5 Gallery highlights at Frieze Masters 2016

Art Radar highlights 5 galleries at Frieze Masters in London.

Five galleries presenting the work of 20th century contemporary artists from Asia-Pacific talk to Art Radar about their participation in a fair that is unique in mixing the old and the new.

Frieze Masters 2016 Installation. Image courtesy Frieze masters.

Frieze Masters 2016 Installation. Image courtesy Frieze Masters.

Frieze Masters offers art fair goers the unique opportunity to view antiques and historical craft works alongside contemporary art. It is the juxtaposition between old and new that draws a diverse crowd of contemporary art lovers, antiques dealers and “vetters” – independent art experts employed by the fair to check the authenticity of the works presented.

Authenticity looms large as the history of art is not only present in 20th century artist’s exploration or appropriation of its repertoire of techniques and symbols but in the very 14th century tapestries or 1st century BC Roman sculpture themselves. In the press release, Victoria Siddall, Director of Frieze Fairs says:

The quality and breadth of work in Frieze Masters keeps it fresh and exciting each year. I am looking forward to seeing even more antiquities dealers in the fair, as well as Indian art, alongside the best Old Masters and 20th-century work.

Art Radar picks five highlights from the fair.

Mrinalini Mukherjee, 'Nag Devta', 1979, hemp fibre, 105 x 103 x 73 cm. Image courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary.

Mrinalini Mukherjee, ‘Nag Devta’, 1979, hemp fibre, 105 x 103 x 73 cm. Image courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary.

1. Jhaveri Contemporary: Mrinalini Mukherjee (India)

Also a favourite in Art Radar’s five gallery booths to see at Frieze London 2016, Mumbaibased Jhaveri Contemporary evolved from the curatorial projects and initiatives of Amrita Jhaveri, who played an integral role introducing Indian artists to galleries in the United Kingdom. Mrinalini Mukherjee studied under the Gandhian artist KG Subramanyan, who encouraged students to integrate craft traditions that lay outside dominant western vocabularies with modern techniques.

At Frieze Masters many of the works for sale were produced during the 1980s when her experiments with fibre and weaving lifted off the wall and expanded into the gallery space as sculpture and installation. These fibre works have been credited with radically dismissing the viewer’s assumptions regarding the limitations of the medium as inherently decorative. While the forms are abstract, the titles suggest narratives: the recoiling Nag Devta (1979) is the serpent deity usually found in shrines situated on village outskirts, while the deep blue and black Yakshi (1984; pp.6–7) is a female forest deity inspired by the ancient temple sculptures of Mathura-Kushana. Speaking to Art Radar, gallerist Amrita Jhaveri states:

This our second time at Frieze Masters and our third in Spotlight. The audience at this fair is mature and engaged and we love being part of the fair!

Masafumi Maita, 'Situation No.1', 1973. Photo mural with lightbulb and applied paint (190.0 x 200.0 x 10.0 cm). Image courtesy Yumiko Chiba Associates.

Masafumi Maita, ‘Situation No.1’, 1973, photo mural with lightbulb and applied paint, 190.0 x 200.0 x 10.0 cm. Image courtesy Yumiko Chiba Associates.

2. Yumiko Chiba Associates: Masafumi Maita (Japan)

Yumiko Chiba Associates was launched in 1998, opening a commercial space in 2010 in Shinjuku, Tokyo. At Frieze Masters they are presenting the work of Japanese artist Masafumi Maita, who  works in photography, as well as sculpture, painting and performance art. His practice challenged the constraints of the disciplines and division of media imposed on art practice by traditional fine art training of the 1960s and 1970s. The result was the establishment of an interdisciplinary practice where photography became the centre of an experimental and expanded art form that was radically opposed to the stark realism of the postwar years.

Gallery director Yumiko Chiba has previously held exhibitions in Japan and around the world gathering many artists of the 1960s and 1970s whose practice mirrors that of Masafumi Maita. In 2014 Yumiko Chiba curated the exhibition “Image and Matter In Japanese Photography From the 1970s”, bringing together the work of Masafumi Maita and Norio Imai, Jiro Takamatsu, Keiji Uematsu, Kanji Wakae and Katsuro Yoshida. In November 2016 Yumiko Chiba Associates will be presenting the work of Masafumi Maita at Grand Palais Paris Photo.

Li Yuan-chia, 'Untitled', 1960. Signed and dated Chinese calligraphy brush ink and watercolour on paper (35.7 x 77.5 cm). Image courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery.

Li Yuan-chia, ‘Untitled’, 1960, signed and dated, Chinese calligraphy brush ink and watercolour on paper, 35.7 x 77.5 cm. Image courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery.

3. Richard Saltoun Gallery: Li Yuan-chia (China)

London based gallery Richard Saltoun presents the work of Chinese artist Li Yuan-chia (1929-1994). Born into a peasant family in rural Guangxi Province, Li Yuan-chia’s early career was defined by his response to Taiwan’s introduction of martial law in 1957, forming, along with other artists and intellectuals, the Ton Fan Group. Making the first abstract art in Taiwan as a protest against repression, the Ton Fan Group was recognised internationally and they were invited to present their work at the Fourth São Paulo Biennial (1957). Li’s focus on the spirit of Chinese culture and philosophy, combined with an experimental aesthetic has resulted in a distinctive oeuvre, spanning painting, photography, sculpture and participatory kinetic installations.

To coincide with their Frieze Spotlight exhibition Richard Saltoun Gallery will simultaneously hold a retrospective exhibition dedicated to Li Yuan-chia at their gallery in London. Speaking to Art Radar about their participation in the fair, Richard Saltoun states:

Frieze Masters Spotlight section offers us an opportunity to showcase artists who are under-valued and under-recognised to an international collector base. Away from the younger, emerging artists presented at Frieze, and set against the context of old and modern masters, the fair firmly places our artists (and Li Yuan-chia, in this year’s case) in the canons of modern art history. We meet interesting new collectors as well as old, and have placed works with major museum and institutional collections through our participation in this fair.
Suh Se Ok, 'Dancing People', 1995. Ink on mulberry paper (157.5 x 129 cm). Image courtesy Gallery Hyundai.

Suh Se Ok, ‘Dancing People’, 1995, ink on mulberry paper, 157.5 x 129 cm. Image courtesy Gallery Hyundai.

4. Gallery Hyundai: Suh Se Ok (Korea)

Seoul-based Gallery Hyundai presents the work of Korean artist Suh Se Ok, who made a career from his experimentation with traditional painting techniques, from calligraphy to oil painting. He became a specialist of Chinese ink and made an unprecedented contribution to the field in Korea as an artist, professor and founder of an art group called Mungnimhoe. Beginning in the late 1970s, Suh immersed himself in his “People” series – a group of figures depicted like matchsticks, reduced to limbs and body. Interestingly, the repeating shapes read like the Chinese character for person (人), or the first consonant for the word person in Korean (ㅅ in 사람).

Suh’s abstract, almost austere works of traditional Chinese ink on mulberry paper are incisive sketches of human joy and woe, brevity and breadth, lightness and heaviness, which the still-active octogenarian artist captures in a brushtroke. Jeonyeol Cho (CEO of the gallery) tells Art Radar about the fair:

Frieze Masters is one of the most important art fairs for authentic European collectors who truly love art and do have discerning eye. In addition, the overall atmosphere of frieze masters tent is perfectly set for presentation of masterpieces. Even though GALLERY HYUNDAI is based in Seoul, South Korea and mainly represents Korean artists, there is no reason not to participate in such a wonderful art fair.

Zhang Peili, 'Children Playground', 1992 Ten channel video installation. Image courtesy Boers-Li Gallery.

Zhang Peili, ‘Children Playground’, 1992, ten-channel video installation. Image courtesy Boers-Li Gallery.

5. Boers-Li Gallery: Zhang Peili (China)

Beijing-based Boers-Li Gallery was founded in 2005 (as Universal Studio-Beijing) in the centre of Beijing’s 798 Art Zone. At Frieze Masters they present the work of Chinese artist Zhang Peili, also known as the “father of video art” in China. Zhang Peili has been at the forefront of contemporary Chinese art since 1988, when he created 30 x 30 (1988), his first video work, which is an intentionally excruciating three-hour loop of a pair of gloved hands shattering a mirror, then piecing it back together – an acerbic critique of television and the way it manipulates opinion in China, as in the rest of the world. Currently, Zhang Peili is also the Director of the New Media Art Centre at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, which is shaping the next generation of artists working in video and mixed media.  

Rebecca Close


Related topics: Business of art, Fairs, Chinese artist, Korean artist, Japanese artist, Indian artist

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