The most expensive and venerable art may be at Frieze but the best back stories are at Moniker.
Now in its third year, the fair that started as a showcase for street art has evolved into a vitrine for, in the words of co-director Kristophe Hofford, “contemporary artists with urban roots”. The result is an assembly united by a desire to rebel. A century after Duchamp, one might argue that a longing to conform would be the mark of a truly revolutionary artist. Nevertheless, several of Moniker’s gang genuinely stray into uncharted and sometimes perilous territory.
Take Vermibus, the 25-year-old Majorca-born artist who shows with Open Walls Gallery in Berlin. Using a set of skeleton keys, he unlocks the vitrines protecting glossy fashion posters and dissolves the models’ contours with white spirit. Equally dramatic but legal is the method employed by Barcelona-based artist Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada, with SUBEN gallery, who draws enormous, hyperreal faces on neglected city walls because he perceives poetry in their manner of disappearing “under the wind and rain”.
Testing the sense of humour of a brand that has defined itself in recent years through collaborations with contemporary artists such as Yayoi Kusama, LA-based artist Jason Alper – who has designed costumes for Sacha Baron Cohen – has plastered the Louis Vuitton logo on the tablecloth of his oil-painting reproduction of Leonardo’s The Last Supper. Entitled “Who Pays?”, this work is surely the last, mischievous word on Frieze Week.
The answer to Alper’s rhetorical question is that more collectors than ever seem to be reaching for their wallets. At Moniker, ironically, street-artists’ penchant for paint and drawing has long made the ostensibly avant-garde fair a financial winner. (There are few hard-to-sell videos or installations here.) Within 24 hours of opening at Moniker, San Francisco gallery White Walls had sold two paintings (£8,500 each) and a hand-painted screen-print (£2,500) by Newcastle-born artist Hush, who builds his intricate collages out of spray-painted paper.
The 68-year-old props-designer-turned-artist Nancy Fouts is collected by the likes of Kate Moss, Peter Blake, David Roberts and Anita Zabludowicz. At Moniker with London gallery Pertwee Anderson & Gold, her typically irreverent sculpture “Madonna with Safeway bags” (£2,400) – which showed an antique-style Virgin weighed down by her weekly shop – had sold on the opening night. Less playful but
exuding handmade integrity are the vintage quilts of Brighton-based Pam Glew which are dyed, then “painted” with images through a painstaking bleaching process. Represented by the fair’s own initiative Moniker Projects, Glew had already sold “Desert Storm” (2012), for £1,500.
Moniker was just one of a clutch of fairs offering reasonably-priced pleasures this week. Now in its third year, Christie’s editions event, Multiplied, continues to offer a smorgasbord encompassing prints, photographs, sculpture and jewellery by big names and unknowns alike.
Not unlike Damien Hirst, who dispensed with his galleries when he auctioned off works at Sotheby’s, leading contemporary artist Marc Quinn took a stand to showcase his print and jewellery-making practice. With opening sales of some 20 works, including several swirling, oval “Internal Labyrinth” pigment prints at £2000 each, Multiplied is likely to welcome him back next year.
Connoisseurs of printmaking should also pay homage to Alexander Massouras, at Multiplied with Julian Page Fine Art. New this year from Massouras are “Camerondias” and “The Sun King”, beautifully etched teases of David Cameron and Boris Johnson accompanied by verses from poet Luke Wright, that evoke 18th-century satire.
Those with a passion for painting – and eyes that are bigger than their wallets – know that the first port of call in Frieze Week is The Future Can Wait. A selling show organised by Zavier Ellis and Simon Rumley, it shares a Bloomsbury basement with New Sensations, the show of artists shortlisted for the prize sponsored by the Saatchi Gallery and Channel 4 (winner yet to be announced).
Among Frieze’s virtues is the boost it gives to the satellites that have sprung up. Such symbiosis is to be applauded.