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Frieze London art fair returns after pandemic break

Exhibitors work at the Frieze Art Fair in Regents Park in London.—AFP photos

Britain’s prestigious annual art fair, Frieze London, reopened on Wednesday, for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic forced it online. Staged in giant tents in Regent’s Park, as well as across the 410-acre (170-hectare) green space, the event showcases both contemporary art and earlier works, including Old Masters. The organizers cancelled the physical event last year because of the challenges thrown up by the pandemic, instead creating a platform for commercial galleries to show art online. This year, with the art market returning to physical shows, more than 150 galleries are involved, but visitors have to show proof of vaccination or a negative test.

“Everyone is just so excited and happy,” said Nathan Clements-Gillespie, artistic director at Frieze Masters. “It’s been nice seeing all these friendly faces, seeing the exhibitors back in the tent. “Everything about the last few years has been challenging,” he added, noting that enthusiasts had adapted “but equally people want to see and experience art in person”.

Visitors look at artwork entitled Ru k’ ox k’ob’el jun ojer etemab’el (The Echo of An Ancient Form of Knowledge) by Guatemalan artist Edgar Calel during the Frieze Art Fair.

At Frieze Masters, the dapper, east London-based artists Gilbert & George posed in front of one of their prints. The besuited duo put themselves centre-stage in photographic works exploring the sometimes seamy sides of British life, often set in London’s East End. The Thaddaeus Ropac gallery, which has branches in London, Paris, Salzburg and Seoul, is showing their works as part of a project recreating a groundbreaking 1982 show, which also includes photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe.

“We hadn’t seen this picture for maybe 40 years,” said George, dressed in a rust-coloured suit with a yellow buttonhole, admiring a print called “Street Meet”. It features a heroic young male figure against the backdrop of the central Spitalfields Market. “We think it looks quite modern”, added Gilbert, wearing a green tweed suit. Despite the pandemic, the artists, who are both in their 70s, have been busy creating new work and staging solo shows around the world.

“We feel always guilty because there’s all this horrific bereavement all over the world, and during the same period we did London, Paris, New York, Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin,” said George. They are also building a gallery to show their art on London’s Brick Lane. “Full steam ahead. It’s going to be finished in February, I think,” said Gilbert. – AFP


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