Art & Design

October 10, 2017

Our Frieze Favourites

They're mostly female

  • Written by Sharon Thiruchelvam

At Frieze 2017, the Fair’s 15th edition and its third under director Victoria Siddell, women curators shaped the main programmes and the strongest exhibits were by female artists.

Sex Work was the standout highlight. A special exhibition dedicated to nine radical and marginalised feminist artists from the 1970s and ’80s, whose works were considered so X-rated at that time that they were rarely given museum space. Now in their 60s, 70s and 80s, these artists are revealed as pioneers.

MBE450 Artemis - The Familiar Bear

Mary Beth Edelson, 1973. Oil, ink, paper collage, and crayon on silver gelatin print 25.4 x 20.3 cm. 10 x 8 inches.

Today, especially as feminism’s relationship to pornography is being re-explored, Betty Tompkins’ photorealist explicit paintings, Renate Bertlmann’s puckered plastics and Penny Slinger’ photo-montages plumbing the subconscious felt uncannily relevant.

REB_1999_ Kaktus [Cactus]_REB007_hi res

Renate BERTLMANN, Kaktus, 1999. Signed ‘Renate Bertlmann 1999’ Plastic cactus, dildo, perspex 25 x 25 x 80 cm (REB007)

Among the exhibiting galleries, Hauser & Wirth put sex safely behind the museum vitrines in its Bronze Age c. 3500 BC – AD’ 2017, an immaculately created museum-within-a-fair. Featuring sculptures from the gallery’s collection, loans from venerable institutions, and “antiquities” bought off eBay, Hauser & Wirth mimicked an antiquities museum, replete with fading typed labels and a gift shop.


Marilyn Minter, Ginger, 2016. Enamelonmetal. 84 x 60 inches

The show was created with the help of classicist and feminist Professor Mary Beard, and featured bronze pieces by Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, Paul McCarthy and Henry Moore, as well as a Marcel Duchamp’s bronze cast sink stopper, Subodh Gupta’s bronze potatoes and a cast bronze flower by Martin Creed.

3 _di70_WiggleYourAssForMe

Dorothy Iannone, Wiggle Your Ass For Me, 1970, acrylic on canvas mounted on canvas. 190 x 150 cm © All rights reserved Courtesy of the artist and Air de Paris, Paris.

The non-profit and specially-commissioned section of the fair, Frieze Projects was a welcome breath of fresh air from the sales-driven focus of the commercial galleries. A highlight this year was former YBA and natural-storyteller Georgina Starr who returned to London with her first work in the capital in almost a decade. Scheduled at intervals during the day, “Androgynous Egg” was a 20-minute dreamlike performance given by five dancer-vocalists and a singer whose head sits disembodied upon a table.

Bernstein_Birth of the Universe #2 (2013)

Bernstein, Birth of the Universe #2, 2013

Also part of Frieze Projects was SPIT! a newly formed collective (Carlos Motta, John Arthur Peetz and Carlos Maria Romero) whose choreography is inspired by queer activism and gender politics. The Frieze Artist Award prizewinner Kiluanji Kia Henda, an artist from Angola, delivered a re-telling of Angola’s colonial history, combining traditional Bakongo witchcraft culture and Soviet-era Marxism-Leninism.

The Last Journey of the Dictator Mussunda Nzombo Before the Great Extinction (Act II), 150cmx225cm, inkjet print on cotton paper, 2017courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

The Last Journey of the Dictator Mussunda Nzombo Before the Great Extinction (Act II), 150cm x 225cm, inkjet print on cotton paper, 2017, courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

Among the blue-chip galleries, the best work came from Sarah Lucas’s “Hunk of the Year, 1990-1992” at Sadie Coles, Rachel Whiteread’s sculptures and Tracey Emin’s drawings at Galleria Lorcan O’Neill. At Frieze Focus, which showcases galleries that are 12 years old and younger, the stand outs were Maryam Jafri’s work the “Wellness Industrial Complex” at Sicily-based Laveronica arte contemporanea and Emma Hart’s cheerful satellite dishes at newcomer London gallery Sunday Painter.


Main image: Natalia LL, Artificial Photography A, 1975, 5 pieces 50 cm on 60 cm, original unique vintage prints on board, courtesy lokal 30 gallery, Warsaw.


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