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Frieze // The tale in which we find ourselves Augmenting by Frederick Hubble

Frieze// The tale in which we find ourselves Augmenting our way around the open market archipelago of artists, merchants and a bobble clad woman.

After having been invited to Frieze to compose a piece of writing about my experiences there and pinpointing some of the artists I found particularly engaging, I found myself in a perplexed state of knowing where to start. There is so much, an amalgamation of booths searching for buyers as well as doing their best not to allow the art to become a fetishised commodity. Having recently been introduced to the Augment app by a friend and fellow artist Emily Sparkes, I’d had much fun projecting deer into the toilet and conjuring a Rodin sculpture onto the coffee table.

I thought the best way to approach the temporal nature of Frieze would be the vessel of my phone. So much of the Frieze experience to those who do not attend is funneled through magazine reviews or via Instagram, an inhabiting of the space through adding to it, with Augment, seemed like a suitable approach to grasping Frieze.

Through creating virtual collages with Augment, Frieze becomes a place of potential creativity; it wasn’t so much a journey to be stirred by the art on show as much as it becomes an opportunity to do the stirring. Frieze itself feels a lot like an act of distancing, whether it is because everything there seems reasonably unattainable to a recent MA graduate or perhaps it is here we see the synapses where connections are made, all islands singing their own tunes to each other and to us.

Bringing forth a giant Rhinoceros into an installation can become an amicable croak amid the siren song of Frieze. A moment of iconoclastic joy within the spectacle, made all the more temporary by existing on the plasma canvas of the phone screen, nothing is added in reality, only temporally. 

Objects bump their way into the tent, summoning children’s playgrounds and celestial bodies into space. Augmented planets play with Olafur Eliasson and a disembodied model goat sits next to a twice-removed cousin in one of Damien Hirst’s boxes. The mundane has its day among nineties favourites.

Jon Rafman’s Trans Dimensional Serpent offers a direct mainline into virtual reality, allowing the viewer to inhabit the space of Frieze within an altered reality. The queue for the installation seems to reflect this desire of escape to inhabit a space beyond the real, or in turn something adjacent to it. The hunger for new media is in no short supply, a new generational understanding of how ideas collide, the glitch, the fetish for failures.

Augmenting Frieze became a chance to explore these notions, the naff and the poignant going hand in hand, in a festival looking back as it looks forward, occupying some space between feeling and being consumed. 

A group of 10 artists from Staffordshire, Birmingham and the Black Country were nominated to attend Frieze London 2016 with the support of New Art West Midlands' Artist and Curator Professional Development Programme. Those selected are all alumni of the New Art West Midlands graduate exhibitions. This text is the second in a series of reflections on their individual experiences of Frieze. 


Frieze London 2016: A Review by Adam Grüning

“And then there are the marquees, which you return to again and again, which signal an event but don’t carry any information.” 

It’s as though Liam Gillick is speaking directly to me, rather than Philippe Parreno, as I read their interview in my free copy of Frieze Week on the train back to Stoke. “They’re totally meaningless objects that occupy a nice space between the floor and the ceiling, a place where you don’t usually see art,” Parreno jumps in and continues, oscillating a light on my feelings towards the white giant I’ve left residing in Regents Park, even if Parreno’s marquees are very different to Frieze’s. 

Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Sadie Coles, Frieze London 2016

The article, discussing both artists’ latest venture together, forms part of an internal monologue that happens to me every year around this time, usually two weeks before Frieze opens and two minutes after I leave, having given in and attended: should I go next year? Do I value this experience as an artist? Standing in line for my lunch alongside a French mime artist and a man wearing an outfit costing more than my annual income was an experience I found weirdly valuable. But between the mass of quinoa, flaxseed and kale salads, freshly pressed smoothies and metabolism-boosting cayenne shots strutting back to gallerists desks in stylish paper bags, there was something overly McDonalds that lingered around the event in the tent. It was that ‘Big Mac blues’ feeling, a short moment of enjoyment followed by a slightly dirty, guilty conscience, trying to justify it was good for you because that portion of lettuce counts towards your five a day. Or maybe that’s just me.

It’s not that Frieze London left a bad taste this year, it didn’t, by now you know what to expect at these things; there was some good work on display by some great artists: Francis Upritchard, Katie Paterson and Marvin Gaye Chetwynd to name a few of my favourites on show. However, this is always paralleled with art that you feel was made especially for ‘power’ art fairs like this; a big name, a big gallery, something to match the décor or to talk about at the next dinner party. I often find the crowds more interesting than some of the art. It still manages to give a sense of what the market is buying though, even if it’s a market that you feel cares less about art and more about investments. The work becomes a material, a product, and as gallerists (or fancy shop keepers in this case) are only interested in talking to buyers, a purely opening night phenomena, your access to an artwork’s inner workings or why a collection of artists have been intentionally shown together is limited. Context seems irrelevant here, and as art is about context, pick and mix exhibitors rarely get it right.

In general, the most successful galleries were the ones who chose to remove as much of the trade fair element from their stands as possible, leaving the best of the gallery storeroom at home and creating exhibition-like spaces. None were more successfully than Project 88 with the work of Neha Choksi on display. Her insight into materiality linked with sublime experience was my undoubted highlight of the fair.

Frieze, like every city it visits, is inextricably linked with that city, in name, geography and ultimately its philosophy, and that could be part of Frieze London’s problem; it’s so what London has become. Not that London is bad, it’s not, it’s a great city but when combined with Frieze, and its questionable ‘how much tax do these buyers avoid?’ clientele, it becomes a kind of symbol of distasteful wealth. It sells a lie and an unintentional irony of artistic mutton dressed as lamb.

The return to the nineties this year at Frieze saw some iconic work, Wolfgang Tillmans (always great to see, and my second highlight of the fair), Carsten Höller, Richard Billingham and more, some having more relevance than others in 2016. However, with a few exceptions, it felt predominantly like an attempted Spice Girls reunion for a corporate event, only without Mel B and with Geri being replaced by Hyacinth Bouquet – a kind of rehash, with a ‘let’s forget about that YBA business, who knew there were other artists we could make money out of from back then?’ feel about it all.

I think what bothers me most is that everyone seems happy to go along with the game and that the fair often looks within its own circles for guidance rather than outwards. Organisations such as Frieze need fresh blood to keep their wheels greased, yet the fair seems to promote a type of propaganda, whether consciously or unconsciously, of how artistic success should be, that ultimately hurts the grassroots of art making and encourages a divide. Gregor Muir, executive director of the ICA spoke out two weeks before Frieze claiming “Contemporary art is struggling to address real events in the art world right now” which illustrates that this isn’t exclusive to Frieze, it’s a systematic divide. People of influence seem unable to see an art world outside of institutes and of work that isn’t highly priced, or even priced at all, until it’s pointed out to them.

Maybe my angst is being indirectly pointed at Frieze, any chance to see a Caulfield or a Turk in person is always worthwhile. Maybe I don’t realise I’m holding my viewfinder over a much larger picture of recent times where world wide political systems have shown their crooked workings and division is winning word of the year. It’s not that I want to be critical of Frieze, I’m certainly not of the artists and galleries that exhibit there; if I could sell at Frieze then I probably would! The opportunity that Frieze opens up to galleries allows them to stay afloat in a highly competitive lions’ den, and more galleries means more opportunities for artists and arts employment. Frieze Projects and the array of insightful artist talks they provide do redeem it somewhat, but do I have to feel as though I’m selling my soul when I visit?

Something needs to change. The people buying into these fairs (either intellectually or financially) will get bored of this same format. Even if visitor numbers still continue to increase year on year, like any profitable business its main interest is in who’s buying and how to keep them buying. In this scenario there’s an overwhelming sense of the system in the driving seat and that’s what I can’t get past. Art has always held truths within it and this event takes that away. Art drives art, process leads to work which leads to process, but something beautiful feels as though it is being corrupted here. I may put forward a proposal to Frieze next year. I will take guided tours around the fair in a gondola, dressed as a Venetian gondolier, as my latest work, hoping that in trying to convince art tourists they are at the Venice Biennale they will see Frieze, by contrast, for what it actually is: a commercial enterprise, full fat Big Mac consumerism being masked as a cultural beacon.


A group of 10 artists from Staffordshire, Birmingham and the Black Country were nominated to attend Frieze London 2016 with the support of New Art West Midlands' Artist and Curator Professional Development Programme. Those selected are all alumni of the New Art West Midlands graduate exhibitions. This text is the first in a series of reflections on their individual experiences of Frieze.


Artist and Curator Professional Development Programme: Micro Bursaries

We are offering artists, curators and writers living in the West Midlands the opportunity to apply for micro bursaries towards artistic and professional development. Bursaries of up to £250 will be available towards the costs of, for example, research visits, attendance at exhibitions and conferences, travel and accommodation.

If you would like to apply for a micro bursary, please send an application to Anneka French at anneka.french@bcu.ac.uk You should send your CV and a summary of no more than 300 words outlining what you plan to do, where it is, and how you feel it would help to support and develop your practice. Please also submit 3 images of your work, your website address and an itemised budget for your proposed activity.

The deadline for applications is rolling. We will respond within 1 month so please ensure your application is sent in good time.


Conversations in Curatorial Practice - 27 September, 6.30-7.30pm

An evening of conversation about curatorial research, exhibitions and performance projects being developed by three freelance curators from the West Midlands: Aly Grimes, Roma Piotrowska and Sonya Russell-Saunders. All three curators received a bursary award from New Art West Midlands as part of the Art Market Project initiative to foster their curatorial practice as individuals.

The event takes place at Ikon on Tuesday 27 September, 6.30-7.30pm.

Places are free but should be booked online or by calling Ikon on 0121 248 0708. Please note that online booking closes at 4pm on Tuesday 27 September.


Turning Point West Midlands is changing

Turning Point West Midlands is changing

With a new team and a new direction, the region’s Contemporary Visual Arts Network is rebranding to become New Art West Midlands – a name and identity that better reflects our progressive role in developing and promoting contemporary visual arts across the West Midlands.

Following the successful application to Arts Council England (ACE), spear-headed by Birmingham City University (BCU) and Birmingham Museums Trust (BMT), Craig Ashley has been appointed as Director of New Art West Midlands. Craig’s remit is to consolidate and build upon existing strands of activity under the banner of New Art West Midlands, and to work with our project partners to provide strong, exciting and diverse programming for the 2016-18 period and beyond. Prior to joining New Art West Midlands, Craig was Visual Arts Producer at mac (Midlands Arts Centre) where he led the visual arts programme from 2009 to 2016. As a curator, Craig has worked closely with West Midlands artists on exhibitions, residencies and publications; notable projects include Vered Lahav’s The Garden (2013), and Barbara Walker’s Shock & Awe (2016).

Joining the New Art West Midlands team as Coordinator is Anneka French. Anneka will support Craig and our partners in the delivery of the New Art West Midlands programme. As a curator and writer, she brings to the role a valuable perspective and experiences that will help to inform the new direction. She is editor of the online contemporary art magazine this is tomorrow and her recent curatorial projects include Mitra Saboury’s Pulling Walls (2016) at Grand Union and the group exhibition One Leg Supporting the Weight of the Body, the Other Slightly Bent (2015) at Croome, the National Trust property in Worcestershire.

The chair of New Art West Midlands is Johnny Golding, Professor of Philosophy & Fine Art at Birmingham School of Art, and Director of the International Centre for Contemporary Art Research (iCCAR) at BCU.  Johnny will act as a bridge to the lead partner (BCU) and our co-partnerships with academic as well as post-academic/non-academic partners, individual artists, public and private galleries, studios and local communities throughout the region, including the national CVAN network. Johnny will Chair strategic meetings on overall direction and research. 

Over the coming weeks we will be working on a new identity and transitioning from Turning Point, before launching New Art West Midlands with a special event later this autumn. This will be an opportunity to re-engage with us and our work, find out how to contribute and get involved, and meet the team including Craig, Anneka and Johnny, along with members of the Advisory Group who steer and inform the work we do. Details to be announced shortly. In the meantime, we’ll continue to keep you updated about visual arts news and opportunities via this bulletin.  


Artist and Curator Development Programme 

We are delighted to announce that The New Art Gallery Walsall will continue to lead on the Artist and Curator Development Programme for New Art West Midlands. Having successfully developed and delivered the programme together with Turning Point West Midlands and our partners since 2012, The New Art Gallery Walsall will build upon successful aspects from previous years and introduce new strands of activity. We want to ensure that the programme is relevant and rewarding to a wide range of artists, curators and writers, from students to those with established careers. The programme will continue to deliver region-wide opportunities, and explore further the potential for legacy through connections in and beyond the region too.


Exciting opportunity to join the New Art West Midlands Advisory Group

Turning Point West Midlands is changing.

With a new team and a new direction, the region’s Contemporary Visual Arts Network is rebranding to become New Art West Midlands – a name and identity that better reflects our progressive role in developing and promoting contemporary visual arts across the West Midlands.

The Advisory Group is a critically important part of New Art West Midlands. Following a successful application to Arts Council England (ACE), spear-headed by Birmingham City University (BCU) and Birmingham Museums Trust (BMT), we are now seeking members to join the Advisory Group who will help to shape and steer the New Art West Midlands programme during an exciting period of change.

The principle role of the Advisory Group is to provide expertise and information to the Executive Group on all matters relating to the programme and to develop a regional visual arts strategy. It comprises 14 representatives from the visual arts sector across the West Midlands region, and includes members from public and independent visual arts organisations (a mix of Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) and non-NPOs), Higher Education institutions and visual artists.

As a member of the Advisory Group, you will be required to attend quarterly meetings, with key responsibilities outlined in the Terms of Reference document downloadable here. You will be active and well informed in West Midlands and national visual arts activity, bringing your knowledge and expertise to the wider group.

Advisory Group members are expected to serve a fixed term of 2 years. Members who are employees agree to contribute their time in-kind as part of their organisation’s work in the sector. Artists and independent practitioners will be paid to attend meetings, with reasonable travel costs incurred in relation to New Art West Midlands activity reimbursed.

We welcome applications from all suitably qualified persons. We are keen to reflect and represent the diversity, geography and practice of the visual arts sector in the West Midlands. As Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups are currently under-represented at this level in this area, we would particularly welcome applications from BAME applicants. All appointments will be made on merit.

For further information about either the Advisory Group or the New Art West Midlands programme, please contact Craig Ashley (Director, New Art West Midlands). Email Craig.Ashley@bcu.ac.uk or call 0121 300 4310.

To apply, please write to us answering the following questions (on a single A4 page):

1.    What do you see as the key challenges facing the visual arts in the West Midlands?

2.    What do you feel you can bring to the network?

3.    What would you like to see change/develop?

Your answers should be accompanied by a short biography and CV. Please email your application to Craig.Ashley@bcu.ac.uk by 10am on 17 October 2016, stating Advisory Group in the subject line.

With funds in place for the period 2016-2018, New Art West Midlands is supported by Arts Council England and the lead partners Birmingham City University and Birmingham Museums Trust. Further support for the project comes from our partners Coventry University, Hereford College of Arts, University of Wolverhampton and Worcester University, as well as Staffordshire University. 


Current opportunities...

SALON, 2015. Photograph: Marcin Sz.
In April it was announced that Turning Point West Midlands had been successful in its bid to Arts Council England to fund a new programme for the period 2016-2018. This funding will support an even more ambitious programme that builds on and consolidates activities delivered by two ACE-funded initiatives, Turning Point West Midlands and New Art WM. As part of this development Turning Point West Midlands will rebrand itself New Art West Midlands to better reflect its role in developing and promoting contemporary visual arts from the West Midlands region.  In the coming months we will develop a new website and branding to reflect this change. Full information on the future of the regional network can be found here.

There are currently a number of opportunities available within the network and associated projects:
  • Applications are open until 5pm today for recent graduates from the five regionally-based university art schools and Hereford College of Arts to apply for New Art West Midlands 2017. The aim of the exhibitions is to profile the best work with a Fine Art emphasis emerging from the university art schools in the West Midlands, and offer new visual arts graduates a high quality professional development opportunity. Selected artists will have their work exhibited in some of the region's most prestigious galleries including Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, mac birmingham and Wolverhampton Art Gallery. Apply here.
  • We are currently looking for a committed and enthusiastic Coordinator for New Art West Midlands. This is a part time, fixed term freelance position to assist the Director of New Art West Midlands in coordinating the NAWM 2016-18 programme and West Midlands Contemporary Visual Arts Network. Apply here. Deadline: 5pm, Monday 4 July 2016.
  • We are inviting

    applications from visual arts organisations, university art schools or independent consultants based in the West Midlands to lead the development and delivery of a two year professional development programme for artists and curators. Apply here. Deadline: 5pm, Friday 15 July 2016.