Making a mighty return to the UK capital, Frieze 2021 feels like a celebration of survival.
Following last year’s hiatus, the first in real life edition of Frieze London, Frieze Masters, and Frieze Sculpture since the pandemic returned to Regent’s Park. Between October 13th and 17th, the international art fair welcomed more than 290 galleries and 80,000 visitors across both fairs and online.
The coolest and most exciting contemporary pieces are saved for Frieze London – the younger sibling to Frieze Masters – where established and emerging galleries represented up-and-coming talent. New this year is the ‘Editions’ section, dedicated to the world’s leading publishers, as well as the addition of ‘Unworlding’, curated by Cedric Fauq, featuring a site-wide selection of pieces by artists whose practices explore the notion of undoing the world as we know it.
Some of the world’s most famed galleries, including Perrotin, Marian Goodman Gallery, and Kukje Gallery, presented art and antiques dating back more than 6,000 years at Frieze Masters. There was also Frieze Sculpture offering a free display of striking pieces scattered throughout the English Garden including a record number of works by women.
If you didn’t make it to the fair, look at our highlights of one of the world’s most influential contemporary art events.
Stack 9, Ultramarine Blue (2021)
Photo courtesy of the artist
This vibrant towering sculpture by the London-based artist Annie Morris at Frieze Sculpture is more than a colourful stack. The sculpture relates to her grief following the stillbirth of her first child, representing the act of holding onto something that’s fallen along with the hope and defiance of life.
If you have missed the artist at Frieze, catch up at her major show at Yorkshire Sculpture Park – Morris’ first solo museum exhibition in the UK, which runs till February 6th, 2022. The British artist also presents a new selection of sculptures, drawings and tapestries at Timothy Taylor in London until November 13th, 2021.
'Laying my burdens down’ (2021) Copyright Deborah Roberts
Photo courtesy of the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery
Stephen Friedman gallery presented a solo exhibition of new paintings by the African-American artist Deborah Roberts. This coincided with the artist’s first major solo show in Europe at The Bluecoat, Liverpool, from October 2021, until January 2022. As with Roberts’ previous work, the pieces continue her investigation of what the gallery terms “the challenges encountered by Black children as they respond to social constructs perpetuated by the white gaze and western visual culture”. The artist portrays young Black boys and girls, combining different facial features, skin tones, hairstyles and clothes, criticising notions of beauty, the body, race and identity in contemporary society.
Chambre Parentale, 2021, oil on linen.
Photo courtesy of Dario Lasagni. Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Leighton, Berlin
Part of ‘Unworlding’, Petit Palais is a series of paintings by Esteban Jefferson on show at Berlin’s Tanya Leighton Gallery during the fair, presented alongside a two-channel video and sound installation. The canvases are based on photographs of two anonymous busts of African men, displayed in Paris’ Petit Palais. The artist spent three years researching the 17th-century sculptures, which the museum had mistakenly dated to the 19th century. While the busts are painted meticulously, the museum’s ticket hall is reimagined in loose washes and graphite outlines, as Esteban wanted to give the sculptures the space they deserve,” explained a spokesperson for the gallery.
Liquid Trapezoid, 2019.
Photo courtesy of the artist and Gavlak Gallery
Gavlak Gallery presented the contemporary artist Gisela Colon. Her large-scale wall works titled ‘Rectanguloids’ – created during the quarantine – embody how time expands, retracts and collapses. The artist describes her practice as organic minimalism, focusing her unique sculptural language on addressing physical laws such as gravity, time, movement, energy, and transformation.
Gisela Colón, Quantum Shift, (Parabolic Monolith Sirius Titanium) (rendering), 2021.
Engineered Aerospace Carbon Fiber, 7.62 x 2.43 x 3.05 meters.
Courtesy of the artist and GAVLAK
Another artwork of the artist, Quantum Shift (Parabolic Monolith Sirius Titanium) (2021), was a centrepiece of Frieze Sculpture in Regent’s Park London. Made of a type of carbon fibre developed for advanced aerospace technology, Quantum Shift, as with other pieces by Colon, represents a classic masculine form transformed into feminized symbols of power.
The Echo of an Ancient Form of Knowledge, 2021.
Photo courtesy of Frieze
Installed in Proyectos Ultravioleta’s corner booth in the Focus section, Edgar Calel’s work titled The Echo of an Ancient Form of Knowledge (Ru k’ ox k’ob’el jun ojer etemab’el) (2021) was a talking point at Frieze. Exploring the Indigenous experience through the beliefs and practices of his Mayan Kaqchikel heritage, the Guatemalan artist presented a number of stones with fruit laid on top. The day before the fair opened, Calel ritually cut the fresh fruit and vegetables and arranged them on the surface of the stones. What is likely to be viewed as an installation or performance, was in fact, an offering to his ancestors and other members of the Mayan indigenous community, acknowledging those who came before.
Although the artwork was never intended to be sold, over a series of conversations, Tate has acquired custodianship of it—as well as the Mayan ritual needed to install it. The agreement is based on the Mayan thinking and custom, whereby ideas of ownership are different. The institution will have custodianship of the work for 13 years, a number that is symbolic of the 13 joints in the body.
8 Breaths (2014). Photo courtesy of the artist
On show with Kukje Gallery, the artwork titled “8 Breaths” by the Korean contemporary artist Gimhongsok is part of a sculptural trilogy – Untitled (Short People) (2018-), Breaths (2013-), and MATERIAL (2012) – all displaying visual interpretations of balloons. “Initially constructed with real balloons, it (each work) begins with the act of blowing them up and ends with capturing the individual's breath by tying them and casting them in bronze,” explains the artist.