Frieze London 2021: a springboard for new and experimental voices in art

Frieze London 2021 opened at Regent’s Park saw the convergence of collectors, gallerists, and art enthusiasts after the gap of a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Oct 20, 2021

When the heart of art capital, London, had to give Frieze-London a miss due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was bound to return this year with an excitement to successfully meet the longstanding yearnings of collectors and gallerists alike, and quench the thirst for the tactile experience of art. Opened from October 13 to 17, 2021, the 276 participating galleries from close to 39 countries housed their art under the tents in Regent’s Park. The long tour of Frieze London 2021 peppered with an experience laden with an equal quantum of enchantment and exhaustion inescapably registered the works: engaged in an experiment with the medium, only to re-establish the link between curiosity and art.

We look at six works that stood out in this edition.

Lubna Chowdhary, The Marker | Lubna Chowdhary | STIRworld
Lubna Chowdhary, The Marker Image: Courtesy of Jhaveri Contemporary

The London-based artist, Lubna Chowdhary, represented by Jhaveri Contemporary, is known for an oeuvre dotted with subversion of the traditional context and utilitarian purpose of her medium of choice i.e., clay. Her work The Markers at the Frieze London 2021 bespoke her creative proclivity to underscore the presence of interconnection across the references from the geographical, spiritual, and commodified world. Chowdhary illustrates her work The Markers saying, “They challenge the nationalist narratives and symbols of origin and cultural authenticity (flags, religious iconography, and commercial logos) through which we manufacture difference and by which we identify and align ourselves.” In doing so, the work anchored an aesthetic exploration of the identity and its multifocal constituents. 

Lubna Chowdhary, Shifting Structures | Lubna Chowdhary | STIRworld
Lubna Chowdhary, Shifting Structures Image: Courtesy of Jhaveri Contemporary

Korean sculptor and installation artist, Do Ho Suh, came to Frieze London 2021 with Lehmann Maupin. Since the COVID-19 pandemic touched the lives of many in a variety of ways, it was inexorable to find the artist whose body of work would raise an enquiry into the relationship to home and the passage of time. At the gallery booth, the works Hub-2, Breakfast Corner, 260-7, Sungbook-Dong, Sungboo-Ku, one-to-one scale reproduction of the breakfast nook at Suh’s home in Seoul, greeted the audience. The site-specific installations are in-between spaces only to traverse the notions of home, memory, marginality and the parallel between psychic and physical space. During the time of lockdown, most of the time spent in a home in London saw him returning to his Specimen series. The sewn fabric versions of household objects are a response to the places where the artist had once lived or worked.

Do Ho Suh, Specimen | Lehmann Maupin | STIRworld
Do Ho Suh, Specimen Image: Courtesy of Lehmann Maupin and Jack Hems

Maotik’s commission Sense of Blue on view at La Prairie Lounge, Frieze London, led an immersive digital experience. The colour blue for the French artist is synonymous with water: the sky casts its reflection on the surface of a water body; during nightfall, the dissimilarity between ocean and sky is blurred. The digital artist, dedicated to interactive installations and audiovisual performance, with the work pushed the audience in an effort to sharpen their vision. The artist enunciates, “My work is generated from a computer system that uses algorithms to create audio and visual components. The use of digital technology allows an infinite number of combinations of data to be reproduced.” The large-scale installation like Sense of Blue when alters the perception of the built environment it consequently invited the viewers to make the invisible visible.

Maotik, Sense of Blue | Maotik | STIRworld
Maotik, Sense of Blue Image: Courtesy of Maotik

The UK-based artist, Idris Khan, with his minimalistic works – be it photography, video or sculpture - draws extensively from literature, history, art, music and religion. The kernel of Khan’s work - the act of repetition- ascertains the past, albeit avoiding a complete replication. Towards this end, it inscribes newness with every coating - be it of paint, text, or image. The absent-present written text in his works has been a source of interest to decipher what lies concealed under the layers of repetitions. Khan in collaboration with Deutsche Bank, at the Frieze London Lounge, showcased a site-specific installation of the embossed stamps he regularly deploys to create his works. The wooden-blocks installation aimed to let the audience enter the world of making the artworks, populated yet hidden with a long string of words.

Idris Khan, Stamp Installation Image: Courtesy of Idris Khan

The video work Pure Means by the USA-based new-media artist P. Staff was jointly commissioned by Frieze and Q/. The video shot in the desert of California in the summers of 2021 is at the intersection of the state of dreaming and enervation. The video created with anaglyphic 3D effects is made in collaboration with LA-based dancer and performer, Gregory Barnett. The cinematic expanse of the video has two parallel streams running in colours: blue and red. Interesting when watched together, the streams rift apart, but could not withhold their unique identity from each other. The experience left the viewers with a moment to realign their perspective around the impression of absolute.

Along with the thriving contemporary art at the Frieze London 2021, the section Stand Out, curated by Luke Syson, Director of Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, under the umbrella of the Frieze Masters with a focus on the history of art highlighted the spectrum of objects of design from classical antiquities to 20th century masterpieces.

P. Staff, Pure Means Image: Courtesy of P. Staff

Besides this, the artists Nora Turato, Ndayé Kougaou and Fanny Gicquel of the section Unworlding at Frieze London 2021 underscored, “how pessimism can drive imaginative agency rather than lead to immobilism or the (re) production of the world we live in”, to borrow words from the curator of this part, Cédric Fauq. The past 18 months have witnessed upheaval at various fronts, be it healthcare, social or political. As a response to these disturbances, the artists relooked at the dynamics of the world to emphasise the event of collapse is followed by the period of resurrection.

If Eva Langret, director of Frieze London has maintained to “elevating new voices” with this year’s edition of Frieze London, it also leaves the door open for new possibilities to be explored and probed next year.

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