Vanity Fair lets AA Gill loose on Frieze art fair with hilarious results. Of course, he hates every bit of it, except Gagosian’s booth and the Jeff Koons works within:
Frieze is a shuttle of the international art crowd: smug, bored, knowing. There are a lot of brand-new collectors here—they say Chinese is the new Russian. And thousands of art middlemen and -women, ready to explain and stroke and reassure. Because contemporary art isn’t easy. It’s not obvious. You need to be told. This stuff has to be—simply has to be!—better than it looks. The question that Frieze Masters poses to Frieze London is “Now, why are you so ugly?” But the really tough question is: What is an artist? And if you mention this to any of the actual moderators and mullahs in the contemporary tent, they roll their eyes and sigh. But still the question hangs like a terrible family secret. Because in the Masters tent the answer is obvious: An artist is a person who makes art. And you know he’s an artist because you can see the art. So the art validates the artist and the artist the art. But in the contemporary tent it’s not that simple, because it’s mostly conceptual. This isn’t about skill, or application, or craft, or ability. It’s about the concept, stupid. An artist is someone who thinks about art.
He also discovers that everyone else seems to hate art fairs too. Everyone but the buyers:
A contemporary-art dealer, someone who acquires for some of the most bullish and acquisitive collectors in the world, met me between steepling cliffs of childishly drawn, scribbled and dribbled abstracts, nailed-up bits of plastic, taxidermied animals, T-shirts printed with arty slogans, and a small bronze sculpture of someone taking a dump, and said—unattributably, of course—“You know, no one enjoys this. No one in the business likes doing business this way. It is the worst possible way to see art, but it is what the market wants. And, you know, when you leave here, you will remember nothing. Nothing will stick.” The concepts evaporate, to be re-assembled the next month in Basel or Venice or Miami or New York.
How a London Art Fair Created a Market for Rich People (Vanity Fair)