Art + Design

An afternoon at Frieze London 2018 with Zena Khan


By Cai Mei Khoo

An afternoon at Frieze London 2018 with Zena Khan

One of the most important contemporary art fairs in the UK, Frieze has been running in London since 2003, with international fairs happening in New York and Los Angeles. Held at the Regent’s Park, Frieze London 2018 features over 160 galleries from all over the world, divided into different sections, with the Focus section featuring up-and-coming galleries under 12 years old. It was within this section that Zena and I discovered some artwork we really liked, which we discussed in the podcast below.

A new section to the fair this year is Social Work, dedicated to female artists whose work was a response to the sociopolitical climate in the 1980s and ’90s. The focus on female artists is perhaps timely, as this year also marks the centenary of women gaining voting rights in the UK. The select group of eight women artists: Mary Kelly, Faith Ringgold, Nancy Spero, Sonia Boyce, Helen Chadwick, Tina Keane, Ipek Duben and Berni Searle, were chosen by an all-female panel of curators, art historians and museum directors. “The 1970s were the most formative for me personally, because my experience in the women’s movement not only informed my work as an artist, but made is possible and necessary to speak out at that time when women were truly invisible,” Mary Kelly told the Frieze Week London 2018 newspaper. One of the chosen female artists for Social Work, Kelly’s Corpus (1984-5) is on display, which Zena picked as a personal favourite. “The 1980s were exciting and sometimes exhausting, because by then, my work was at the centre of controversial arguments about feminism and postmodernism,” said Kelly.

One of the works that struck me at Social Work was a series of eight photographs called Still (1995) by Berni Searle. In these images, Searle is naked and covered in flour while kneading dough to make roti, and within the square-shaped installation, an imprint of knees and legs in a mound of flour. “Covering myself in a white substance has obvious racial connotations but there is a tendency to see this work only in relation to a South African context, which I think is limiting” Searle told The Art Newspaper. “After all, making roti is an activity that many different people can relate to, regardless of nationality.”

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Below, listen to what Zena Khan had to say about this year’s Frieze Art Fair:

Frieze London is on until 7 October 2018 at Regent’s Park, London. Click here for more information.

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