Before the month of October is out, it’s time to nod to a few of the arty events London is currently hosting. Although quality chops and changes throughout the year, you can count on the autumn to send the kultcha world into a frenzied tail spin.
One good reason is the advent of Frieze, the contemporary art fair that is now a major fixture on the international art-buyers` calendar. Now in its 11th year, it magnetises above all a flood of well-heeled French and Italian collectors and curators – bringing some welcome chic to London’s polyglot babble.
Dozens of related events mushroom all over town, sending crowds hurtling from pillar to post in search of the must-do party or latest gallery opening. Klee at Tate Modern was one such opening which also inspired this Turkish activist pianist (above) to set up his baby grand on the Millennium Bridge – who knows how he got it up there, or precisely what it was in aid of, but it was impressive. Meanwhile, in the background the Shard dramatically pierced the nocturnal mists…
Back to Frieze, which is held in Regent’s Park just as tinges of russet and yellow transform the trees. That, together with clear, autumnal light, doubled the impact of the outdoor sculpture park – a seductive combination of nature, season and art. On the afternoon of the opening, I wandered between the 20 or so pieces dotted over the lawns beside long shadows and banks of leaves, altogether making the lengthy walk from the main Frieze tent to Frieze Masters extra fulfilling – so much more than a stroll in the park.
First pic above is of Marila Dardot‘s reflective The Landscape is Moving and below that Rachel Whiteread back in shedsville. More whimsical was Yinka Shonibare‘s Wind sculpture with his trademark West African motifs, like a tiptoeing exotic ghost. Most left-field of all was Amar Kanwar‘s Listening Bench 4 where I chanced upon a lone, harmonious spectator who stood transfixed as leaves drifted past.
Visually unassuming, this sculpture is in fact audio, a mesmerising monologue which Kanwar produced for the Yorkshire Sculpture Park as part of a multimedia installation on the impact of mining in Orissa, one of India’s most compelling regions.
And then a few days ago came the turn of the V&A, a museum which specialises in the splashiest openings of all where bubbly flows for the stylish multitude and slick waiters circulate with gourmet canapés. All this takes place in the soaring atrium beneath spectacular, specially commissioned lamps.
The exhibition, Masterpieces of Chinese Painting 700 – 1900 (till Jan 19 2014), is superbly curated, with works borrowed from China for the first time as well as from the Musée Guimet’s exceptional collection in Paris. Technique and imagination seem boundless, during the early centuries at least, and bring eye-opening discoveries such as ladies at court playing golf – and this exquisite, contemplative 13th century monkey.
The frenetic pace continues in total contrast with the Barbican‘s Pop Art Design (till Feb 9), an in-your-face kind of exhibition which traces the influence of Warhol, Hockney et al on consumer objects from furniture to album covers. Fun, funky – and loud. And for Aussie fans, there’s the Royal Academy‘s huge Australia show covering 200 years of landscapes, from extraordinary Aboriginal canvases to classics like Sidney Nolan or Arthur Boyd. Don’t miss the side room with rare, much older Aboriginal bark paintings and read my travel feature on outback Australia for the relevant background here. Over and out from London!