Frieze Art Fair 2015: The Highlight of Controversy and Ambiguity

This year’s Frieze festival has officially left its mark and departed with the collection of all 64 galleries spanning across 27 countries all in space of one glorious three-day weekend. It was an incredible if not overwhelming magnitude of canvases, sculptures and live art interactions.

Whether you are an art aficionado and looking to invest thousands in your latest piece, or someone with a fleeting interest, the Frieze festival is big enough and versatile enough to please all parties. But do not be fooled, this is not an exhibition you can cover in half an hour, to fully appreciate each piece in each room, you need to clear your evening because this is a time consuming experience.

As you walk around the maze of white walls, sporadically marked with huge coloured canvases, tiny plastic toys and a penis-drawing live artist, you are packed tightly with the hundreds of other London visitors. They clutch their iPhones and hold them up to everything that isn’t accompanied with a plaque. But is the art is the focus of this event. The four rooms are split into sub sections, each to represent a different artist where there work is displayed. Shuffling through the crowd, you are invited to sample great work from unknown creators and sitting side by side you realize the vast variety that the Frieze covers. Landscape photography touches a giant inflatable black cat; rubber cutouts sit parallel to giant pink insects. Perhaps on some level by the two hundredth art piece, you become immune to its effect but every now and again something grabs you once more.

It is a wholly subjective experience of modern art but it is interesting to see which pieces get the biggest crowds and have the most mobile phone screens hovering above them. A specific memorable piece is ‘Cierra’ by John de Andrea. This is an incredibly realistic model of a nude female. She leans on one side, staring into the middle distance, barely covered by a white sheet. At first you assume that this is live art, a real woman posing for hours on end not permitted to move. But this is a credit to Andrea’s work. His sculpture pays special to all the tiny details of the female form, the texture of the skin as the light dances on it, the craftsmanship of each strand of hand on her head and the vacant glassy look she has in her eyes that remind us that she cannot be real.

she cannot be real

Other great works also include, the colourful array of glass spheres. This is a really striking piece. As you drift passively between the looming canvases splattered in acrylic, this one will stop you. Each glass ball shines like an appetizing treat. They cover the whole spectrum from greens to oranges and hang proudly in a circle. This is a refreshingly positive art installation. A lot of the other pieces do not convey such a cheerful and colourful message. Glass is a reoccurring theme at this year’s exhibition with other works incorporating glistening white panes of to give off the effect of a bubble, each surface holding onto a rainbow.


One of the most noteworthy attractions is Ken Kagami’s live art event. He invites the gawping viewers to pose for a portrait. When he is finished he present them a crude felt tip drawing of them naked. But he refuses to draw vaginas. The pictures have no detail and are the scrawling’s of stick men with doodled on penises. This attraction flocks tiny crowds every hour when Kagami sits down to draw. He wears a hat with a felt penis on it, his desk adorned with a large plastic clock and a fake pile of feces.  His drawings are free and only take him thirty seconds to complete. But for this Japanese artist, it is all about the fun and humour of art. His work is ‘not a response to the fair’, for Kagami ‘it is more important to entertain myself.’ And how did the typically reserved British audience react to this somewhat unorthodox approach? They loved it. The women stood proud as if Kagami had ex-ray vision, only to be presented with a crude picture of dropping breasts. The men were more bashful, slightly embarrassed at the picture of a tiny penis covered in large amounts of pubic hair.

With these pieces selling for up to £50,000, it is no wonder the array is so vast and impressive. It is a sweet shop for the eyes. There is always a video being played in your peripherals. A woman is sewing into the soles of her feet and on another screen a nude man is trying to fight a bag that is tied on to him. In the corner of one of the rooms a small lake has been constructed. It is filled with a collection of colourful objects, half of them poking out of the water’s surface. But the water has a film across it to make it look like plastic and the visitors jump next to the lake’s edge to see if they can make the water ripple.

The artists take on controversial topics, their art an extension of their political stand points and beliefs. Some of the pieces are visceral, angry carvings from an eclectic range of cultural problems. By the end of the event you feel both mentally and physically exhausted, appreciating and understand every theme, character and message explored is no mean feat. It is a tremendous explosion of creativity all crammed together in one place. Overwhelming, tiring and exhilarating. What the Frieze lacks is information, the plaque only giving the name of the artist and the name of the piece. But often understanding the hidden messages and processes involved can add so much more than initially interpreted.

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Night, yellow light by Mary Weatherford – 2015

Olivia Topley