Frieze London diary: cute bomb dogs and a return to order in the VIP queue


Margate artists bring seaside to Frieze

The Margate takeover of the art world continues apace. Pilar Corrias’s stand is given entirely to prominent local artist Sophie von Hellerman’s all encompassing installation paying tribute to her home town, with paintings, walls and even carpet devoted to all things Margate. But while Hellermann’s Thanet-themed gesamtkunstwerk offers an exuberant scene of whirling carousels, dancing figures, crashing surf and scudding clouds, next door Carl Freedman offers a less wholesome take on the South coast town. Here Lindsey Mendick, a good friend and protégé of Margate’s most famous native, Tracey Emin, has a striking display of her exuberantly dysfunctional ceramics. These works, sitting on plinths decorated with pastel patterns, depict handbags exploding with creepy crawlies and octopus tentacles. The pretty pedestals have a darker side, too—they are apparently blown-up specimens of murky household mould from Mendick’s Margate abode. So much for the healthy properties of sun, sea and sand!

Penny for your thoughts: the cute spaniel is doing her bit to keep visitors to Frieze safe

Heart-melters on a mission

We love our canine pals at The Art Newspaper, which is why we were delighted to run into a throng of doggies known as the Dog Unit outside Frieze London. These marvellous mutts are the “bomb dogs” who are trained to seek out explosives on site. One of the newest recruits to the explosives pack is a delectable doe-eyed puppy called Penny who was keen to get started on her training by darting the aisles, checking out collectors and sniffing around the stands. We understand that the melt-your-heart baby spaniel also has a brother at home called Kenny. Hats off to Penny and Kenny, the super-cute dog siblings.

Damned auto-correct! The label on the Chris Ofili work, with the clearly visible ghost of a typing error

Chris(t) Ofili loses his religion

The art world can be a harsh place; indeed, at the Allied Editions stand at Frieze London, it looked like none other than the son of god had had his career cut short (thanks to a few strokes of Tippex). The label for a work by the UK-based artist Chris Ofili had the vestige of a “T” at the end of Ofili’s first name—the letter having been redacted, but not quite thoroughly enough.

Ofili is no stranger to religious subject matter, of course: his 1996 work The Holy Virgin Mary, featuring elephant dung and images of naked bottoms, sent politicians in New York into a spin when it was exhibited as part of Charles Saatchi’s Sensation exhibition. For the print at Frieze, he has stuck to Greek mythology, with a lively depiction of a satyr in an edition of 125 (price currently £2,800). Not quite the second coming, but still…

Nick Cave (right) was overcome with emotion during his conversation with Gus Casely-Hayford (left)

Art that brings tears to your eyes

Its rare that an artist is moved to tears during a public talk, but last night the Chicago-based artist Nick Cave was visibly affected when, in conversation with V&A East director Gus Casely-Hayford at the Royal Institute, he recalled how he felt when his family first came to his studio see his work. “I didn’t think they understood what I was doing, so for me to see them get it, it was so intense,” he said, wiping his eyes at the memory. There’s certainly intensity aplenty in Cave’s three works currently on show at Holtermann Fine Art, featuring casts of the artist’s body parts, wreaths of metal flowers and a tondo-pelt of vivid bristling metal filaments .

They all use beauty as what he described as a politically- charged “weapon”, to draw us in and churn us up. And while they may all date from this year, they mark a closed chapter: now he is entering a new phase, making what he describes as paintings, but using a needle, not a brush. “Needlepoint, that’s my new painting,” he says. Subversive stitch, indeed.

This year’s queue on opening day had a much more organised two-tier system

Early doors for A-listers

After the queue chaos at Frieze London in 2022, this year’s more orderly system—separated into wave one for the top-tier celebs at 11am, and wave two at 2pm—seemed to go down well with fairgoers at yesterday’s opening. Venturing out into the 2pm throng, we asked a number of visitors how they felt about being ranked below the VVVVVIPs. “Bloody cheek! Seriously, getting in is much better this year,” said an anonymous curator. Another visitor patiently waiting to enter in the afternoon said the extra time allowed him to “shop first, browse museums second and hit the Frieze trail last!” Never use the phrase sloppy seconds again…

The Undercover Gallerist

Anonymous reporting from behind the scenes at the fair

My column is a short one today because—insanely—I’m writing this as the fair opening is in full swing. I just ignored a huge collector from France so I could pen this quickly in the bathroom.

The best moment of the day was when I went for a cigarette after I sold the first big work and witnessed a very glamorous woman throw her mohair jumper in the bin because she was “simply too hot”. I then watched as an artist (not blue chip but quite famous) retrieve said jumper—but sadly, it wascovered in too much cigarette ash to be recovered.

The worst moment of the day—besides the free gallerists boxed lunches—was the sight of sniffer dogs roaming the aisles. It’s unclear if they were part of the pack of bomb dogs outside or if they were here to check nobody was having too much fun. I’m yet to hear what happened if they did in fact find something.

Meanwhile, I’ve paid for the lights in my booth by placing some work—thank god. I need to make more as soon as possible to pay for the daily hoovering and cleaning fees…


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