As starts to Frieze week go, being asked to pretend to be an adventurous mole is an auspicious one. This was Bedwyr Williams's doing, in a performance to mark the opening of his show at Ceri Hand's cellarlike space in Covent Garden. Surrounded by his sculptures – comedic, surreal takes on everyday items such as garden barbecues encrusted in shells, a slightly caved-in office door with a plaque reading 'Bedwyr Williams, Head of Department' – the artist related a wry narrative that ended in untimely death beneath the wheels of a supermarket delivery truck.
ArtReview made an abrupt shift into seriousness en route to Frieze Masters, the new counterpart to Frieze London, showcasing art made before the year 2000, from ancient to modern. The new fair wears its art-historical credentials soft-shade grey: from the carpets and parquet flooring to the sartorial choices of the dealers and collectors. It was very quiet yesterday, with a more mature set of clientele and a lot of space around works. ArtReview was happy to get nose-close to Bonnard, Guston and Kandinsky paintings, plus a Canaletto or two, and enjoyed a gorgeous solo presentation of William Eggleston photographs from the 1970s in a booth shared by Victoria Miro and Cheim & Read.
As with many art fairs, the curated sections here are the most enjoyable to view. 'Spotlight', selected by Brazilian curator Adriano Pedrosa, is a series of solo presentations, and they include many strong, historically significant works focusing on Eastern Europe, feminism and performance from around the 1970s: Sanja Iveković's performance documentation works at Espaivisor; Mladen Stilinovic at Frank Elbaz; a silver thread sculpture by Lygia Pape at Galeria Graça Brandão; and Birgit Jürgensen's visceral body-focused works at Galerie Hubert Winter, which included a sculpture of a fleshy 'pregnant' shoe, drawings of beds that appear to have giant mouse ears laid on them and a series of photographs in which body parts are made strange with appendages and adaptations.
This left ArtReview feeling a bit strange, so we headed to Locanda Locatelli for a drink, but the London restaurant was struggling with service, resulting in long waiting times. This was a reminder of how much better the food seemed to be organised at Frieze New York in May, but we have to say, our olives – yes, the big bright green ones – were very good indeed.
BACK TO MAYFAIR
Pittman, Rothko, Sugimoto,Tuymans, Fischli and Weiss
As nice as it was to take the weight off the soles of ArtReview's pointy shoes, there was lots to see, so we pushed on. Painting dominated the latter half of the afternoon – Lari Pittman's really rather great Thought-Forms at Thomas Dane Gallery, in which the artist employs borders – interlinking circles or grids, for example – to frame his mash of graphically rendered imagery, which ranges from cool modernist lines to surrealist iconography. At their new space, Paceare unashamedly holding a beauty contest, with a hang of Mark Rothko's late, brooding dark paintings and Hiroshi Sugimoto's emotionally engulfing seascapes. Incredible individually, but bringing the two artists' works together leads us to ponder if there can be such as thing as too much sublime. The works of Luc Tuymans (ArtReview's current cover feature) at the new David Zwirneron Grafton Street have a seductive iridescence to them, and the gallery space works well too: expansive, but not too flashy. Sprüth Magers, the old boy on that London block, has a nicely spaced presentation of Fischli and Weiss's modernist, industrial-looking rubber and unfired clay sculptures. It is nice to see something so happily contemporary after all that oil on canvas.
Oleg Kulik, Meet My boyfriend Charley #3, 1994, b/w photograph, 125 x 201 cm. Courtesy the artist and Regina Gallery, London & Moscow
Regina Gallery pulls out the shock stops with an exhibition of Russian political provocateur Oleg Kulik's photographic documentation of various 'actions'. And when we say 'actions', we actually mean animal love. And when we say 'animal love', we mean bestiality. Look – there's Kulik with… oh, good God. Like those who have come after him – Voina for instance – Kulik goes all the way to rupture the bourgeois moral status quo.
THE FINAL LEG
Eddie Peake and Prem Sahib, Feel Up, 2012 (installation view). Courtesy the artists and Southard Reid, London
Along Eastcastle Street, Modern Art – soon to be moving – is seeing off the now rather art-crowded Fitzrovia neighbourhood with an exhibition of large monochromatic silkscreens on collaged linen by David Noonan that prove simultaneously ghostly and pretty. The evening of openings wound down in the company of youth: Laure Prouvost's ambitious, happily absurd installation of an upside-down office – desks, coat stands and telephones hanging from the ceiling – as a surreal theatre set. Playing in the same room was a feature-length film-noir-style thriller developed by Prouvost from an intuitive German-to-English translation of Kafka's 1915 novella, Metamorphosis. It's bewildering, but that seems to be her aim. Equally setlike is Eddie Peake and Prem Sahib's collaboration at Southard Reid, Feel Up, which saw the space bisected diagonally by a wall covered in a copper-toned metal and inlaid with speakers playing a sound installation. A forest of plants peeked out from behind the wall, but viewers stood with their backs to it in order to watch a black-and-white film in which a girl lovingly drips her spit onto a man's torso and massages it into his skin while he lies, supine and expressionless, on the floor.
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