LONDON (Reuters) - From an installation of a Venezuelan-themed Internet cafe to brothers from Japan serving soup made with radishes from the Fukushima nuclear disaster zone, the London Frieze contemporary art fair that opened on Wednesday is nothing if not varied.
Since it began in 2003, Frieze London has grown to become one of the world’s largest art events, in a league with Art Basel.
This year 162 galleries are represented inside an enormous temporary structure erected for the occasion in Regent’s Park, while another 127 galleries are participating in the nearby Frieze Masters — for works created before 2000.
Attendance numbers are not yet known, but according to the fair’s organizers, the important thing is not how many but who.
“Of course it’s all about the quality of attendance and it seems there are a lot more collectors this year than in previous years,” Matthew Slotover, a co-founder of the fair, named after the Frieze art magazine, told Reuters.
“It seems really buzzy and the response from the galleries is that they like it,” he said.
A theme of this year’s fair is performance art, and so it was that during a media and VIP preview on Tuesday, 30-year-old Matthew Lutz-Kinoy of New York City was there to perform.
In a cubicle with paintings on the walls and dish-like ceramics on the floor, Lutz-Kinoy yelled out lines from a script he held in his hand while he moved from painting to painting.
“This one tastes like cakes,” he shouted, pointing out a nude of a woman to about two dozen spectators gathered round.
“This one tastes like salted meats, this one tastes like popcorn ... jellied eel,” he continued, pointing at different canvases and shapes that were not immediately recognizable — though the eel he mentioned is a typically English delicacy.
There is so much to take in that it boggles the mind, one reason that thousands of collectors, gallerists, established and struggling artists and legions of the curious show up.
“It’s like a party, it’s like you know all your friends are going to come, it’s like a reunion,” said a gallerist named Sarah, who did not want to give her last name, greeting visitors at the cubicle for the Berlin-based Peter Boenisch gallery.
The fair had barely opened for the preview and her gallery had sold two paintings in the 10,000 euro ($13,000) to 20,000 euro range and a customer had placed a reserve on a third.
Indeed, if the Frieze art fair is anything, it is a testament to variety and excess.
One of the galleries at Frieze Masters is offering a Rembrandt valued at 30 million pounds ($50 million).
At Frieze London a gallery is showing an Internet “Ciber Cafe” by Berlin-based Venezuelan artist Sol Calero. It features enormous canvases of tropical fruits, and computers loaded with film clips made by Venezuelan artists of the 1930s and ‘40s.
There also are a couple of mock telephones where visitors “can try to make calls to the (United) States and get put on hold”, gallery director Laura Bartlett said, noting that there is a market for such installations, often at private museums including those in Italy run by Prada and Louis Vuitton.
Elsewhere, two brothers from the Fukushima area of Japan, which suffered radiation contamination from the nuclear reactors damaged by a tsunami in 2011, were serving soup cooked by their mother made with radishes from the area that they say are safe.
“Fukushima is famous for nuclear disaster so even though the vegetable we use has been scientifically checked and approved as very low risk of food contamination you know, people have this image of Fukushima as a very negative thing,” Ei Arakawa, one of the brothers, said.
Additional reporting by Holly Rubenstein; Editing by Louise Ireland