Frieze London kicked off on Wednesday with a surprisingly packed VIP preview, as throngs of visitors, collectors and curators floated down the halls of the fair’s more than 100 galleries. Now in its 19th year, the event had a relaxed atmosphere and galleries were, despite growing speculation over the oncoming recession, selling works.
As usual, several museums, galleries and artists have planned projects around the fair — here are eight to look out for.
The Stephen Friedman booth is the fair's most striking, with intricately patterned paintings and beaded punching bags set against a patterned wallpaper. The solo booth is by Jeffrey Gibson, a New York artist who is of Native American Choctaw and Cherokee heritage, and shows his signature reworking of forms of patterns and motifs.
“I'm constantly reinventing and morphing my own language,” he tells The National. “The original inspiration was looking at geometric abstraction and tribal painting, going back hundreds of years — painting on hides and tepee covers.
"The difference being that modernist geometric abstraction is oftentimes about not having content, and then with indigenous geometric abstraction, it's all about how they can represent narratives and identities and plants and families and colour and shape. So I'm always thinking about how to inject some sort of content into this language.”
Stephen Friedman; Frieze London booth; until October 16
Frieze has tapped Sandhini Poddar, adjunct curator at the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, for a curated section of the fair. Poddar used the idea of Indra’s Net, a Buddhist and Hindu term that gestures towards co-dependency and compassion, as her curatorial concept: a “gentler and more poetic” way to encapsulate the current moment, says Poddar, than terms like “planetary emergency”.
The 19 artists are shown in a special section of individual gallery booths, such as Martha Atienza’s exploration of indigenous fishing traditions in the Philippines, or Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s construction of a bodhisattva out of brass artillery shells found across Vietnam.
Indra’s Net, Frieze London, until October 16
Artist and designer Osman Yousefzada used the excitement around Frieze to raise money for Pakistan, which has been hit by devastating floods.
In a sprawling party at the Aubrey at Knightsbridge’s Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, he offered prints by 10 artists from Pakistan and its diaspora, including Shezad Dawood, Haroon Mirza, Faiza Butt, himself and others, for £100 ($112) each.
The initiative is still live, making it perhaps the only affordable art to buy in London right now, and an excellent way to support literary relief agencies in the South Asian country.
More information is available at @artists_emergency on Instagram
Ab-Anbar gallery, in a showing at Cromwell Place, presents a major survey of five decades of work by the Iranian-American artist Sonia Balassanian. Curated by Sharjah Art Foundation’s Omar Kholeif, the show encompasses her gestural, abstract paintings — evocative of minimalist compositions — as well as the work she made in response to the Iranian Revolution.
Politics entered the frame as she agitated for women’s rights, in a struggle that continues today. Though she has been often referred to in art histories of the region, the Ab-Anbar presentation allows for a chance to see the breadth of her work as it responded to art historical and social currents.
Sonia Balassanian: Five Decades in the Making, Ab-Anbar; Cromwell Place, South Kensington; until October 16
Tabari Artspace, in a pop-up venue at the gallery complex Cromwell Place, exhibits a substantial show of paintings by Emirati artist Maitha Abdalla.
The result of her three-month residency in London, supported by Admaf and An Effort studios, she shows major, confident new large-scale paintings, as well as a suite of newer, more intimate landscape scenes that suggest an air of deliberate intimacy.
Though her practice is now far advanced, there are sudden shades of Mohamed Al Mazrouei here, her old mentor who took her under his wing while she was still a student. Abdalla also introduces a new character into her cast of characters inspired by Arabian folklore: the donkey, who brays when the devil is around.
INT. The Body — Sunrise is at Tabari Artspace; Cromwell Place; until October 16
The London gallery Hollybush Gardens presents Foragers, by Palestinian artist Jumana Manna. The video follows local Palestinian villagers who collect akkoub, za’atar, and other wild herbs, while highlighting how these ancient practices have been criminalised by the Israeli government, which seeks to control the production and market of these goods.
It also explores how humans and the natural world depend on one another: the herbs need to plucked and won’t grow as tall without this human intervention.
Jumana Manna: Foragers; Hollybush Gardens; until November 19
The Mosaic Rooms is hosting Lebanese artist Marwa Arsanios’s first institutional show in London, presenting her works on social and ecological violence.
From Beirut’s rubbish crisis of 2015 to the invisible labour provided by the country's domestic workers, Arsanios highlights the difficult, uninviting work that is done at the margins to keep a society of consumption moving — and what happens when these systems fall apart.
Arsanios also shows the latest chapter in her quadrilogy, Who Is Afraid Of Ideology: Part 4 Reverse Shot, which looks at how the land can be used collectively rather than as the property of one person or entity. The work is part of a larger project which aims to facilitate the transfer of land in northern Lebanon to common ownership.
Marwa Arsanios: Reverse Shot; Mosaic Rooms; until January 22
Lawrence Abu Hamdan
Hot off his big Sharjah Art Foundation survey, the Lebanese-British artist debuts his latest film, 45th Parallel. The work, in Abu Hamdan’s signature mode of methodical, patient build-up, explores issues of national jurisdictions in prosecuting crimes.
What happens if a policeman stands in the US and shoots someone in Mexico? Is his bullet considered an extension of himself, despite its flight across a border? And what do these questions of liability mean for other examples of remote aggression, such as US drone strikes? Shown at Spike Island, in the western English city of Bristol, the video is yet another example of Abu Hamdan’s uncompromising, perspicacious eye.
Lawrence Abu Hamdan: 45th Parallel; Spike Island in Bristol; until January 29
Scroll through more images of Maitha Abdalla's London exhibition below