Frieze London diary: from a star-studded anniversary bash to Madonna’s tribute to her son


Celeb DJs (and a cake) wow party crowd

There is always one party during Frieze week that gets tongues wagging, and this year was no exception, with the art world getting on down to KOKO in Camden on Thursday night for Frieze’s anniversary bash, supported by fashion brand Stone Island. Big-name guests including artist Wolfgang Tillmans and broadcaster Edith Bowman grooved to a special performance by the hip hop musician Loyle Carner, this year’s Frieze Music participant, while further musical diversion was provided by artists Haroon Mirza and Mark Leckey, who played DJ sets on the roof terrace. A high point came when the co-founders of Frieze, Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp, cut a hefty cake marking the 20th anniversary, prompting smiles (and the odd tear).

Uncanny likeness: Madonna with her son’s charcoal drawing of her, in an exhibition at a secret venue

Rocco Ritchie gives good face

In our Frieze daily issue earlier this week we pointed out the high celeb count at Frieze London this year (Andrew Garfield and Florence Pugh, hello!). We also hoped and prayed that the Queen of Pop, Madonna, would make an appearance before her Celebration run of concerts at the O2 taking place over the next week. Lo and behold, the Material Girl did turn up at an art bash, namely her son Rocco Ritchie’s latest exhibition of works on show at a mystery London location. Madonna posted a series of the young artist’s charcoal works on canvas on Instagram, one of which depicts Madge herself. The pop star was impressed, gushing: “your show was remarkable!”

Artist Anthea Hamilton models the hat she donned in honour of Madonna delle Rondine

If you want to get ahead, get a hat

The moment when contemporary artists are invited to talk about their favourite works at the National Gallery is always a Frieze week highpoint. This year, on Thursday night, Anthea Hamilton donned a wide-brimmed hat in a sartorial tribute to St Jerome, and the headgear in her chosen work, Crivelli’s Madonna della Rondine, commenting “I’ve never worn a hat in my life, I’ve given up the top of my head for a painting”. Meanwhile, Bob and Roberta Smith had an emotional exchange with National Gallery director Neil McGregor in front of Mantegna’s The Triumphs of Caesar while holding his father Fred Brill’s sketchbook and reminiscing about roaming free in the galleries as a child. Other contributions included Rana Begum enthusing about the “light, form, colour and space” of Turner’s Fighting Temeraire and the National Gallery’s artist-in-residence Céline Condorelli pointing to the links between her installation NG and Caneletto’s Venice: The Feast Day of Saint Roch.

Naked attraction: Tony Matelli’s spookly realistic sculpture is causing consternation in Regent’s Park

Frieze is such a snore-fest

The hyperrealistic sculpture Sleepwalker (2014)—depicting a somnambulating man clad in baggy white underpants with outstretched arms—is startling joggers and strollers in Regent’s Park, some of whom seem to be mistaking the work of art for a dozy dude who has wandered off piste. Indeed, artist Tony Matelli’s naked man, part of Frieze Sculpture, looks so genuinely sleepy, some small children were warned by a cheeky park warden not “to wake him up”.

Maggi’s tribute to old mates

Maggi Hambling’s Prelude, a painted grid of 12 mouths and female pudenda in Frieze Masters’ Studio section, is proving a bit of an eye popper for the staid aisles of the fair. When asked what this most explicit of works was a prelude for, Hambling’s sardonically replied that “people have imaginations”. Other items in this evocation of the artist’s creative space include a human skull, which Hambling calls George, in memory of her late friend George Melly, and a number of paintings of her late muse, the legendary artist’s model and cat burglar Henrietta Moraes, who died in 1999. Hambling also revealed that Prelude comes from the collection of the feminist author Fay Weldon, who died early this year. Life and loves of a she-devil, indeed.

The Undercover Gallerist

Anonymous reports from behind the scenes at the fair

I’ve just been told this is my last column, which I’m late filing because it’s been a surprisingly busy day in the tent.

But I have some actual gossip for you all: I’m horrified to tell you all that the bed bugs are already here. Don’t worry about getting them next week on your trip to Paris as. according to my sources (who am I to think I now have “sources”?), one prominent gallery is already dealing with them. I couldn’t help but wonder if it would be possible to get through the last days of the fair dealing with bed bug bites if you were just a small team and without some bored assistants to babysit the booth on the weekend while you bathed yourself in milk.

Rushing to tell you all my last thoughts: nobody cares about Barbara Sturm; tote bags don’t hold the same power these days; I didn’t steal anything from Gail’s but a shout out to all who did; Damien Hirst can’t actually paint; and my booth neighbours turned out to be rather boring, which is much worse than horrible, to be honest.

I’m not sure I’ll be asked back next year for another column, not because of my terrible writing, but because most galleries here are at a serious risk of closing—including me. A wise collector told me today that “when you have privilege, you also have responsibility”. I replied: “when you have privilege, why don’t you just buy something already?”


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