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When people report back on the Frieze Art Fair, for the most part they talk about the works in the main display, the warrens of white walls adorned with spectacular and fantastical works. It is, however, in the sculpture park where the real beauty can be seen. It’s quite literally a breath of fresh air from the fair. Situated in the English Gardens of Regent’s Park, it sits next to the entrance of the tent, requiring no extra exertion, and is free to members of the public.
For the second year running, the Sculpture Park has been curated by Clare Lilley, Director of Programs at England’s Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the stunning outdoor gallery famous for its displays of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth pieces. The inclusion of the park at Frieze London, Lilley comments, makes the fair “unique in being able to show sculpture for the open air in an exceptional, mature parkland.” She has been democratically keen that her display be enjoyed not only by collectors, but also by visitors to the park itself.
This year, the sculpture park combined work from Frieze and Frieze Masters, juxtaposing contemporary pieces with historical works of art (pieces date from the medieval period). Frieze has asserted that the display is the largest of its sculpture parks yet.
Walking through the park is like a journey of discovery, a stroll into a secret garden with striking works of art at every turn. Pieces are organically scattered around, from the subtle David Shrigley flagpole, Please Don’t Kill Us (2007), to Yinka Shonibare’s Wind Sculpture (2013). The latter, an enormous, hand-painted primary-colored, geometrically patterned kite (or even stingray-like structure) bursts majestically from the soil, its firmly planted waves appearing to ripple in the wind.
Elmgreen and Dragset brought their usual wry humour to But I’m on the Guest List, too! (2012), a mirrored, slightly ajar door with the letters “VIP” carved onto the front. You can see through the crack but you can’t get in. It’s an acknowledgement of the elitism surrounding Frieze and possibly a witty reference to how power structures reflect more upon the people involved, than the authorities that construct them.
There are a few mirrored pieces in the park, each one bringing it’s own unique reflection and ideological stance that create a rather magical atmosphere in the English Gardens. Marila Dardot’s The Landscape is Moving (2013) is a large plane which, when walking past, reflects the moving landscape of Regent’s Park and your own person.
Judy Chicago’s Rearrangeable Rainbow Blocks (1965) is one of the feminist artist’s early works. The pieces stand out in the Scupture Park with their brightly coloured eye-catching simplicity. Chicago’s work has always been a reaction to the patriarchy of the art world and this piece is no different. Shown for the first time in the UK, the sculpture, in the artist’s own words were “from a time in my life, when I felt obliged to ‘rearrange’ my life to accommodate the needs of my male partner.” The fact that they appear as children’s building blocks references Chicago’s prior naivety.
It is, however, a piece by Jaume Plensa, which is the piece de resistance of this year’s Sculpture Park. Chloe (2013) is a colossal bronze sculpture of a girl’s head. It’s comprised of 9 segments, which layer atop one another to complete the piece. From a certain angle, it’s merely a girl’s head, beautiful and almost photographic in its realisation. However, when one walks around the park, viewing Chloe from every angel, it becomes apparent that this is no spherical sculpture but an ellipse, almost two-dimensional. The sculpture’s left ear is flat against her head and her braided hair is realistically cast. Chloe dominated the English Garden, a masterful trompe l’oeil.