The South African restaurant chain Nando’s is known for its peri-peri chicken and has over 1,000 outlets in 35 countries. Less well-known, it also has an art collection of more than 17,000 original works by 260 South African artists, purchased since 1987 to hang in its restaurants world-wide.
Nando’s is at London’s African art fair 1-54 this year, participating in an art event for the first time. It is showing four artists in collaboration with Cape Town’s Spier Art Trust, including artist Ricky Dystopi, with a Self Portrait created in green mosaic of stone and ceramic. There is a new must-have accessory on the stand; virtual reality tours of the artists’ studios, where you put on 3-D goggles and watch and hear them at work.
The week of the Frieze art fair in London is the busiest time in London’s art year; it can be overwhelming. The 1-54 fair, housed in London’s Somerset House, is a good place to start; it has only 43 galleries to go through. The fair began with 16 galleries five years ago; it now has events in New York, and Marrakech, but it is still small enough to see in two or three hours.
The art market is zeroing in on Africa at the moment, and South Africa in particular is riding the wave. The ground floor at 1-54 has a special exhibition by the South African artist Athi-Patra Ruga, in a show of exuberant, vibrantly coloured exotic tapestries, film and warped sculptures that “lionise black, female and queer bodies”.
The work at 1-54 here is more accessible than the contemporary work at Frieze, and feels more 20th Century, about painting and making art. There are galleries from Cairo to Marrakech. South African artist Anton Kannemeyer’s rich racial satires of the Tintin cartoon made me laugh; then there are the compelling photographs of Mozambican Mario Macilau, who began life as a street child.
Frieze art fair, founded in London in 2003, is the mothership of art fairs but is now divided into two spaces in Regent’s Park: Frieze London, with 160 galleries, for contemporary work and Frieze Masters, with 130 galleries, for master works that stretch right back to antiquity. Both events are now so large that they are beginning to feel like shopping malls.
Serious collectors with serious money head first for Frieze Masters these days. The legendary art dealer Anthony D’Offay, one of the UK’s biggest power names until he was caught up in a #metoo sex harassment story this year, was a big fan of the Gagosian Gallery’s show of the photographer Man Ray. It has objects, lithographs, photographs, and “rayographs”, made using light-sensitive paper without a camera. The other headline show in Frieze Masters was the venerable Dickinson gallery, with a miniature version of Barbara Hepworth’s Sculpture Garden in Cornwall.
1- Jojo Alfredo, 2018, by Mario Macilau
2- Still series, by Berni Searle
3,4- At the End of the Rainbow we Look Back by Athi Patra Rugo
5- White Snow Dwarf, Happy, by Josh McCarthy. Courtesy of Frieze London
6- Ampersand by William Kentridge
7- Exhaustion by Anton Kannemeyer
8- Self Portrait, by Ricky Dystopi in collaboration with the Spier Arts Academy
9- Andrea Galvani work at the Galerie Revolver, Lima
Istanbul’s Galerist gallery was showing evocative paintings by Turkey’s Semiha Berksoy, inspired by her own work starring in a 1939 performance of Strauss’ Ariadne aux Naxos in Berlin. Berksoy was Turkey’s first opera singer, and won a music scholarship to Germany, becoming Europe’s first Turkish diva. In an unusual transition, she went on to a successful career in visual art, showing at Biennales in Istanbul and later Venice.
Meanwhile at Frieze London, the contemporary flagship, there is a strong if predictable focus on women’s work this year. Eight pioneering women artists, who challenged the male domination of the art world in the 1980s, are featured in the Social Work section. Half the artists across the fair are women.
The work included the amazing story quilts of the African-American Faith Ringgold, at the ACA galleries, Born in 1930, Ringgold started with political paintings in the 1960s, but in the 1980s began her quilts, described by the galleries as really paintings on fabric. For decades her work was not a market success but her portrait quilt of Harriet Tubman, the anti-slavery and women’s suffrage campaigner, was on sale for $350,000.
Nearby, also in the Social Work section, the Stevenson Gallery was showing the work of South African Berni Searle; her “Still Series” an installation, of eight striking photographs of Searle kneeling dough from white flour, like an early image of some primitive tribal woman, was on offer for $80,000.
There is no sensible way of navigating Frieze; you have to head for your personal favourites and see what you find along the way. When stands are touting for business from tens of thousands of people milling through the corridors, they need something that is weird or wonderful to stop them in their tracks, like the hanging white neon equations Andrea Galvani was showing at the Revolver Galeria from Lima.
The art press reports that sales at Frieze are holding steady despite Brexit. The Perrotin Gallery, one of France’s biggest players, was testing the waters with work by the young American Josh Sperling, Serpent and Sitting on Top of the World, priced at $22,000 and $24,000, that looked like giant cake icing. The artist Paul McCarthy, showed his White Snow Dwarf, Happy, a broken down clay recreation of one of the seven dwarfs, priced at $885,000.
The Xavier Hufkens Gallery was showing a giant Ampersand sculpture by the South African William Kentridge, better known for his charcoal drawings, priced at $285, 0000.
And finally, the artist Josh Kline’s series on ‘unemployment’ looks at various trades he believes will become redundant. For Dave/Journalist 2018, he met and interviewed a journalist, Dave, made a 3-D scan, and printed him off. The resulting work is selling for $100,000 a piece in an edition of four, with an artists’ proof. Donald Trump might be pleased.
By Tim Cornwell