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Oct. 15, 2008 

All eyes turn to London this week as the Frieze Art Fair takes center stage, Oct. 16-19, 2008, bringing 151 of the hippest, most contemporary art galleries to a custom-made pavilion in Regent’s Park, this year designed by London architect Caruso St John (the firm behind the two Gagosian Gallery spaces in the British city, incidentally). High-wattage exhibitors range from ACME (Los Angeles), Juana de Aizpuru (Madrid), Paul Andriesse (Amsterdam) and Appetite (Buenos Aires) to Max Wigram (London), XL (Moscow), Zero (Milan) and David Zwirner (New York).

The adjacent sculpture garden boasts large-scale works by Mark Bilj, Gary Hume, Liz Craft, Robert Melee, Dan Graham, Sudarshan Shetty, Kishio Suga, Ugo Rondinone, Gardar Eide Einarsson, Harland Miller, Subodh Gupta and Qiu Zhijie, among others. Deutsche Bank is the fair sponsor, for the fifth year.

And, Frieze also houses no less than four eateries, arguably the most popular part of the fair, including the Baker & Spice Café, Le Caprice Restaurant and Moshi Moshi Sushi Café.

The deluxe weekend of art action comes as financial markets around the world are in a state of historic uncertainty, which means that reports of sales at the London fairs will be particularly closely watched this year -- though the Independent reports that Frieze directors Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp have decided not to release a Frieze sales report, arguing that such figures are "misleading as many sales are completed post-fair and many galleries choose to keep their sales figures private."

As usual, the Tate has already pledged to buy some £150,000 of new art at the fair through its Outset Contemporary Art Fund. Tate director Nicholas Serota announces the new purchases Oct. 16. It’s one bit of business that does not depend on the caprices of the stock market.

Among the special "Frieze Projects" commissions are a set of clear booths in which fair visitors may smoke -- a smoker-friendly version of "institutional critique"? -- courtesy of Norma Jeane, the gender-bending L.A. artist who claims to have been born the same day that Marilyn Monroe died. The project was almost nixed by the Westminster town council, and received advance coverage in publications ranging from the Guardian to Cigar Aficionado.

And New York video prankster Cory Arcangel interfered with the fair’s gallery-selection process, Willy Wonka-style, mailing chocolate bars to all the galleries that applied but didn’t make the cut. The "golden ticket" was in the chocolate bar sent to Milan’s Studiò di Giovanna Simonetta, which is now participating in Frieze.

Other Frieze highlights include a show of works by Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005) hung in an installation by Urs Fischer at the booth of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise and a new painting by bad boy artist Dan Colen made from pink blobs of bubble gum at Peres Projects, an idea that is completely different from the gum paintings by Adam McEwan in the 2006 Whitney Biennial.

Satellite fairs
While Frieze is the tony center of the weekend, "Zoo makes up in class what Frieze squanders in snobbishness," as one unaffiliated wag put it. He was referring to the nonprofit Zoo Art Fair, Oct. 17-20, 2008, held this year at the venerable Royal Academy of Arts. Fifty-eight galleries and nonprofit spaces are expected to turn up, including Roebling Hall from New York, The Happy Lion from Los Angeles, Paradise Row from London and Nature Morte/Bose Pacia from New Delhi/New York. (Incidentally, two-for-one entrance tickets are available just by visiting the website of the fair’s media partner, Time Out London.)

Zoo features its own program of special commissions, including an all-weekend performance by The House of Fairy Tales, an "arts-education" project by Gavin Turk and Deborah Curtis, which sets up in specially designed vehicles around the gardens. The caravan showcases a portfolio of works incorporating aspects of fantasy by the likes of Peter Blake, Mat Collishaw, Cornelia Parker, Paula Rego, Kiki Smith and Rachel Whiteread. It also plays host to live performances and happenings throughout the weekend.

Although both the Pulse and Bridge fair franchises decided to sit out the 2008 London art-fair whirl, and the Year_08 fair was cancelled outright, nevertheless there seem to be more satellite fairs than ever this year. Just a hop, skip and a jump from Frieze itself at the Lord’s Cricket Ground is Scope London, the Frieze week incarnation of Alexis Hubshman’s popular satellite fair franchise, Oct. 16-19, 2008. Fifty galleries are featured, including Scope faves like Dean Project (Boston), Rare (New York) and Red Truck (New Orleans).

Reprising an idea from its Hamptons incarnation earlier this year, Scope London is graced with a silent "mentorship auction" in which bidders can vie to win an hour of time with an art-world heavy. What could be more steadying in these topsy-turvy days than a little face time with a pro? Participants are Flora Fairbairn, Louisa Buck, Kenny Schachter, Michael Hoppen, Tim Marlow, Sarah Thornton, Julia Peyton-Jones, Kay Saatchi, Frank Cohen, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Tot Taylor and Virginia Damsta.

The Red Dot fair, meanwhile, is still holding down the time-honored tradition of the hotel fair, at the Radisson Edwardian Grafton, Oct. 16-19, 2008. The fair advertises "up to 60" galleries, though no list is yet online. Among the participants is New York’s Denise Bibro Fine Art, bringing childlike canvasses by Dusty Boynton and fantastic landscapes by Nancy Baker, among other good things.

Perhaps the weekend’s quirkiest entry, however, remains the Free Art Fair, which has already opened to the public, Oct. 13-19, 2008. Enthusiasts are encouraged to head down to New Quebec Street and Seymour Place, located roughly between the Zoo and Frieze fairs, where art is on display from a variety of figures, including Bob & Roberta Smith, Gavin Turk and others less known. Having browsed the wares, interested parties are asked to return on Sunday, Oct. 19, at 6 pm, when a random group from the crowd will be picked to grab whatever they like the most. (The final giveaway brought out over 700 people in the Free Art Fair’s 2007 debut.)

Also promised for the Free Fair this year is a program of ongoing performances, not to mention something called an "SMS Art Exhibition," which involves "a collection of artworks stored as picture messages on a mobile phone," from Frog Morris, Mark Quinn and Stewart Whitehead, which will be distributed free to visitors using Bluetooth.

And more. . .
And, of course, all the big London spaces are taking advantage of the heat to offer something special. At the Serpentine Gallery, Julia Peyton-Jones has organized a "Manifesto Marathon," Oct. 18-19, 2008, for which a collection of artists read their own programs for art in a special Frank Gehry-designed pavilion. Among the artists and cultural figures scheduled to appear in the non-stop readings are Marina Abramovic, Christian Boltanski, Paul Chan, Jimmie Durham, Brian Eno, Gilbert & George, Eric Hobsbawm, Charles Jencks, Terence Koh, Rem Koolhaas, Raqs Media Collective, Tino Sehgal, Elaine Sturtevant, Mark Titchner, Agnès Varda, Ben Vautier, Mark Wallinger and Vivienne Westwood.

Opus Art has organized "Kounter Kulture," Oct. 16-19, 2008, an artist showcase set to take over the Truman Brewery with special sections devoted to "Urban Art," "Contemporary," "Recent Graduates," "Chinese Contemporary" and prints, with work from Stuart Semple, Ju$t Another Rich Kid, Will Tuck and Dave White, among others.

Advertised alongside it at the Brewery is "New Sensations," a show co-organized by Saatchi Online with BBC Channel 4, featuring 20 promising graduate students from London art schools. New work has been commissioned by the four "Sensation" finalists: Mark Davey, Amy Moffat, Robert Sherwood and Camilla Wills.

Finally, London’s sundry power galleries are not dormant for the weekend, either. Among the shows to catch during the week are "Penetralia" by Sarah Lucas at Sadie Coles, featuring new plaster casts of penises, Oct. 14-Nov. 15, 2008; 45 drawn portraits of art world big shots by Michael Landy at Thomas Dane, Oct. 14-Nov. 15; a suite of 40 Julian Opie works, including new LED and LCD crystal works at Lisson, Oct. 15-Nov. 15; and recent light works by Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer at Haunch of Venison, Oct. 15-Nov. 29.

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