Frieze Week 2008: A Turn in Taste, Part I

Frieze Week 2008: Zoo Art Fair
written by Ashley Elridge-Ford in London

Ah, the Zoo Art Fair. Firstly, let me say, that I am relieved that due to Haunch of Venison's relocation to the Museum of Mankind that Zoo will need to look for a new space. It is cramped, confusing and not a good venue for viewing as much art at as many galleries as it is prone to. After having seen Scope the previous day, I thought that a good portion of the artwork on display at Zoo was infantile and of graduate student level. Scope, on the other hand, had works of a mature, professional level that seemed aimed at appealing to the discerning, international collector. The work at Zoo is questionably so. It reminds me of being the platform for much of the work that ends up on display at Frieze in the smaller more experimental galleries.

The problem, or perhaps finally, the recognition this year, is that collectors are going for safer bets. This is, in my opinion a good thing but also an interesting one because it seems as though there is a turn in taste. This turn in taste is one that is also utterly apparent at each of the fairs I have been to – from Frieze, Scope, Zoo to Kounter Kulture and The Future Can Wait – many artists have drawn on past masters, past iconic paintings, past styles and subject matter: stark traditional still lives with a contemporary twist; small hunting scenes with a surrealistic addition that speaks of contemporaneity; Victorian Gothic taxidermy. It has been fascinating to see these cropping up.

Have we reached the end of experimentation? Are we reaching an hiatus where artists have fulfilled the zeitgeist stockpile of shock-value useless junk they submit as 'Art'. Pieces that will not be remembered in five or even ten years time? Is it the time in which artists will take a pause, look back and draw once more upon the art historical canon from which they will emerge in a year or two with a new refreshing 
oeuvre of work? Are collectors' tastes also changing? 

With a return to more at-home values through the bursting bubble of capitalism as egg on the face of us all, will collectors' tastes be satiated and soothed by this return to more traditional or conventional works of art? And by this I mean that there is finally a thread that links the art of the past with the art of today skillfully and with talent rather than conceptually and without artistic merit. The pieces that have caught my attention this week seem indicative of this – dare I call it what I am about to? – 
trend and yet they are by no means in the majority. 

It has thrilled me nonetheless to see familiar scenes, styles, genres, peering out at me from walls as diverse as Lord's Cricket Ground, Caruso St John's tent to the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane. Next week I will submit a piece focused solely on this – I shall use the word again – trend. In the interim, please see below the highlights from Zoo, Kounter Kulture and The Future Can Wait. 

Zoo Art Fair 

Shezad Dawood, The Waste Land, 2008, comprised of animal skulls sporting the inscription for the Hindu sacred symbol representing the sound of Om the essence of the entire universe. Paradise Row, London [C3].

MOT International, London, featuring the neon work of Ulrich Strothjohann [D24].

The paintings by Israeli artist, Nogah Engler, that hark back to Leonardo da Vinci's roughly painted landscapes and Madonna's. Ritter/Zamet, London [D36].

Xanada T1+2, London, is showing a truly interesting amalgam of artists' work. Most notable was that of Polly Morgan, called Under Study, 2008, a pigeon placed lying on its side staring away from its reflection with dead eyes as the shadow it throws onto the mirrored glass below it changes shade every few seconds. The other was that of Zatorski and Zatroski called Knot, 2007. The piece is of a swan that had the misfortune of flying into a bridge close to where the artists live on the river. They found it dead and put it in their freezer whilst deciding what to do with it. Placed high upon a plinth, it's neck knotted, is the result [E44].

The carefully chosen etchings by Troels Carlsen that have been painted over with light-hearted frivolity that give the rather Gothic originals a sinister feel at V1 Gallery, Copenhagen. Reminiscent of Jake and Dinos Chapman's Goya series. His other similar piece is dark but amusing [F57].


The beautiful and stark photographic work of Penny Klepuszewska whose mise-en-scène remind me Vermeer's paintings in their smoothness, light and suggestivity. The photographs are of keepsakes and mementos kept my inhabitants of an retirement home residents. ROOM, London [F51].

Monument 1, 03 by Zsolt Bodoni at fa projects, London [A14].