Fairs United Kingdom

Domestic bliss meets DIY

At Frieze London this year, artists and collectors find virtue in humble things

Matthias Merkel Hess’s “Bucketry” series at Salon 94's stand

Frieze London has a homely feel this year, with numerous works across the fair incorporating found, everyday items—from garden tools to Venetian blinds—or objects that refer to domestic furniture and fittings. In addition to the slick, blue-chip art on offer, the rise in earthier, crafted works demonstrates how, in an age of austerity, people are looking to home and hearth more and more. “This development is very much a reflection of the current economic situation,” says Pete Collard, a curator at London’s Design Museum. “When times get more difficult, people like to create cosiness in their homes,” adds Andreas Gegner of Sprüth Magers (FL, D6).

Family snaps of babies, holidays and celebrations from the 1970s to the 1990s are presented in Fiona Tan’s installation Vox Populi London, 2012, at the Frith Street Gallery (FL, C1). The work consists of 265 photographs drawn from the family albums of London-based members of the public, organised in three sections: portraits, home and nature. The piece, priced at £65,000 (edition of four), was commissioned by the Photographers’ Gallery, London. It had not sold at the time of going to press. “The work is particularly poignant as family albums are no longer assembled in the digital age,” says a spokeswoman for the gallery.

Family gatherings spring to mind on seeing Piero Golia’s Yellow barbeque cube, 2005, at Bortolami (FL, F11; $30,000, unsold). The work consists of a grill set on a large yellow cube, adorned with cooking utensils. “It’s a tongue-in-cheek take on Minimalism,” says Christine Messineo of Bortolami.

Amalia Pica’s found-materials piece at Herald St gallery (FL, D10) also incorporates, as the title states, mundane household components: Catachresis #31 (Legs of the Table, Elbow of the Pipe, Neck of the Bottle, Teeth of the Rake), 2012, sold to a private collector. “The piece draws on the tradition of Arte Povera,” says a gallery spokesman, referring to the anti-capitalist movement that emerged in Italy in the 1960s and moved beyond Minimalism by drawing on commonplace materials.

Meanwhile, a striking installation by the Korean artist Haegue Yang, comprising a series of richly coloured Venetian blinds, is making waves (Tina Kim Gallery and Kukje Gallery; FL, C1; €95,000, unsold). “Yang’s work is about the boundaries in public and private spaces,” Kim says. Another work reconfiguring domestic space is Breathing house, a sequence or a phrase, 2012, by Jean-Pascal Flavien, an installation including two beds at Galerie Catherine Bastide (FL, G2).

Rather than using found objects, others are turning to domesticity for inspiration. The Algus Greenspon gallery (FL, S20) is showing a set of four untitled interior scenes by E’wao Kagoshima, dated 1976 and priced at $12,500 (unsold). “Over the past ten years, [art has] been very monochrome and about the mass-produced. Now [artists] are looking to see what they [can] do with tradition,” says the gallery’s co-director Amy Greenspon.

Matthias Merkel Hess’s series of glazed ceramic bins and watering cans (“Bucketry”, 2011-12), priced from $1,000 to $5,000, is proving popular at Salon 94 gallery (FL, B14). “They reference Pop art, but are offering a real sense of craft, which seems to appeal at the moment,” says Sarah Walzer of the New York-based gallery.

The most functional pieces at the fair must be a shelving unit and a bench by Dirk Bell, available at Berlin’s BQ gallery (FL, G11). The shelving unit, Get Give, 2012 (€16,000, edition of five), has been bought by a private collector who plans to install the piece at home. “The artist likes people to live with his work instead of putting it into storage. Collectors find it easier to fit these works into their lives,” BQ’s Jörn Bötnagel says. This trend is gaining momentum; the curator Pete Collard says that it is now apparent that “art is looking to design in the way design was, until recently, looking to art”.

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