Frieze, Regent's Park, London
If the work doesn't grab you, there's always the bin ...
Sunday 14 October 2012
Osvaldo Romberg practises "art historical analysis". The Argentinian deconstructs, for example, Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, arranging its colours in a Farrow & Ball-like chart, and grading it on a scale of one to ten for, say, invention. He has been doing this for about 40 years, which is the length of time it seems to take to get around this year's Frieze.
Best start with the new event, Frieze Masters, for historical perspective, and because, while extensive, it is the smaller show. You won't see work of this calibre outside public collections: from Alaskan dance masks to Zurbaran, the range is dizzying. Here a 1st-century Celtic carved granite figure, there a bacchanalian scene painted by Guido Reni for the ceiling of the Queen's House at Greenwich. Here three jutting gargoyles from a cathedral in Alsace, there drawings made in his twenties by Andy Warhol. Enough Morandi pots to set up a china shop, a Calder mobile rumoured, at £12.5m, to be the show's costliest exhibit, Léger, Moore, Richter ...
Red dots were going on Lichtenstein, Oldenburg, Picasso. But if I had been shopping, it would have been for a piece by the American sculptor William Edmondson, unrepresented in any European gallery: the son of freed slaves, he began carving limestone in his late fifties, and the intuitive Romanesque-style simplicity of his figures, made in the 1930s and '40s, is heartstoppingly lovely.
Eavesdropping at Frieze Masters is a grand new sport: "three times that price...", "$1,000 a centimetre...", "I've already got an Archipenko ..." For those of us who see such art only in galleries, it feels as though the money-changers have sneaked back into the temple. At Frieze itself, the overhearings are different: "Scary", "Is there another this size?" and, in the ladies, "I can't believe someone would take the bin". With nearly 200 exhibitors to visit, the Romberg-ometer comes in handy.
Some days it seems as if nothing new can be done with paint. No wonder artists turn to other media, but it makes identifying the artworks harder. Are those Tesco choc-chip muffins on the mocked-up crime scene evidence, or elevenses? Is that bug meant to be crawling on Mona Hatoum's Baluchi rug? (No.)
Sarah Lucas stuffs knotted tights with fluff to make a chair; Haegue Yang arranges venetian blinds into towers of light and shade. Several artists are working in feathers, including Henrik Hakansson's The Y Swarm, a Calder-like mobile of stuffed starlings. There is a disappointing lack of political comment. But Danh Vo is recreating the Statue of Liberty in copper sections that will never be assembled – little beacons of freedom are to be scattered all over the world. Darren Almond answers a silent "Where are we?" with his brass sign inthistogether.
Between the pavilions, in a free sculpture park curated by Clare Lilley, Adip Dutta's nests, spun in metal thread and hung from an oak tree, and Hemali Bhuta's Speed Breakers – root-and-branch rumble strips buried in the turf, are among thrilling pieces that define what is wrong with much of the contemporary work indoors: too much PayPal, not enough passion.
Ends today (frieze.com)
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant