Visiting Frieze this year it was hard to remember that only a sliver of fabric stands between the people involved in the Occupy Wall St. Movement and the ultra-wealthy collectors whose families really do occupy Wall St.
Maybe in a nod to the recession, last year's army of waiters giving out free booze were conspicuously absent at the opening, no doubt joining the expanding dole queue? You could still however buy a glass of champers for £12!
Apart from the work feeling a bit safer (and therefore more collectable) there was little to distinguish the fair from previous years. The problems of the outside world seemed to have had little effect on the content of the work.
A couple of pieces commented obliquely on hard times. Jankowski's €625,000 art-yacht just came across as unfunny and Michael Landy's credit card chomping machine seemed out of place in this billionaires playground. But to be fair, Frieze is a trade fair for wealthy collectors, so Landy was at least brave enough to acknowledge the economic problems.
I actually preferred the toned down and (literally) sober Frieze this year. It is unfair to criticise it for a lack of politically engaging work, as it's not the right environment. For that you had to leave.
One of the events I went to surrounding Frieze was Risk Management, an eerie installation in the former London offices of the sponsors of Frieze, Deutsche Bank AG, who left the space last November.
It is a group show held in a walnut-paneled office on the third floor that appears to have been left as if the last broker has literally just walked out of the building. Behind the enormous desk in the centre of the office, the whiteboard still bears the traces of the subjects under discussion: Risk Management, Capital Liquidity, Private Wealth, Oil, Bonds, Leverage.
The strength of Risk Management overall is that you are not sure what is the detritus of the previous regime and what is the work of the artists.
Several artwork on the walls could easily be from Deutsche Bank's own art collection, and in fact two of the artists shown, Beat Streuli and Marc Quinn are in the collection.
On an outsize monitor, performance artist Deej Fabyc shows a video of her piece See No Evil in the Mamon, which was shot at the aforementioned desk. A desk that has no doubt seen its share of hiring, firing and bonus giving. The video features Fabyc as a weeping woman, which cleverly mirrors Dolores Sanchez Calvo's subtle oil painting on the wall.
Then there is Daisy Delaney's piece Sterling Destroyed. If you know this area, it will be a sign you are very familiar with and I noticed several on my way back to the Tube. Stirling Ackroyd made a packet selling and branding Shoreditch and its subsequent regeneration, and Delaney's sign hits the nail right on the button with this direct attack on the property market. I called the number listed on the piece, which turned out to be The Bank of England's control room!
Being in a building that housed one of the most powerful banks in the world gives Risk Management an added poignancy. The rest of the building is empty of corporate signifiers, no friendly doorman asks for your pass, there is no-one in the men's toilet to pass you tissues, and the lifts stopped working long ago. Yet the ghosts of business past still wander the corridors, and a glance out of the office window reveals the swarming mass of city workers below who are wondering if they will still have a job tomorrow.
Risk Management seethes with a quiet but barely disguised anger. Recommended.
46 New Broad Street, London EC2N 1JD / Friday - Sunday 12-5pm until 27 November
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