one.

Still, at Frieze, as soon as you've seen something you hate, you fall over something you like. Casey Kaplan, a New York gallery, has given over its whole space to Matthew Brannon. There are handpainted posters, little railway station signs, a collection of coloured bottles. On the wall hang two coats: the detective's and the dentist's. Naughty ladies peek out from the coat pockets; a ribbon with "my fingers in your mouth" hangs from a collar. Brannon has written a murder mystery that takes place in several countries (there's an accompanying exhibition opening in New York) and his work offers clues to the story. The whole thing is entrancing: funny, detailed, confusing. I have found a new artist to follow.

Frieze is an overlit, overpeopled, overheated carnival of excess that has given me a couple of new images to mull over. I hold them close, to calm me down, and leave before my migraine kicks in.


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October 14 2011

Frieze talks 2011: Do you speak Globish?

With its catchy phrases and light vocabulary, Globish is fast becoming the art world's dominant language. But is it changing the way we see art?

English is the main language of the art world – and not just in London and New York. Go to an exhibition opening in Berlin, Mexico City or Beijing, and you're sure to hear English spoken with a wide array of foreign accents. Artists, curators, gallerists – whatever their native tongues – no longer even ask if you speak English. Kosovan artist Jakup Ferri's confessional video – An Artist Who Cannot Speak English is No Artist (2003) – suggests artists should study English alongside drawing, sculpture and photography.

The French businessman Jean-Paul Nerrière argues that the art world doesn't speak English so much as Globish (short for Global English). It's how non-native English speakers communicate with each other. Nerrière wrote Don't Speak English … Parlez Globish! (2004) as both a manifesto and a guide to learning the new language with a lightweight vocabulary of only 1,500 words. There are trees but no species; there are vegetables but "potato" seems to be the only one.

To make up for the 600,000-plus words in the Oxford English Dictionary, Globish uses simpler yet longer formulations: "kitchen" becomes "the room where you cook". Niece, "the daughter of my brother". Native anglophones often have trouble communicating with globophones, who use a more inventive vocabulary. "We have an understandment," two globophones – one Swedish, the other German – once confided to me about their exchanges. Given these differences, could British schools soon be teaching Globish as a foreign language alongside French, Spanish or Chinese?

Globish seems to have filled the art world with a more specialised vocabulary. Fashionable terms such as transgression, dystopia and disobedience have bled into the titles of works while losing meaning for artists and audiences. That's what the Dutch artist Nicoline van Harskamp argues in her video The New Latin (2010). An artist's native tongue often becomes weighed down by English art jargon in the wall captions, press releases and magazine reviews which accompany their work.

It seems likely, then, that Globish has contributed to the rise of theory and concepts in contemporary art and criticism. What debate is complete without a nod to Michel Foucault's biopolitics, Jacques Rancière's aesthetic unconscious and everybody's "criticality"? The American literary scholar Jonathan Arac has made a similar argument about literary criticism in a global age. Theories and concepts lend themselves to abstractions which are easier to communicate than feelings and individual preferences.

Culinary taste offers a good comparison. You can probably name your favourite French wine, but try explaining – in French – its particular bouquet and why you love it. Like food, art has an impact on our bodily senses through colours, shapes and endless associations. By contrast, a theory can always be reduced to a one-liner: transgression, dystopia, disobedience.

Harskamp, however wary of jargon, embraces English. "[It] belongs to me as much as it belongs to an American," she says in her video. "Why not reclaim and co-opt the language that was imposed on us? And then celebrate it?"

I can only agree, as editor of the fully bilingual frieze d/e (d stands for Deutsch and e for English). A new publication of frieze, frieze d/e focuses on Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Those who read our German texts are native speakers, but the majority of our English readers are globophones, including many Germans. I try to cut down on the art jargon – not just words such as "criticality" but curiosities such as "spatial interventions" – while ensuring that the English remains accessible. To date, we've used more than 1,500 words. But we try to put them together in the most readable way.


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Frieze: art fair or fashion show?

Frieze art fair 2011 was awash with statement glasses, designer handbags and shoes worth thousands. Just the latest example of the art world getting it on with fashion

- See the Guardian's vox pops with the Frieze fashion crowd

As a Frieze virgin, I expected to see certain kinds of art on display: an installation featuring a loo seat perched on a stool here, yet another painting featuring testicles there. This is an event created with the purpose of showcasing new artists and, hopefully, selling their work. It is a modern art extravaganza. I also expected a splash of interesting fashions. But I don't think I was fully prepared for how much 'fashion' would be on show. As I approached Regents Park yesterday morning, it was immediately apparent, in the same way you can tell the location of a fashion show by the number of women standing outside in very high shoes, that I was in the presence of the art set. And without a pair of striking glasses, I felt as if I may as well have come to the thing totally bloody naked.

So what do the art set wear? Once inside, I was confronted by a smorgasbord of designer handbags. Once inside, it was a game of spot the Tracey Emin-esque neon light pieces and dodge the Hermès handbag. And if they weren't Hermès, then they were Chanel. The other unexpected sartorial spot was that for every woman sporting a sort of quirky, artsy hairdo or a slightly odd shoe, there were at least five pairs of ludicrously tall, over-the-top, fashion week friendly statement sandals.

I don't know why I was so surprised by all this designer clobber, art dealers and collectors obviously have cash to splash. This isn't the Affordable Art Fair, after all. Plus, the crossover of fashion with art is longstanding. In the past few years, Gavin Turk has worked with Stella McCartney, Tracey Emin has posed for Vivienne Westwood and Louis Vuitton on Bond Street hosts regular art bashes and has a permanent art book shop on it's first floor.

This season there are also various arty-fashion hook ups of note: Cindy Sherman appearing in a campaign for MAC cosmetics, Nan Goldin shooting for Jimmy Choo, Acne teaming up with artist Daniel Silver to create a range of clothes. This Saturday, Dazed & Confused and Converse will partner up to announce the winner of their Emerging Artists Award in association with Whitechapel Gallery.

For the second year in a row, the high-street store Cos has sponsored the Frieze's Frame section, an area dedicated to solo artist presentations. It's a partnership that makes total sense: the brand produce the kinds of simple, colourful, well-designed pieces that you can imagine a certain element of the art crowd loving. During yesterday's press launch brunch, brand director Marie Honda said that the team at Cos are always inspired by the arts and excited to see all the new talents at Frieze. "This morning walking through Regent Park it was great to see how people really dress up for this occasion," she said.

Other Frieze fashion related highlights: two incidents of gold corduroy in quick succession, one suit, one pair of slacks; a lot of jackets perched on shoulders; many fancy scarves draped elaborately around both men and women's necks; Nike trainers; smartly cut trouser suits on women; double-breasted jackets on men.

Special mention to Matias Faldbakken for his piece entitled Golfbag, which is essentially a golf bag full of concrete. This is very Prada spring/summer 2012- during their Milan menswear show models appeared on the catwalk wearing golf-style shoes and carting printed golf bags by their sides.


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Frieze art fair: vox pops with the fashion crowd

This year's Frieze art fair was packed to the rafters with fashion conscious art lovers. Sara Ilyas grabbed some time with a select few



Frieze art fair 2011: 'It's got remarkable vitality'

London's Frieze art fair attracts people from all corners of the art world. Starting with Tate director Nicholas Serota, they explore their fascination with some of this year's pieces



Turner prize, Frieze, Wilhelm Sasnal – the week in art

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Jonathan Jones's top shows to see this week

Turner prize 2011
This year the north-east plays host to the most controversial and influential art prize in the world. A promising shortlist boasts George Shaw (yeah!), Hilary Lloyd, Karla Black and Martin Boyce.
• At Baltic, Gateshead, from 21 October until 8 January 2012

George Condo
Crazy and to be honest, really fascinating American painter, schlocky and sensational, this show promises to one of the autumn's best surprises.
• At Hayward Gallery, London SE1, from 18 October until 8 January 2012

Wilhelm Sasnal
A powerful and haunting German modern painter – what, another? – exhibits eerily ambiguous works.
• At Whitechapel Gallery, London E1, from 14 October until 1 January 2012

Anri Sala
Sound and vision resonate in this show by the Albanian film and video artist.
• At Serpentine Gallery, London W2, until 20 November

Kerry Tribe
Ghosts and space travel are among the themes of Kerry Tribe's Dead Star Light. Obviously not the real themes – it's about memory and time and stuff like that.
• At Modern Art Oxford until 20 November

Up close: five artworks in detail

Rodin, The Thinker, first cast 1902
A massive figure rests head on hand in an image of melancholy that goes back to medieval carvings such as the Queen in the Lewis Chessmen. Rodin first created his Thinker as a pensive witness to the sufferings of the damned on his swarming Gates of Hell, a vision of Dante's Inferno. Later, large versions were cast and it became the modern world's icon of introspection.
• At Burrell Collection, Glasgow

William Blake, Milton, c1800-1803
Blake wrote that Milton was of the devil's party but did not know it. He believed the real energy of the 17th-century republican's poem Paradise Lost lies in the rebellion of Satan. His portrait of Milton is the visionary communication of one great mind with another.
• At Manchester Art Gallery

Goya, Interior of a Prison, c1810-14
All the clawing anxieties that shape the mad universe of Goya's darkest paintings pervade the sepulchral depths of a prison in this sublime painting. Here is a glaring example of how Britain's art collections can be overlooked: this vision of cruelty and suffering would grace any museum in the world ... how fantastic that it glowers in County Durham.
• At the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, County Durham

Rembrandt, Portrait of Titus, c1658
The art of Rembrandt is as enduring as his life was fragile. Rembrandt suffered so much, including many bereavements. His son, portrayed here with such love, died before him. But in art, young Titus will live forever.
• At Wallace Collection, London W1

Manet, The Execution of Maximilian, c1867-8
Manet takes traditional genres and makes them new. His idea of modern painting is to deliberately, and constantly, reveal how modern life disfigures and traduces the old nobilities, as expressed in artistic tradition. In this great, damaged work he turns to the genre of history painting to show the brutality and cynicism of modern politics.
• At National Gallery, London WC2

What we learned this week

Why Chloe Sevigny is encouraging us to "Never stagnate, never stop" – and perhaps to take up pole-dancing

Why a giant egg, peeking eyes, pecking pigeons and a Paramount Pictures peak have come together

How Adrian Searle and Sarah Lucas ended up in bed together

What David Hockney, Kristen Scott Thomas and Ed Vaizey's favourite artworks are

How a hermit crab made a Brâncuşi head his happy new home

Image of the week

Your Art Weekly

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October 13 2011

Frieze sculpture park: a parallel art world

From a door to nowhere to a 30ft red rose, artists Gavin Turk, Thomas Houseago, Claudia Fontes and Will Ryman talk us through their creations



Fantasy art auction

Look at the artworks presented here – all from Frieze 2011 – and tell us what you would bid for each one. When you've finished, we'll tell you how closely your valuations match the real price tags



October 12 2011

Frieze 2011: A crab with a head for art

A goat posing as Rodin's Thinker, a crustacean in a cast, a peat-bog woman covered in semen: Adrian Searle gives his verdict on Frieze 2011

God, I feel old, traipsing around the ninth Frieze art fair. I feel like I have been here for almost a decade. It turns out I have. I have become a stranger to daylight. Someone said I looked like a B-boy in my patent hi-top trainers, but I had to ask a passing curator what a B-boy is. A very bad band was rapping about "Having sex with them" in LuckyPDF's spot, where the Peckham collective is making live recordings and daily TV broadcasts. Peckham is the new Shoreditch, I hear. Better get down there quick.

I didn't know who was supposed to be having sex with whom, and the band all looked so studiedly youthful that I left, in search of a makeover. You can get one at A Gentil Carioca's stand. The gallery is from Rio de Janeiro. Your chair awaits, along with the lights, mirrors, jars of unguents and a real makeup artist. The trouble is the makeover: the scheme, in this project by Laura Lama, is to make you look older. I told the makeup artist I'd already had the treatment and was really only 16, but I don't think she believed me. Some of the collectors wandering about look a million years old, but I don't think they've been slathered, in latex and instant-wrinkle cream either.

You age by the minute in here. One alarming sculpture, by Romanian-born Andra Ursuta, is a lifesize body cast, showing the artist as an iron-age mummy, preserved by being buried for millennia in a northern European peat bog. I notice her hi-tops are still intact. She is also covered in a copious quantity of fake, glistening semen. This is not the sort of thing one can easily overlook. Ursuta's abject sculpture is actually one of the better examples of a kind of figurative sculpture that is always with us: by turns jokey, laughable, stupid and extreme, in a frequently pointless and tiresome way.

A monstrous, trudging god (like the last man to finish a gruelling marathon) has a patch of stinging nettles growing out of his back. This is by Folkert de Jong, and it's called the New Deal. It looks like a very old deal to me.

Better is the billy-goat costume that artist Paweł Althamer has travelled the world wearing, following the journeys of a Polish children's-book character. The goat is now taking a breather, sitting in the pose of Rodin's The Thinker, but looking a bit stunned. Elsewhere, Darren Lago has morphed Rodin's 1891 Monument to Balzac with Mickey Mouse. Why, I ask, but can't really be bothered to find out. I don't care that much. The fair is too big, and there isn't time. What collectors do with this stuff is a better question: stick it in the corner of the living room, frighten the kiddies with it?

Some of this art is for the birds. A flock of funny little bronze birds by Ugo Rondinone peck at an achingly white floor. A stuffed goose by Javier Téllez regards a little Brancusi-like tower of enormous golden eggs (this must be a metaphor about the art world); while a live hermit crab has taken a bronze cast of Brancusi's 1910 Sleeping Muse as its new home in Pierre Huyghe's aquarium, one of the better of this year's commissioned Frieze projects. This is odd and extremely beautiful. The art-encumbered crab clambers over the rocks, oblivious that the hollowed-out head it is wearing is art. Or perhaps it knows perfectly well who Brancusi is.

It is certainly a great deal more lively and lovely than Christian Jankowski's motor yacht, which punters can buy either as an expensive pleasure boat – or, for a bit more dosh, as an artwork. I find this a witless and trivial Duchampian gag. "Oh no," I imagine the proud new owner saying, "this isn't my expensive new yacht, this is an artwork for which I paid over the odds just so I can tell you about it and show off my extreme sophistication, my sense of humour and my utter lack of taste".

Bananas are in this year. I counted two, but there could be more. A stuffed chimp, teetering on a pile of heavy-duty art books reaches for one, dangling from on high in a work by Elmgreen and Dragset, and the other is spotlit, suspended on fishing line, like an indoor new moon, in a work by Urs Fischer. Work is perhaps not the word. (Neither are as good as the cameo-role banana in Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape, which Harold Pinter refused to act with or, rather, eat.)

More poignantly, on an otherwise empty stand, Michael Sailstorfer beams in live webcam footage from a woodland in Germany. He has painted the ground around some trees black, and the ground is slowly getting covered in fallen leaves. I keep looking, hoping to see furtive goings-on, but so far it is just a dappled autumn afternoon. In my mind, I twin this work with just about the only memorable sculpture dotted about Regent's Park. It is just a battered old domestic door, standing ajar in its frame, and remade in bronze by Gavin Turk. A door on to nothing, a passage to nowhere.

At the entrance to the fair, Scottish artist Cara Tolmie dances and whinnies, walks and talks and spins in a revolving chair. Part banshee, part kookaburra, part diva and part lecturer, Tolmie creates a daily performance that ends with a lecture, weaving a narrative about space and territory, action and language. It is funny, self-deprecating, piling layer upon layer of talk, song and movement, only to deconstruct it all at the end.

Laure Prouvost's signs dotted about give you pause. "Ideally in this room would be a busy African market," says one. Another: "The fifth floor is wonderful." Obviously, there is no fifth floor – but there is a market, stuffed with stuff.

You have to work at Frieze to get much out of it. Fairs may be the worst places in the world for looking at art, but you have to thank Frieze for giving a little shock therapy to the gallery schedules. This autumn sees more great shows than I can remember: Gerhard Richter, Tacita Dean, Pipilotti Rist, Wilhelm Sasnal.

Inside the fair, it's hard to remember the recession, but somehow gestures like Jankowski's boat begin to look obscene in the light of it, however critical his intentions. Even Pierre Huyghe's crab starts to have a decadent, underwater air. I think I'll have a banana.


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Peter Duggan's Artoons – Frieze art fair

In this week's send-up of the art world, cartoonist Peter Duggan looks ahead to the Frieze art fair 2011, which kicks off on 13 October in Regent's Park, London



October 11 2011

Frieze week 2011: the best of the rest

Beyond the fair's epicentre in London's Regent's Park, there are tonnes of art events happening in venues around the capital

"Frieze week" has come to mean a lot more than global galleries and minted collectors descending on the eponymous art fair's tent in Regent's Park. From momentous museum commissions – such as Tacita Dean's latest contribution to the Unilever Series in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall – to risky one-off projects by younger artists, it's the signal for a London-wide explosion of standout shows. For art lovers, the choice on offer can be daunting. Here's the breakdown.

The young guns

There's a bit of rising art-star sparkle in all corners of the city. Topping the list is this year's winner of the Silver Lion award for most promising youngster at the Venice Biennale. British sculptor Haroon Mirza's Camden Arts Centre show contains kinetic configurations of furniture, turntables and synths, doubling as hand-built techno soundscapes. Ed Atkins is another newbie picking up accolades and exhibition slots like lint. His high-definition video art pairs the messy workings of the body with the hard, shiny surface of material culture in a fever-dream of colour and music. You can't get away from it this week. He's got an Art Now Tate Britain show, new work in Frieze's film programme and a collaboration with Mirza and James Richards being premiered at Chisenhale Gallery.

The ICA has wunderkind twentysomething Jacob Kassay's singed silver mirror paintings, which seemingly came from nowhere to reach shock auction prices last year. At the other end of the scale there's Emma Hart at Matt's Gallery. This young artist, known for her adventures stalking farm animals with her handheld video camera, makes work that crackles with low-fi ingenuity.

The legends

Gerhard Richter isn't the only artist in town with his name in the history books. White Cube is opening its third space – a 1.7-acre converted warehouse in Bermondsey – with three shows featuring some very big names: Damien Hirst, Andreas Gursky, Jeff Wall, Brice Marden and the Chapman brothers … the list goes on. Then there are Franz West's towering, gloopy sculptures on the roof of the ICA. And up the road, Haunch of Venison says goodbye to the ample rooms at the back of the Royal Academy with a survey of Frank Stella's output over the last 50 years – proving there's a lot more to the minimalist master than stripe paintings. Meanwhile, a generation on from Stella, feminist figurehead Joan Jonas is at Wilkinson showing her 1994 video installation Volcano Saga, in which Tilda Swinton plays a medieval visionary, floating in a dreamland combining aspects of Iceland and New York.

The cream

London's commercial galleries make the most of Frieze and there's a slew of free shows by top-notch names to choose from. Steal a march on the major survey of George Condo's exquisite, savage paintings of clowns, butlers, monster women and the Queen, opening at the Hayward next week, with his recent drawings at Sprueth Magers. Doug Aitken's latest video installation, Black Mirror, at Victoria Miro, injects more of his trademark big-screen gloss into video art, with indie queen and fashion it-girl Chloë Sevigny lost in an alienating world of endless travel.

The journey goes inward with Charles Avery's latest giant drawing at Pilar Corrias, which moves further into the quizzical, quixotic terrain of "the Island", his private world where philosophy, imagination and an isolated community's eccentricity converge. Maureen Paley is showing new sculpture by Rebecca Warren, an artist who tackles the sexual overtones in work by a cabal of deified male artists from Giacometti to R Crumb with ribald wit. Meanwhile, Cory Arcangel's interest in outdated tech sees him making art with an automated pencil plotter machine (anyone remember them?) and a remixed basketball video game at Lisson.

The one-offs

Catch these fleeting events and shows while you can. Tracey Emin is creating a site-specific exhibition in a Georgian house on Fitzroy Square, which includes Picasso-inspired self-portraits and hand-woven tapestries. For her week-long artist's residency at St John's Hotel, Emin's great friend and collaborator from Brit art's glory days Sarah Lucas can be found in bed and at the bar. She'll be shooting the breeze while making new work developing her earlier "Nuds" sculptures: lumpy hermaphrodite creations from old nude tights that suggest innards and men and women's dangly bits.

Another Turner laureate, Jeremy Deller, has turned curator at the Fine Art Society. Well-known for his love of offbeat folk art, Deller puts out a selection of paintings here including work by such historical greats as Walter Sickert and Eric Ravilious, alongside two of Britain's best-known contemporary stars, Peter Doig and Chris Ofili. You can listen in on what painters make of the challenges facing their medium as artist Michael Stubbs sits down with another two of contemporary art's biggest names, Glenn Brown and Keith Tyson, for a debate at Laurent Delaye Gallery. And for those with stamina, the Serpentine's Marathon art weekend is a non-stop relay of talks and performances. Taking its lead from the Piet Oudolf garden inside the current Peter Zumthor-designed gallery pavilion, the sixth instalment is themed around "the garden" and features over 50 artists, architects, scientists, musicians and more, including documentary maker Adam Curtis and sci-fi author Brian Aldiss.

The other art fairs

If you need a breather from all the contemporary art, the Pavilion of Art and Design is an alternative fair with galleries specialising in work by modern masters, tribal art, photography and leading design-as-art operations such as London's Carpenters Workshop Gallery.

Finally, as the week draws to a close you can cool your heels at the Sunday art fair, a three-day congregation of young, small galleries with an underground indie flavour and a more laid-back approach. The on-site watering hole, Bryan's Bar, has cocktails from arch-conceptualist Ryan Gander's recipe book and an art pub quiz hosted by Welsh artist Bedwyr Williams.


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The fine art of making money

As autumn's art fairs begin, the art market gets wealthier. Is it because the financial elite who buy it continue to prosper?

The financial value of art is one of the mysteries of the modern world. If a painting called Salvator Mundi that appears in this autumn's Leonardo da Vinci exhibition is indeed universally accepted as a Leonardo, and then put on sale, it might fetch about £120m – a tidy sum, but as it is a Leonardo, scarcely out of proportion to the mad prices art now commands. If a Hirst auction can raise £70.5m, surely a painting by Leonardo should logically be worth a lot more than £120m.

But none of this is very rational. The Frieze art fair and all the commercial gallery openings that constellate around it will once again confirm that London is a hub of the contemporary art market. But why has this market fizzed on so relentlessly when the rest of the economy spluttered and slowed?

The financial crash in 2008 was predicted to hit the art market hard – at least that's how it looked in the brief period when bankers were scared for their livelihoods. At the Frieze art fair that autumn, a leading artist worried that her new show coincided with the crash. That winter, artists (like other people) were planning for tougher times. But for the gallery and auction house world the times have not turned out too tough.

To see how art prices have continued to increase since 2008, consider the case of Andy Warhol. Art Market Monitor points out that seven of the top 10 prices ever paid for Warhol paintings have been recorded since 2008. But Picasso has been the biggest beneficiary of the continuing art boom: in 2010 his 1932 painting Nude, Green Leaves and Bust sold at auction for £70m.

The reasons for the enduring, and gobsmacking, wealth of the art world are not hard to see. The money that funded the art boom before 2008 came from the financial sector. Hedge-fund star Steve Cohen bought Damien Hirst's shark for $8m in one feted episode.

What happened to Cohen in 2008? He did fine – Forbes ranks him today at the 35th richest man in America. And that is the obvious point. The financial elite whose irresponsible dealings and in some cases manifest incompetence did so much to cause the 2008 crisis did not, themselves, come crashing down – they continued to prosper. Now they speculate against the governments that stepped in to save the City and Wall Street. Will the ongoing second crisis bring down this elite? Want to bet on it?

So – wealth sails on, and so do the art fairs and dealers who cater to it with art, the ultimate luxury. Good thing or bad thing?


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October 07 2011

Frieze, Warhol, Hirst – the week in art (and money)

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Jonathan Jones's top shows to see this week

Claude
The spontaneous drawings of this French artist in 17th-century Italy offer a radically new persecutive on how he imagined his dreamlike paintings of myth, history, and landscape.
• At Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, until 8 January 2012

Tacita Dean
The most intelligent and serious British artist of her generation takes on the most theatrical and renowned venue of our times. There have been some wonderful and some ordinary installations in the Tate Turbine Hall but here is one that promises, at last, profundity.
• At Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London SE1 from 11 October until 11 March 2012

Frieze Art Fair
Aha ho, ooh, what to say. Art, money, crowds, hype, VIPs, MPs, squirrels drifting in from the park, that actor from whatsitcalled ... you will see them all here this weekend. It is even mentioned in Michel Houellebecq's latest novel. It is ... what it is.
• At Regent's Park, London NW1, from 13-16 October

Structure and Absence/Inside the White Cube
Fantastically huge commercial art space opens to coincide with aforementioned art fair. Should be worth a gander.
• At White Cube Bermondsey, London SE1, from 12 October until 26 November

Jamie Shovlin
This contemporary artist has put enigmatic works throughout the galleries of Tullie House in Carlisle, a fine museum close to Hadrian's Wall with one of the best Roman collections in the country.
• At Tullie House Museum, Carlisle, until 27 November

Up close: art and money

Auguste Renoir, Portrait of Ambroise Vollard, 1908
This is an affectionate portrait of a great art dealer who helped at the birth of modern art. Vollard sold Renoir's works, but he also represented Picasso. He was a creative figure who commissioned ambitious works, and his name will be remembered forever in the title of Picasso's graphic masterpiece The Vollard Suite.
• At Courtauld Gallery, London WC2

William Hogarth, Marriage A-la-Mode, c1743
Long before art and money celebrated their marriage at Frieze, this great 18th-century satirist painted six jaw-dropping canvases that tell a tale of a dangerous liaison. In Hogarth's high society London, paintings are luxury items in posh drawing rooms, yet all the purchased culture in the world can't stop the rot of impotence, adultery, murder and syphilis.
• At National Gallery, London WC2

Andy Warhol, Dollar Sign, 1982
Warhol said the dollar was a beautiful currency. He drew it, screenprinted it, and here wonders at the power of the dollar sign in the 1980s, when greed was good.
• At De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea until 26 February 2012

Damien Hirst, Controlled Substances Key Painting (4a), 1994
Warhol and Jeff Koons seemed to have said it all about art and money. But with works like this dot painting, Hirst made them look like cultural conservatives gingerly dipping their toes in the hot water of commerce. He has dived right in, auctioning his own works, mocking the art dealers who thought they owned him, becoming so rich it isn't business art any more, it's the art of business.
• At Leeds Art Gallery until 30 October

Parmigianino, Portrait of a Collector, c1523
The wealthy bankers and mercenary princes of Renaissance Italy invented the luxury art market as they delighted in antiquities and bold contemporary works. Parmigianino here portrays the kind of connoisseur who funded his own career as a daring mannerist who broke the rules of art and rebelled against classical proportion.
• At National Gallery, London WC2

What we learned this week

That Lucy Liu has been dumpster diving, and creating abstract art, for as long as she can remember

Why Manchester cathedral's been taken over by a giant plughole

How King Robbo launched a Banksy war in Bristol

How much skinheads, mods and rockers have moved on

Why farts float up and away when artists air their dirty laundry in public

Image of the week

Your art weekly

@rachelguthrie8: "Has Degas become so much of a mainstream mover that all that was innovative about him has been streamlined? #artweekly"

Have you seen any of these shows? What have you enjoyed this week? Give your review in the comments below or tweet us your verdict using #artweekly and we'll publish the best ones.

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May 20 2011

An end to the classic art Frieze-out

London's influential fair has decided to open a Frieze Masters edition, featuring art from before 2000. Not a minute too soon

Lo and behold, the art world has discovered that time is not flat. We do not occupy an eternal present. There were artists before we were born, and there will be artists after we die.

The organisers of the Frieze art fair have announced a fascinating new venture. The headline news may be that in 2012 this hugely successful London event will inaugurate a New York clone of itself, but that is not the surprise – merely the necessary next step on the road to their global art empire. No, the really interesting thing is that in addition to their contemporary artfest in London's Regent's Park they will launch, in autumn 2012, a new London fair called Frieze Masters, which they say "will give a unique view of the relationship between old and new art".

This parallel event to the contemporary show will "present approximately 70 international galleries showing work made before the year 2000, ranging from antiquities and old masters through to art of the 20th century". There will be talks and educational activities, and it's all being done with the backing of Dr Nicholas Penny, director of the National Gallery.

Well ... great. I mean, stupendous. This is the best news for art in Britain in years, for it will help restore a civilised balance to the nation's visual culture. The passion for new art that has swept 21st-century Britain is exciting, but it has sometimes been presented as a crass choice between old and new – just look at how often the debates on this blog seem to divide between "modernists" and "traditionalists". If any one event was seen as the proof that Britain had finished with fuddy-duddy old JMW Turner and now only cared about Bob and Roberta Smith, it was the all-conquering Frieze art fair. So in revealing another side to their interests, the organisers are going to change the game. New and old, now and then, feed off one another in a healthy culture and in all serious art. It turns out Frieze knew that all along.

Others are more qualified than I am to comment on the economic implications of Frieze Masters (are the organisers cannily recognising the appeal of the solid historical market in unstable times?). However, it does seem that Frieze is reflecting the mood of the field now. Artists are embracing a rich variety of historical inspirations. The ICA is shortly to open an exhibition by Pablo Bronstein that revels in 18th-century art and architecture; the Turner prize in recent years has celebrated frescoes and folk songs; and the Venice Biennale is about to go nuclear with Tintoretto.

New art is not an orphan: it is the child of history. Frieze Masters will make it easier for everyone to see that. This is a fantastic idea.


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October 16 2010

Frieze art fair 2010 – review

Moments of transcendence are fleeting at the eighth Frieze art fair

One thing those at the sharper end of the contemporary art market can never afford to do is really laugh at themselves. They can manage arched eyebrows and knowing smiles, of course, and possibly hike up a few prices as a result, but proper full-on guffaws at the absurdity of it all – at the prospect of flogging recycled Warholia and half-cocked conceptualism to Chinese industrialists and impeccably orthodontured hedge-fund managers – that would never do.

Laughter always seems the appropriate response to the Frieze art fair though; to its marriage of corporate machinery with the high camp of self-appointed global taste-makers; to the rococo hierarchy of VIPs and celebrities and Deutsche bankers whose canapes are jealously guarded by hired muscle whispering into headsets under the legend "making art accessible"; to the prospect, on Wednesday's private view, of so much expensive plastic surgery eyeing up so much expensive plastic art. When the fair began, in 2003, one of its chief fascinations was the way that it exposed the London public to their city's new elite: that strange melange of Russian money and not-quite supermodel, bonus-millionaire and overcooked celebrity. Eight years on, after a global financial meltdown that never threatened to liquidate that particular grouping, there is almost an air of lost innocence about that distant past.

The artists themselves are, of course, expected to scoff a little at the hands that feed them, that's part of the thin-lipped joke. Thus Matthew Darbyshire has been commissioned to make one of his concocted "ticketing experiences" as the first point of access to this year's exhibition, a hint to the visitor about what they are letting themselves in for. The box office, in Darbyshire's conception, mimics the interior of a mobile phone shop, bathed in a pink light that reflects off ready-fit wipe-clean surfaces, and the visual musak of flat-screen TVs. For his research, apparently he spent a good deal of time in the Westfield shopping centre, and he now has the style off pat. In introducing his concept, Darbyshire remarks that "it's really a comment on this new 'experience economy'. If you go shopping, it's a 'retail experience'." As a subject for visual satire, Formica counters aren't the most uproarious of targets, but you sort of see his point, and certainly there are few more naked examples of the "experience economy" than Frieze itself. You have to take Darbyshire at his word, I suppose, that his vision of "one big corporatised cultural nightmare" relates strictly to T-Mobile shops and does not extend to, say, Jay Jopling flogging another wall of Damien Hirst's dead fish.

Simon Fujiwara, the recipient of this year's Cartier award, has also chosen to engage with the temporary architecture of the site itself. He was struck, apparently, on a recent visit to Pompeii, that the "structure of Frieze is similar in many ways to that of a Roman town plan". With this in mind he has envisaged an ancient civilisation beneath the boarded floors of Regent's Park pavilions. At various points throughout the show, glass-topped archaeological digs are exposed, complete with not altogether convincing fictional relics. You might start to think that his work is a little Ozymandias parable to the contemporary collectors, a hint that even the richest civilisations and empires come to dust. On closer inspection, however, Frozen suggests the opposite of that. Fujiwara's fictional art-market foundation is pointedly pre-Christian; he wants, he suggests, to reference a period before art was required to be "transcendental" or "moral" and link it to its strictly "commercialised" roots.

As you walk among the cubicles of the global dealership you can't help feeling that Fujiwara has come to the right place. Even so, everyone will find their moments of minor transcendence where they can: Mark Wallinger's film in which he has chalked his first name in the centre of a series of brick walls seemed to me both modest and arresting; Subodh Gupta's painstakingly realised box of painted bronze mangoes looked a nicely concentrated take on the world of trade; Alex Frost's eerily pixelated series "Blind People" kept me looking. And it was hard not to like Jeffrey Vallance's mediums who promised a hotline to Van Gogh and Leonardo – though of course there was only one question you really wanted to ask: would they really be seen dead here?


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Valeria Napoleone: why she only collects women's art

Valeria Napoleone sees London's Frieze contemporary art fair from a particular angle. She explains what excites her about female artists, and why she takes a different approach to male collectors

Around every third corner in the maze of gallery stands at the Frieze Art Fair in London's Regent's Park last week were the same huddle of troubled-looking men. Dressed in identical white shirts and brown trousers, they might have been a syndicate of collectors, perturbed to see a fall in the value of the work of their artists. Or perhaps they were gallery owners, pink-faced about the diminished footfall of wealthy patrons visiting their stand?

No. These were the Ten Embarrassed Men, a living artwork created for Frieze by Swedish artist Annika Ström. Their assignment was to wander the byways of the annual fair, which closes this evening, provoking curiosity and distributing an alternative map of the event. It is the artist's suggestion that the embarrassment of her 10 hired men was a reaction to the customary under-representation of women at art fairs.

Ström's subversive message had deep resonance for at least one of the more influential collectors attending this year. Valeria Napoleone is one of Britain's leading buyers of contemporary art and has a distinct aesthetic agenda. Not only is she a woman operating in a world largely dominated by male gallery owners and collectors, Napoleone also only buys work made by women.

"I didn't start my collection because I felt there was an imbalance, but there was and there is," she says. "I don't know if I help or not, but it is a fantastic journey. I collect the artists I collect because they are great artists and the list of women artists that I still want to buy is very long."

Like the art market itself, Napoleone has been shaken but not disturbed by the changed financial climate. In fact, she believes the change suits her style. At this year's Frieze, she was delighted to find business being done at a slower, more civilised pace. Preparation is the key to a successful fair, she says.

"The way I approach the fair is probably a bit different to other collectors," she says. "The first day it is very confusing and it is difficult to pin down what I see."Previous fairs, she argues, have been too frantic and driven by the search for a good investment. "In the past few years, because of the boom, it has been very booked up, with people running around everywhere, and new collectors. This year it seemed really grounded, with people actually talking to each other. They were taking more time to understand the artists and to ask about the pieces. And that is much more like my kind of way of doing a fair."

The daughter of a wealthy northern Italian industrialist, Napoleone is sent images of key artworks in advance of the fair in case she wants to arrange an early viewing. All her favourite British galleries, which include Greengrassi in south London and Hollybush Gardens in east London, send her coveted invitations to their morning previews at the start of the fair. They know her tastes by now, but she is not convinced that it is an identifiably female sensibility.

"The female side to my buying is more evident in my attitude than my taste," she says. "It's about taking time. Men like to rush sometimes. I am not so keen on impulsive buying and maybe that is a feminine thing."

The work at this Frieze has pleased Napoleone, who was one of this year's judges of the Max Mara Art Prize (a kind of visual arts version of the Orange Prize for women's fiction) and who is in charge of business development at Studio Voltaire, a not-for-profit public arts centre in Lambeth. In fact, she says, this was her best fair yet. "I made some decisions. I bought some things and did some preparatory work."

Napoleone bought the work of a young German artist called Andrea Büttner. "I already knew her. I found a beautiful work by her and also by the Manchester-born artist Dawn Mellor. She does paintings and watercolours that are messy or aggressive, but very elegant. I have known her work for years," she says, adding that the experience of talking to the artist is crucial.

"I need to get to know them, not to become friends but because it adds another dimension to the work."

The work of another German painter, Monika Baer, and of the French/American artist Nicole Eisenman, a Saatchi favourite, also caught her eye this year, as did pieces by American Tauba Auerbach. "She is in my collection but in the back of my mind I wanted more. I also like Christina Mackie. I have been following her work and have bought a beautiful wall fabric, a net sewn with transparent silks in white and pink."

For Napoleone, contemporary art was an escape from the strictures of a conventionally well-heeled lifestyle and she now uses her power and expertise to promote and encourage women artists. It all began in Manhattan in the early 90s, where she was living after studying journalism at New York University. Women artists were in the vanguard of all that was happening in contemporary art there, just as Sarah Lucas, Rachel Whiteread and Tracey Emin were creating waves in Britain.

"I was drawn to the work of women artists – I found it very engaging at that moment." Back then she was excited by the work of Cindy Sherman and Lisa Lou, but she has watched the terrain alter subtly as the years have passed. "Women artists don't use their bodies in their art quite so much any more. I started collecting at that point when women were addressing these issues and I was attracted to their language. I found it fresh and exciting."

Not every champion of women's art sees gender as so key, however. Gallery owner Maureen Paley, who represents conceptual artist Gillian Wearing and has an equal slate of female and male artists, believes a new generation of female artists is making sexual politics less relevant. "There are a tremendous number of women who are making some of the strongest art around," she says. "It is in the longer history of art that women had a struggle. We are in a period which promises to redress that."

A mother of three, Napoleone is married to Gregorio Napoleone, the partner in a private equity firm, and they live in an expensive enclave in south-west London. When she buys, it is to some extent a question of domestic interior design and not just public patronage.

"I think about my home when I buy," she admits. "I need to be able to live with the work. I like large pieces and I have quite large installations, but they should always be manageable in size."

Napoleone regards herself as untypical of buyers at the fair, because she collects throughout the year. Frieze does, however, offer her the best opportunity to see lots of art in one place.

The work she owns – more than 200 pieces – is displayed in her home or kept in storage. "I do rotate the work," she says. "But I don't change the whole set-up all the time. The changes give a sense of dynamism to the place."

For Napoleone, a definition of a female aesthetic will always prove elusive. "People sometimes say to me that they don't like women's art. But what are they imagining? Domesticity, perhaps embroidery, or else screaming feminism?" she asks.

"The artists I buy cover a wide range, from film to photography and installations: some are aggressive, some are laid back, some are feminine and delicate and some are macho. I never know when I look at a picture whether it is by a woman or a man, and sometimes I don't even know when I hear the name."

Wealth has been the enabler for Napoleone, but she says it is not important in art. "The thing I am most attracted to is talent. I feel privileged to see these artists and to know some of them. I don't care about money. There is always someone who has more money than you."


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October 15 2010

Frieze fringe

Can't face the £27 entrance fee to Frieze? Never fear – here are my top 10 suggestions for enjoying free contemporary art this weekend. Any other tips?

As the gates of the Frieze art fair open, so to do the doors of every contemporary gallery in London – offering a veritable peacock's parade of cutting-edge art. If you can't face the £27 entrance fee to Frieze, don't fret: there are plenty of free opportunities to witness great art in the capital. Here are 10 ways to get your fix.

Resonance 104.4 FM

From 12-7pm every day during Frieze, the cult radio station is broadcasting from it live, bringing listeners a veritable smorgasbord of artistic debates, talks and critical appraisals. Bob and Roberta Smith is Resonance's John Peel, a powerhouse of low-fi credibility. Highlights from the fair will include interviews with Bridget Riley, Wolfgang Tillmans and Susan Hiller.

Christian Marclay: The Clock, White Cube Mason's Yard, W1

The whispers started weeks ago with the promise of something phenomenal from White Cube, and Christian Marclays's Clock lives up to the hype. It took the American artist two and a half years to make, and it doesn't fail to impress. An epic video installation running for 24 hours, constructed out of thousands of fragments of film, it's boggling in its audacity.

The Unilever Series: Ai Weiwei, Tate Modern, SE1

Hopefully Ai Weiwei's new installation in the Turbine Hall will reopen today, as the Unilever commissions are always hugely popular. Over the years, the cavernous atrium has been home to a burning sun, slides, elevators and a giant spider; now China's leading conceptual artist has filled the interior with 100m beautifully crafted sunflower seeds made out of porcelain.

Moniker international art fair, Hollybush Gardens, N1

Even graffiti is not immune to a bit of nifty commercialism this week. Buried in the gritty heart of Shoreditch is Moniker, a fair of street and contemporary art. It's free to get in, leaving you change to snap up prints by the likes of Banksy and Polly Morgan for the same price as a couple of tins of Dulux paint.

Fallout by Wilhelm Sasnal, Prince Charles Cinema, WC2, 10:30am, Friday (15 October)

Achingly beautiful and unrelentingly bleak, Wilhelm Sasnal's new film Fallout is invested with a very cold eastern European sensibility. Set in an apocalyptic landscape, it focuses on the survivors waiting for the end of existence. Presented by Artprojx.

Sunday Art Fair, Ambika P3, NW1

It is no secret that alcohol is the opium of the art fair (how else are you going to persuade a banker to part with £3.5m for rotting fish by Damien Hirst?), but this young art fair also lets the artists mix the drinks. Ryan's Bar, at the subterranean Ambika P3 space, is a refuge for the thirsty art hunter, with cocktails mixed by Fiona Banner, Liam Gillick and Christian Jankowski.

Night of Angry Statements, ICA, SW1, 7pm, Friday (15 October)

Furious about proposed cuts to the arts budget? Irritated by art-world elitism? Then get on that soapbox. Russian collective Chto Delat want to know how to change the art world. Punters are asked to voice their dissent in an open mic session. A night of heady argument and realpolitik awaits.

Map Marathon, The Royal Geographical Society, SW7, 12-10pm, Saturday and Sunday (15-16 October)

The Serpentine gallery thinks it's time to redraw boundaries. Artists, poets, writers, philosophers, scholars, musicians, architects and scientists will collaborate at the Royal Geographic Society in a non-stop live performance across two days exploring mapsof all kinds – geographical, scientific, philosophical and conceptual.

Pavel Büchler: Studio Schwitters, Max Wigram Gallery, W1

The unintelligible sounds of Kurt Schwitter's primal poem Ursonate resonate across the gallery. In homage to the great Dadaist, Pavel Büchler is rebroadcasting his sound sonata through 75 speakers.

Beyond Pastoral, The Tramshed, EC2

New York art dealer Vito Schnabel and the hip Shoreditch gallery 20 Hoxton Square bring us an exhibition by the Bruce High Quality Foundation, a shady group of art connoisseurs. Works by LA-based sculptor Annie Morris, painter Laurence Owen and Jaap de Vries.


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