Frieze Art Fair is still one of my favorite art fairs in the world. But the art world cannot defy the economic downturn. After the remarkable bankruptcy of Lehman Bros. investment bank ahead of the fair even the superrich have become more careful. You can watch this also at the 2008 Frieze Art Fair.    

Frieze is still very contemporary, it is trendy, it is in a cool city and there is good art. Most of the important galleries and collectors are there:

  • 150 of the world’s leading galleries
  • of 27 countries attract
  • 70.000 visitors

In contrary to most of the art dealers I feel relieved that the fair is not yet sold out during the VIP- and Super-VIP-openings before its official opening to the public

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. That means things are going a bit more back to normal.


I think that is bad for the quick sales within the art market bubble. But it is healthy for the art market in the long run. The art dealer’s focus will be more and more on the long-term collectors rather than the short-term speculators.




UGL (C) Jota Castro courtesy Massimo Minini Gallery

A work by Jota Castro at the Italian Gallery Massimo Minini seems to have similar intentions: Grave-like engravings on polished black marble stones and mirrors indicate the names of big art market makers. All assembled under the title “Motherfuckers never die”.




Also the sculpture “Dancing Skeletons” of 2008 by Liz Craft shown at the Californian gallery Patrick Painter Inc. can be interpreted in a similar way.




UGL (C) Neo Rauch courtesy David Zwirner Gallery


In contrary to earlier art fairs David Zwirner Gallery still offered a Neo Rauch painting “Funk” of 1997 for US $ 1.000.000 on Friday. I liked it. The second Rauch painting was allready reserved.


It seems the times are gone, when a collector who is able to spend $ 1.000.000 was rejected by art dealers to buy certain works of art. Just because he might be a speculator and does not run his private art museum.



UGL (C) Joseph Kosuth courtesy by Almine Rech Gallery



The Paris and Brussels based gallery Almine Rech sold a neon edition “Wittgenstein’s Red” by the American concept artist Joseph Kosuth for € 12.000.


I like this work as it sucessfully plays with the different levels of meaning: Red as a word - red as red light - red as red colour on the neon glass. It has all of Kosuth's larger classic work within.



UGL (C) Joseph Kosuth courtesy Juana de Aizpuru Gallery



I always admired Kosuth: I was quite surprised that he is not that old (born in 1945). He was only in his 20s when the MOMA bought his famous work "One and three chairs". The Spanish gallery Juana de Aizpuru offered his work “One and three shovels” also of 1965 from the same classic series for € 250,000.



I am convinced that the work of artists who take a well established position within art history will be valued more than the high-flying newcomers in the near future.






Umong the somewhat younger artists Dan Perjovschi from Romania caught my attention: Gregor Podnar Gallery (Lublijana and Berlin) showed graffiti like sketches “Floor pieces” drawn on the gallery floor. The visitors walk (as intended by the artist) over the work of art during the fair. Finally you can pick one drawing and the art dealer will cut it out of the floor for you.




UGL (C) Dan Perjovschi courtesy Gregor Podnar Gallery


Mr. Perjovschi has already shown his graffiti in the MOMA in 2005 and joined several Biennials.




UGL (C) William Pope courtesy Cetherine Bastide Gallery


I also liked the low-tech work “Hang Man” of 2000 by William Pope shown at the Belgian gallery Cetherine Bastide.


His art focueses on society issues like gender roles, social injustice, raceism, etc. It is also influenced by works of art brut. I like the dark humor in his work.





UGL (C) Jake and Dinos Chapman courtesy White Cube Gallery


Shockingly memorable was also the cruel installation by the Chapman brothers “DaSS Kapital ist kaput? Ya. Nein? Dumkopf!” (The capital is broken? Yes. No? Stupid!) of 2008 shown at The White Cube gallery. It was a plastic toy soldier size scenery of WW II German soldiers being tortured by apocalyptic skeletons.




The Chapmans were using the concept they developed first for their work “Hell” of 1999: More than 30.000 plastic Nazi soldiers were the protagonists on a tabletop tableau of their version of hell. Unfortunately it was destroyed in the 2004 fire of MOMART. In 2008 they built a second version of it called “Fucking Hell”. It was even larger and more cruel in detail.




In these projects they were clearly quoting the old masters Hieronymus Bosch and/or Pieter Breughel II.




I think these were very good works, because they were deeply routed within art history and very current at the same time.




I am also convinced that good art should do something with the people looking at it. They should have feelings and thoughts they wouldn’t have without it. Fear and shock also can be some of these feelings caused by art. That is why I liked “Hell”, or even “Fucking Hell”.




But there is something that makes me think twice about this work shown here: Is it again the same (cooking) recipe from “Hell” and transformed on the issue of the financial crisis? How do the Nazis make sense? Were they leftovers from Hell reloaded?




Dear Jake & Dinos - you made great art, but this is to simple.



UGL (C) Wim Delvoye courtesy Gallery Arndt & Partner


Also easy to remember and disturbing is the tattooed pig by Wim Delvoye. Shown at the booth of Arndt & Partner. Delvoye runs an “art pig farm” in China. He keeps the pigs there in a very nice way and does his tattoos on them. It is quite irritating to see pigs with ironic luxury brand logos or comic style tattoos on their backs.


Probably to calm down animal protection groups the pigs have a better life than most food pigs or even humans in some parts of the world. After they die (I don’t remember how) they are being conserved and sold here.


Spectacular - but I don' t know...




UGL (C) Georg Herold courtesy IFA Gallery


Quite decadent – and also somewhat critical – were the paintings by German artist Georg Herold shown at the booth of International Fine Art, Berlin: There were two of his caviar paintings.



At first sight they look like simple action paintings. But they aren’t. Coming closer you can see there is no paint, but small balls of dried caviar spread across the canvass. And all of the caviar balls are numbered.




UGL (C) Georg Heorld courtesy IFA Gallery


The life-size plastic hammerhead shark sculpture “Orange Shark” of 2008 by Ashley Bickerton was offered at Lehmann Maupin gallery, NYC, for US $ 500.000.


To me it does not mean a thing. But as 2 of 3 pieces of this edition already have been sold, it seems to have ment more to somebody else.




UGL (C) Ashley Bickerton courtesy Gallery Lehmann Maupin


In the sculpture garden section outside the tent an installation by Harland Miller presented by White Cube caught my attention. In his 2008 work titled “The bigger the searchlight the larger the circumference of the unknown” Miller made up a life size crime scenery. He even took some people of CSI Kent as models for his sculpture. It left a confusing impression.




UGL (C) Harland Miller courtesy White Cube Gallery


Frieze Art Fair 2008 in general was less a hype than the last years.


But still fun to go and see.


by UGL.


Share your opinion with us!


Juliane, 16-04-09 13:38
I remember the 2008 frieze art fair also a lot less hectic than the years before.

I liked it, because art becomes again more affordable to regular people!
Gwen, 16-09-09 17:05
Good report - I am quite excited what Frieze will be like this year!
botdver, 11-10-12 07:59

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