Tag Archives: Frieze


20 Apr


… every single year, guaranteed… BY NOT GOING.

I’m severely late on this one, because Frieze Art Fair [sic] was last October and at the time I was far too fucking busy touring Japan and having an amazing, inspiring time in the midst of the most staggering beauty to even think about paying £40 to be milked by a loathsome trade fair for oligarchs, blood money gold diggers and other moneyed Eurotrash, even if I’d been in London at the time. However, this is an excellent– and dare I say even Career Suicidesque– response rant by Morgan Quaintance to Frieze’s jaw-droppingly unironic and egregious discussion panel entitled Off Centre: Can Artists Still Afford to Live in London? During a ticketed fair where a person earning minimum wage would have to work for nearly six hours to afford the admission price, and putting your coat or bag in the cloakroom costs a fiver. Not to mention that most people who work in the arts already know the answer, which can be found in the thousands of artists and other creative people, and key workers like teachers, who have been forced to leave the capital to stand any chance of making ends meet.

This talk is also evidence of what I mentioned in a recent post with regard to artist livelihoods being a taboo and unfashionable subject when I started talking about it seven or eight years ago. People who ran art galleries or arts organisations were often absolutely baffled and speechless at any suggestion they talk about how money flows through the system– and particularly how it doesn’t often flow to artists in any significant quantities– but now even the likes of Frieze see benefits (undoubtedly self-serving ones, as Quaintance also points out) in talking about the subject, or at least being seen to talk about it.

It’s well documented that I despise Frieze magazine and their trade (not art) fair, both of which are festering sores on the face of genuine art and an affront to everything I hold dear, and I know I’m very well accompanied in that, but it’s nice to have a co-pilot who says things like this:

[The talk] tipped the uneasy balance between finance and art to a position that felt entirely more exploitative, offensive and grotesque. Put simply, the instrumentalisation and commodification of hardship took things a step too far.”


“Is there something base about using the human fallout that comes from the pursuit of capital to excuse and make the pursuit of capital more attractive?”


He also torpedoes the infuriating, traitorous and intellectually lazy response of many apologists for the toxic sea of Panama-flavoured money in which some directors of public galleries, commercial gallerists and artists float their rotten boats, the “all money is dirty” brigade who generally only say so because they never earned or received a penny in their lives that didn’t come from dodgy sources and at the cost of somebody else’s suffering, oppression or exploitation.

“… the relentless spread of alienating neoliberal practices throughout the capital are what makes this all difficult to stomach. But the fact that it is easy for others to swallow makes me think that there are, at present, two consciousnesses operating in the British art world: one that is happy to ignore the art world’s possible complicity with the wretched socio-cultural, economic and political state of things and another that finds it distressing, disturbing and debilitating to do so.”

Distressed, disturbed and debilitated here, in case you were still in any doubt.

Frieze Art Fair: the monetization of your misery?



12 May



Supposedly to tie in with the opening of the Frieze and Gap Art Fair in New York– but really apropos of nothing except “ooh, rich people”– somebody called Jason used their own drool (he also contributes to human-shaped joke Tyler Brulé’s Monocle. QED.) to write out a super-duper tip-top list of “the most powerful people in the art world” for The Guardian.

It’s the usual soul-crushing litany of scumbags, twats, con artists, plutocrats and fuckwits but the real enjoyment is to be found in the torrent of vituperation and scorn in the comments. Read them all because there’s some good stuff about the chasm between this tiny, elite art world and what most real artists do or want to do, and what the public wants from artists. Here’s a few of the best comments, complete with the typos from their authors (rightly) being so angry they couldn’t quite control their fingers:

“It’s literally about handjobs, 110% about who you know twixt how well you speak bullshit. For instance if you can write a side of A4 to place next to a sock on the floor, explaining it’s existential significance then you are ready for the big time.”

“And what all this has to do with art? Art is a form of expression, it has nothing to do with power. A true artist is a fee person who is looking for personal satisfaction before anything else. This people are businessmen, money-makers, looking for power and prestige.”

“This something of an art world. It is not the art world. It’s the kind of art world that many who don’t like or understand the practices of contemporary art wish into existence. Farago even seems to identify goodies and baddies. (He is only a journalist) There are many art worlds.”

“Recent academic research reveals a developing gap between the comic-book art world outlined above, and practitioners and audiences, ranging from disenchantment to alienation. A recent publication (Art Production Beyond the Art Market edited by Karen van den Berg & Ursula Pasero) outlines something of the fundamental changes in art production, artists’ strategies and in the interconnection of different fields of cultural practice. Much of it makes the group above look as relevant in 2014 as Stubbs or Kahnweiler or Peggy Guggenheim. The only thing that connects them is wealth…”

“Why does the Guardian grovel and dribble at the mouth over these people? Where’s the critique? Where are the big analytical articles highlighting the shameless collusion of our “top” artists and galleries with the whims and tastes of a detached, decadent global super-rich elite – people who have primarily made their fortunes in a brutally unequal economic system that condemns millions to misery? As a newspaper you have pursued politicians, corporations, policemen and exposed corruption and criminality, but when it comes to the art world you go all starry-eyed and are content to make fawning, adulatory lists. You should be ripping into these people, every single one of them.”

“We need another term for this. It has nothing to do with art, really, so why refer to it as the art world? It’s just a subset of the larger commodity investment field, not so very different than trading in pork belly futures or real estate. Let’s please leave the word art out of it.”

“Depressing that half the collectors on this list stole their money from their own people – or go out with someone that did.”

“A useful list, should the revolution ever actually happen.”



5 Oct

Firstsite, Colchester, 8th September-25th November 2012

How the hell does somebody who makes such dim, shallow, repetitive and pointless work get such a big show? Oh… she’s been in Frieze. Mystery solved. Frieze seems to be all Firstsite cares about, because they appear not to care that there’s usually a ratio of about 10 staff to every visitor. There was exactly one other visitor when I was there at lunchtime, a period when a large public gallery should by rights be full of people even if they’re just passing, curious, getting out of the rain or killing time. This other visitor looked like a professional on her lunch break, but she was obviously bewildered and left quickly. Every alienating, vapid exhibition like this escalates the already sky-high resentment, disconnection and mistrust that still constantly swirl around Firstsite’s arrival in the town and in the east of England at large, whose flagship gallery it’s meant to be. I only sat on a bench outside for five minutes and I heard three passing pedestrians opine about how much they hated it.

The artist herself is present as an endless loop of babbling, random, artspeak Tourette’s syndrome on a wall monitor, with– yes– her Frieze cuttings in a file below. It seems the curator had a bit of a wobble and realised that the exhibition was all over the place and mostly incomprehensible.  Nice try, everybody, but this video isn’t helping. I actually found it highly entertaining and engaging for entirely the wrong reasons and I had a really good laugh at it (or rather, at her). I have to thank Hamilton for that, at least. And to be fair, she seems to be the first artist to find some viable way to actually show art on Firstsite’s intensely stupid and art-hostile sloping walls, even though it’s just giant wallpaper decals of John Travolta’s head. I don’t know what John Travolta has to do with anything, but he reappears as a screensaver in the foyer as well. Again, credit to Hamilton for calling a screensaver a screensaver instead of doing a Tacita Dean and claiming it as art. Continue reading


13 Apr

It’s an understatement so massive as to defy analogy when I say that I’m not a fan of Frieze’s corporate brand and their self-appointed role as corrupt policeman of “proper” contemporary art’s boundaries. I deal in my book with the magazine’s generally quite vile ethos, which I experienced first hand at Venice Biennale. I also discuss in the book my feelings about Frieze Art Fair; these feelings are not particularly warm and fuzzy either. I won’t repeat them here. Read the book. I’m reliably informed that Frieze’s senior bigwigs take violent exception to being criticised as well, one of the true hallmarks of a whacked-out despot. Naturally this makes any criticism one engages in much more enjoyable: Matthew Slotover as Kim Jong-Il via Team America, so ronery and ranting impotently about which uncooperative artists or gallerists he’s going to have “disappeared” from critical discourse…

However, a somewhat old (early 2009) but very interesting article by Dan Fox was dug up from Frieze’s archives by somebody on Metafilter yesterday. It’s a relatively long read, but it still manages to cover quite efficiently the art world’s various overt and covert interfaces with money and prestige, and to do some serious analysis of the art world’s and many artists’ enduring, perverse love affair with obfuscatory, artbollocks language.

Other highlights include:

Fox using Sally O’Reilly as a human shield to put a round in the forehead of Sarah Thornton’s glossy, Grazia-esque, drooling, “… and of course Damien was attracted to me…” starfucker book about contemporary artists, Seven Days in the Art World. O’Reilly: “To take [Takashi] Murakami as the subject of the studio visit chapter is rather like offering Turkish Delight as a typical foodstuff.” Nice one.

Some good advice to artists from Gilbert and George, of all people.

Reference to philosopher Nina Power’s view of what she calls “Nu-Language” to create illusory gravitas, complexity and engagement with ideas where none of these things truly exist; very much along the lines of my own views on that subject, and of George Orwell’s (discussed on this blog a while ago.)

Fox’s discussion of the art world’s uncanny ability to assimilate, neutralise and monetise resistance… and the romanticism of some artists themselves in imagining how effective their resistance is, or not as is more usually the case.

… and so on. No comments or discussion are allowed on the article itself of course: THIS! IS! FRIEEEEEEZE! <Kicks unimportant civilian art lover and their worthless pauper opinions into the pit.>

Intelligent comments and discussion beyond the clutch of Frieze’s cold, dead hand at Metafilter, though.

A Serious Business by Dan Fox, at Frieze:


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