A TALE OF TWO CITIES

Updated: Nov 2



Stars in Their Eyes, Jeffrey Gibson. Courtesy of Stephen Friedman, London


Naturally, I'm talking about the two recent art fairs: Frieze London and Art Basel Paris+ which took place in successive weeks in October. Both cities lavished upon their visitors generous helpings of mouthwatering contemporary art juiciness. I've had my fill, digested the input and I'm now thirsty to write.


Frieze London


Frieze London (12-16 October 2022), took place in the elegant setting of Regents's Park in the UK capital. As I shimmied in and out of the booths I was thrilled to see a strong presence of works from artists of African and Asian heritage. I was drawn to Mumbai based gallery Jhaveri Contemporary, whose stand entitled Afterlife featured the works of Paris-based analogue photographer Vasantha Yogananthan.


From Afterlife, Vasantha Yogananthan. Courtesy of Jhaveri Contemporary


Yogananthan's pieces reflect a contemporary reimagining of the 'in-between world' that intertwines history, religion, fiction, mythology and folklore. The sixth chapter in a series entitled A Myth of Two Souls, the exhibition features a mix of flat photos and photo collages with vivid colour palettes and contrasting dark backgrounds depicting scenes from ancient agricultural Indian festivals. I eagerly flick through the beautifully crafted Afterlife photo book. Sumptuous in every way, it's a visual exploration which powerfully transports the reader into the religious world of death and reincarnation.

Zibandlela l, The Sails, 2020, Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of Stevenson Cape Town

Below:: from the photo book Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness, Zanele Muholi.Courtesy of Stevenson Cape Town


Breathtaking can only describe the black and white self-portrait by Zanele Muholi presented at Frieze London by Stevenson Cape Town. This deeply talented photographer who lives in South Africa, talks about the importance of community in all of their works. The striking self-portraits reflect the artist's 'visual activism' agenda which aims at undoing the forms of exclusion and invisibility that affect certain groups in society. Muholi's photo book Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness (Aperture), won the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Best Photography Book Award in 2019. Leafing through it, I see an emporium of stunning self-portraits that showcases an incredible artistry, whilst celebrating the black female body, and reclaiming how it is perceived.



Other top picks were Jeffrey Gibson's spectacular solo show presented by Stephen Friedman Gallery (London). The American artist's work fuses his Choctaw-Cherokee heritage with references that span club culture, queer theory, fashion, politics and art history. Combining indigenous artisanal handcraft such as beadwork, leatherwork and quilting with narratives of contemporary resistance and protests, he seeks to harness the power of material to activate the overlooked presence and chronicles of historically marginalised identities. And indeed, Gibson's exquisitely intricate works do that aim full justice.


It's So Deep I Cant Speak About It, Geoffrey Gibson 2022. Courtesy of Stephen Friedman Gallery.



New Delhi based gallery, Nature Morte, presented some impressive kaleidoscopic compositions by artist Tanya Goel. Living and working in New Delhi, Goal uses subtle hues based on self-made pigments, with geometric shapes, collaged around disrupted mathematical formulae. The works are crowded yet calming and aesthetic, I find.


Mechanisms, Tanya Goel, 2022, Courtesy of Nature Morte



Art Basel Paris+


Despite being smaller than Frieze London, the inaugural event of Art Basel Paris+ (20-23 October 2022) attracted plenty of visitor excitement which was not surprising given that the art world's gaze appears to be firmly directed towards the French capital at the moment. The main venue was the Grand Palais Ephémère with additional city-wide public space installations and collaborations with Paris's cultural institutions.



My time was limited but I managed to glide through the maze of excellent works on display at the Grand Palais Ephémère in an early evening visit. Kehinde Wiley's Christian Martyr Tarcisius presented by Templon gallery, stopped me in my tracks. It's a magnificently painted oil on canvas by the American artist, with a narrative that fuses the struggles of black and brown people in the continent with a celebration of modern day black culture.

Kehinde Wiley, Christian Martyr Tarcisius (El Hadji Malick Gueye), 2022. Courtesy of the artist and Templon.


The city-wide installations showcased works by both emerging and established artists with the aim of encouraging visitors to reflect on the role of art in public spaces. Les Jardins des Tuileries was the stage for some of the open access artistic projects where visitors in addition to reflecting, politely awaited their turn to click their shutters. I enjoyed seeing the shimmering Blue Obelisk with Flowers by Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002) and Ugo Schiavi's 'Soulèvement-Effondrement', a sculpture about the ephemeral nature of our bodies that erode with time and that are destined for the archeologists of the future. A comforting thought!


Just five minutes walk from the Jardins des Tuileries is the magnificent Place Vendôme. Here we behold Au Cours des Mondes, a imposing sculptural creation by internationally renowned artist, Alicja Kwade. The large scale installation, curated by Jerôme Sans, combines gorgeously tactile natural stone globes of varying dimensions caged by interminable concrete staircases. I gather from the literature that the central metaphor reflects mankind's failure to explain the world through science and philosophy and also to understand his place within it. The works, I read, are a call for individuals to reconsider their priorities to bring about a collective transformation in the face of the impending ecological disaster. Place Vendôme certainly provides the theatre and atmosphere to get this important message across.


Au cours des Mondes, Alicja Kwade, 2022

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Reference list

Art Basel. (n.d.). Galleries. [online] Available at: https://www.artbasel.com/galleries [Accessed 25 Oct. 2022].

Google Docs. (n.d.). Reina de una noche I, Eduardo Sarabia.pdf. [online] Available at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1MnZuy55-IlXXo-Imp6lH55SWYYIvXXJ0/view [Accessed 25 Oct. 2022].

Modern Art. (n.d.). Frieze London 2022. [online] Available at: https://modernart.net/rooms/frieze-london-2022#s-10 [Accessed 24 Oct. 2022].

Stephen Friedman Gallery (2022).

STEVENSON (n.d.). STEVENSON. [online] STEVENSON. Available at: https://www.stevenson.info/artist/zanele-muholi [Accessed 26 Oct. 2022].

vasanthayogananthan.com. (n.d.). Afterlife «Vasantha Yogananthan. [online] Available at: https://vasanthayogananthan.com/books/afterlife/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2022].

Wikipedia. (2022). Alicja Kwade. [online] Available at: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alicja_Kwade [Accessed 26 Oct. 2022].

www.naturemorte.com. (n.d.). Nature Morte – {{pageTitle}}. [online] Available at: http://www.naturemorte.com/artists/tanyagoel/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2022].

www.templon.com. (n.d.). Galerie Templon - Artist - Kehinde Wiley. [online] Available at: https://www.templon.com/new/artist.php?la=en&artist_id=281&display_video=1 [Accessed 26 Oct. 2022].










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