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With barely time to pause for breath after The Manchester Contemporary it was straight into organising the The London Art Fair taking place in January 2012. Axis will have a stand in the Art Projects space where the work of new and emerging artists work is shown alongside selected work from public galleries such as The Whitechapel and ICA.
An obituary for the artist Adrian Berg stopped me in my tracks the other day, for I’ve loved his paintings ever since seeing a touring exhibition of his work in 1986.
At that time he painted the view from his window over Regent’s Park with all the obsessive, investigative intelligence of his hero Claude Monet, whose ‘series’ paintings of haystacks and cathedrals were Berg’s single most important source of inspiration.
In mid October, four of the Axis team – Kara (Head of Audience Development), Mark (Head of Finance and Resources), Ruth (Projects Coordinator) and Sheila (Chief Executive) took a trip to London to see this year’s Frieze Art Fair. In the next four posts we share our experiences and let you know what we thought.
I felt a bit out of sync as I made my way into the fair – I missed last year’s Frieze as I was on maternity leave – so felt the need to go and catch up. While still familiar, the feel of the show was very different from when I last went in 2009. My overriding memory of two years ago was that big statement sculptures were ‘in’ as were sequins and sparkle. But now, it seems, it’s out with the sparkle and in with much smaller work, muted colours, handmade and found objects.
On Thursday I succumbed to temptation and lost my Frieze virginity. It was becoming a little embarrassing (how old? and you’ve never been? what’s wrong with you?) but I now feel like I’ve gone through a rite of passage. So how was it? I’m not sure to be honest, it was all a blur. I expected to see lots of art, I did, but don’t ask me what it was, I was moving so quickly trying to see everything in one day – but hey I’m new to this.
This is the third year in a row I have been to Frieze and I have to admit I usually steel myself to the crowds, heat and sensory overload that Frieze administers.
This year the mood was quieter even if the numbers appeared the same. Whilst there was still plenty of neon and glitz in the show, it was tempered by quieter, less flashy work requiring more than just a cursory glance. I for one, appreciated the change. Usually I travel around the show at a rate of knots and make it my aim to ‘tick off’ every stand.
A day spent at Frieze is not exactly (forgive the rhyme) a breeze. It requires a lot of organisation, concentration and stamina – and in our case plenty of pit-stops for coffee and cake. It’s also expensive: £27 this year.
Nearby London Zoo is cheaper and offers just as much entertainment, though the people-spotting at Frieze is a spectator sport that’s every bit as enjoyable as the big cats and penguin pool on the other side of Regent’s Park.
I’m not the first to observe that it’s a strange way to look at art: there’s so much visual clutter and so little information about the art on show. This year many of the exhibitors took the minimalist interpretive approach to a new level, with no labels at all on many stands. I guess you’re just supposed to know what you’re looking at.
On a recent trip to London I had one evening and a day to explore, but how much art can you see, in the middle of a bizarre Autumnal heat-wave? As long as there is some beer to accompany it, quite a bit it seems!
Audio Obscura by Lavinia Greenlaw is a project produced by Artangel, set for the time-being in St.Pancras International Station. I spent a contemplative half hour watching the world go by, listening to the fragmented stories of unknown strangers through a borrowed head-set.
Here at Axis we’re thinking hard about our new visual identity, which we’ll be launching alongside our new web platform in the early part of next year. One of the things we’re also pondering is what we call ourselves.
In general, we’re somewhat dubious about the wisdom of re-brands. Remember Consignia, the disastrous re-branding of our much-loved Royal Mail? We certainly don’t want to go down that route. So, whatever happens, we won’t be calling ourselves something completely different.
Followers of Axis will know that as well as promoting artists and provoking debate about contemporary art, we also build web platforms and create new digital products. Recently, this has led to some exciting new developments, among them a website and iPhone app for Art in Yorkshire – supported by Tate.