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In London, the Frieze fair takes place under the sign of women and blacks

” We missed you ! “ This sentence that we read on shop windows after the deconfinements was the mantra of the openings, Wednesday, October 13, of the Frieze and Frieze Masters fairs, which end on Sunday, October 17, in London. Despite a rate of contamination by Covid-19 still high in England, visitors fell off the mask, too happy to relive the “life before”.

The pandemic and its good resolutions have indeed changed nothing, under the two white tents deployed in Regent’s Park. On the contemporary side, a crowd almost as dense as for the 2019 edition thronged the aisles. The health restrictions imposed on entry into the UK had not discouraged all the VIPs of the arty jet set. As always, on the “Masters” side (specializing in ancient art), the atmosphere is more subdued, but those who must be here are there. On opening night, the most powerful galleries reported that business had resumed.

Business as usual? Not quite. Because, in two years, the world has changed, let alone seen from the United Kingdom. Brexit complicates the movement of people, but also that of works, turning each passage through customs into a bureaucratic nightmare. Several foreign galleries have also closed their representation in London, such as Marian Goodman, Tornabuoni Art and Cortesi. Societal changes have deeply shaken the fair, which for a long time had cultivated an eccentricity mixed with bling-bling vulgarity. The bottom of the air is black now.

Visible opportunism

Violence against women, for example, can be read on a tent by Lebanese Mounira Al Solh, who collected the words and cries of abused women, then embroidered them. The fall of Afghanistan also arises, with the shadow of the Taliban fundamentalists who are embodied in an old canvas, dated 2002, by Malcolm Morley, representing an Afghan family, the woman drowned under a blue burqa.

Other women occupy the stand of the Mor Charpentier gallery: photographed by Teresa Margolles, these courageous women try to survive on the border between Colombia and Venezuela. Elsewhere, we promote the “wife of” or “ex-wife of”, such as the American painter Nancy Graves, visible on the stand of Ceysson & Bénétière, who shared the life of sculptor Richard Serra for five years.

But not all artists deserve a resurrection, and not all facets of a work, no matter how important, are not worth illuminating. At Frieze Masters, for example, the figurative drawings of the Lebanese Huguette Caland do not measure up to the subversive abstractions, crossed by desire, which have made her famous. Likewise, Janet Sobel, presented by The Gallery of Everything, is not “The most important surrealist painter”, as the dealer Sidney Janis liked to say in 1946 …

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