Streetwear in Versailles
Preview of the London Frieze Fairs

Featuring more than 160 galleries from 36 countries, the 17th edition of Frieze London is more international than ever before. And Frieze Masters is again offering first-rate historical works, from antique artifacts to the twentieth-century feminist avant-garde. The two fairs, accompanied by Deutsche Bank as Global Lead Partner, are once again the highlight of this year’s art autumn in London.
And in the end: weaving. Even at the extremely progressive Bauhaus, female students were urged to take up textile art. "Wo Wolle ist, ist auch ein Weib, das webt, und sei es nur zum Zeitvertreib (Where there is wool, there is also a woman who weaves, even if it is only a pastime), rhymed Bauhaus member Oskar Schlemmer. Accordingly, the weaving mill was finally declared a “women's class” in 1920. And weaving, embroidery, and sewing are still considered feminine – or even folkloric – connoted activities, the results of which are mostly regarded as arts and crafts. In this assessment, the devaluation of “female” and non-Western, traditional art forms mixes. The most recent works by Madagascan artist Joël Andrianomearisoa, which can now be seen at Frieze London, deal with precisely this phenomenon. His woven works combine references to abstract modernism with the art tradition of his homeland and are part of the new section Woven, which focuses on textile art. Woven is curated by Cosmin Costinas, the director of Para Site, Hong Kong's leading independent contemporary art center. Costinas selected very divergent positions: While Angela Su’s images embroidered from human hair react to the recent protests in her hometown of Hong Kong, Chitra Ganesh, who is also represented in the Deutsche Bank Collection, was inspired by Hieronymus Bosch's triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights, completed in 1500, to create a fantastic immersive installation. A real discovery is José Leonilson, who died in 1993 at the age of 36. After being diagnosed with AIDS, the Brazilian switched from brush to needle and thread. He embroidered small canvases as well as everyday objects such as bags or cushions with reduced motifs and poetic texts. “I make things for those I love,” he once explained, and this love is apparent in his very intimate works.
 
With curated sections such as Woven, Frieze London once again confirms its reputation as the “world's hottest contemporary art fair,” as the Times once put it. Deutsche Bank has been a partner of Frieze London for 16 years now, and since 2012 has also been involved in the parallel Frieze Masters, which presents art spanning six millennia from a decidedly contemporary perspective. Viviane Sassen's project Venus & Mercury, which is on view in the Deutsche Bank Lounges at Frieze London and Frieze Masters, fits in with this approach. As naturally as the Dutch artist moves between art and fashion photography, in Venus & Mercury she combines conceptual photography and contemporary video art with the baroque splendor of Versailles. The series was created together with a room-filling two-channel video installation as a commissioned work for the palace, where it will be shown in the context of the exhibition Versailles – Visible/Invisible until October 20. Stills of the video work are presented at the Deutsche Bank Lounges in London.

For six months, Sassen had the opportunity to explore the main residence of the French kings – even during periods when the castle was closed to visitors. With her camera, she roamed through the empty halls of mirrors, the opulent gardens, as well as secret rooms that are inaccessible to the public, including the private chambers of the king's mistresses. But she was particularly fascinated by the sculptures, which can be seen in many of the works from Venus & Mercury. Sassen had a field day in the Galérie des sculptures et des moulages, where casts of the most famous sculptures of antiquity are exhibited and damaged sculptures await restoration. Some of the works in the series also feature contemporary protagonists, such as Leila, a young Frenchwoman with Senegalese roots, whom the artist met by chance in Versailles. Sassen invited Leila and her friends to be photographed by her. The young women pose casually in their hip streetwear in magnificent rooms that were once reserved for high nobility and show that they too are part of French culture.

Sassen's project also has an autobiographical component. “I had been there once before as a young teenager, when I was about 14,” Sassen recalls. “The palace made a huge impression on me. There was something about the statues in the garden. I found it an extremely romantic place and fantasized about what had happened there.” During her current research, she came across strange little "sculptures" that tell something about the hidden sides of palace life. The small metal objects turned out to be nose prostheses. They were worn by victims of syphilis, which was then rampant at the royal court. These objects and fragments of perfect body sculptures refer to sexuality and decay and to the omnipresent nexus between power and eroticism in Versailles. In the photographic works, they appear as mysterious objects that Sassen distorted further with translucent color fields. “I always try to avoid too much context,” explains the photographer. “I isolate these things in order to make them more abstract. My images are like a hall of mirrors; they reflect back at you what you already have inside.”

In addition to Sassen, works by other artists from the Deutsche Bank Collection will be shown at the two Frieze fairs. Early sculptures and drawings by Rachel Whiteread and works on paper by Michael Craig-Martin between 1967 and 2000, all from the private archive of the British pop artist, will be on view. KP Brehmer, who stands for a specifically German, politically committed kind of Pop Art, is represented with collages and silkscreen prints. Kara Walker, to whom an entire floor of the Deutsche Bank Towers in Frankfurt is dedicated, is not only present at Frieze. From October 2, she will also be exhibited in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, where site-specific works by artists such as Olafur Eliasson, Tacita Dean, and Philippe Parreno have caused a sensation. Back in 2014, Walker already proved that she can impress with site-specific large-scale projects. Her installation A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, a gigantic sphinx-like sculpture in a former sugar factory in Brooklyn, which, like her silhouettes, revolves around the themes of femininity, power, and history, enthralled critics and audiences alike.

In London, it has become a tradition for institutions to stage particularly strong exhibitions parallel to the Frieze fairs. An example is the first major Danh Vō show in the British capital. In the South London Gallery, he combines his own installations and sculptures with his father's calligraphies, abstract paintings by his former professor Peter Bonde, and collaborative works with children from a neighboring housing estate who had visited him in his Berlin studio. In her project Aire and Angels, which is on view from October 2 at the National Portrait Gallery, Elizabeth Peyton departs from the notion of the conventional solo exhibition. The American artist, who alongside Ai Weiwei and Edmund de Waal will also participate in one of this year's Frieze Talks, shows her portraits of such diverse celebrities as Kurt Cobain, Frida Kahlo, Elizabeth II, and David Hockney in the space for special exhibitions and the permanent exhibition, leading to some very unusual encounters over the centuries. On the occasion of its 100th birthday, the Bauhaus will be another focal point of the Frieze Talks. The London branch of the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac is presenting the exhibition Oskar Schlemmer - Kunstfigur. The show focuses on Schlemmer's groundbreaking experiments in dance and theater, including loans from the Deutsche Bank Collection.  
A.D.

Frieze London/Frieze Masters
Regent's Park, London
October 3 – 6, 2019