Floral Art, Pastoral Landscapes, Whimsical Works: See What Caught the Eyes of Fairgoers at Frieze London

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If you were going to try to summarize the zeitgeist based on the offerings along the aisles at Frieze London (October 11–15), which opened its 20th anniversary edition to VIPs yesterday, the evidence might surprise you: it really seems like everything is coming up roses.

With dealers on their back foot as jitters continue to ripple about the state of the art business, the gambit this year was to appeal to our world-weary eyes with a colorful dose of whimsy. Floral art, delicate pastoral scenes, and playfully surrealistic nature that was more storybook than sci-fi were seemingly on every corner of the fair. While some might write it off as low-hanging fruit, lest one forget that art is supposed to be, among other things, a bloomy balm for the times.

The most sizeable iteration of this new flare for botanics was to be found, perhaps unsurprisingly, at Gagosian, where British art star Damien Hirst continues to try his hand at painting, this time in a new series called “The Secret Gardens Paintings” (2023)—the maximalist canvases have traded cherry trees for fields of wild flowers at an intimately close range, atop of which he layered his signature paint splotches.

A visitor gazes at and by Damien Hirst during a press preview for the Frieze Masters Art Fair in Regent’s Park in London on October 11, 2023. Photo: Daniel LEAL/AFP via Getty Images.

At Casey Kaplan, Kevin Beasley’s solo presentation struck a similar tone, with new works that merged flora and domestic elements. A series of four depict imagined landscapes in a surreal exterior world that could have been drawn from a fairytale. Just in front, a custom-built grandfather clock with a delicate hand-painted face still intact has been reworked with resin and other elements. The piece’s title, (2023), layers in historical heft with its nod to the Black scientist and clockmaker.

François Ghebaly’s group presentation was seamlessly integrated to create a fantastical scene, with works by Farah Al Qasimi, Marius Bercea, Max Hooper Schneider, Patricia Iglesias Peco, and Jessie Makinson. At Clearing, Marguerite Humeau’s wind-activated instruments have fanciful root structures and a trio of color-filled, cloudlike wall pieces have divinatory-like symbols etched onto them.

And Pilar Corrias, who has just expanded in London with a new flagship in Mayfair, had a showstopper booth featuring German artist Sophie von Hellermann that was uplifting and as dreamy as can be. Wisps of paint strokes completely covered the carpets and walls in vibrant splashes of color. The central element of the presentation, which is titled “Dreamland,” is a series of washy pastel works depicting ferris wheels, roller coasters, and carousels.

“A day spent at a seaside fun fair, in all its intensity, can feel like a whole life of dreams and desires compressed into a few hours of an afternoon,” the artist said about the new works. And, as far as this particular thread of art went, such a mood was disarmingly true of the white tent this week as well. Take a whirlwind tour around the fair.

Clearing. Photo: Linda Nylind, courtesy of Linda Nylind/Frieze.

Jadé Fadojutimi at Frieze London. Photo: Dave Benett/Getty Images.

François Ghebaly’s booth. Photo: Kate Brown.

Sadie Coles’s booth. Photo: Linda Nylind, courtesy of Linda Nylind/Frieze.

Kristina Kite Gallery. Photo: Linda Nylind, courtesy of Linda Nylind/Frieze.

On the stand at Seventeen. Photo: Linda Nylind, ourtesy of Linda Nylind/Frieze.

Carl Freedman Gallery. Photo: Linda Nylind, courtesy of Linda Nylind/Frieze.

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