We are at Frieze, looking at an excess of art and spectators. We will see a couple of thousand works in the space of a two or three hours - this plenitude means that the works that are visually arresting are necessarily privileged as we scan the corridors. This is no bad thing though: having mulled on Phil Gyford's question about the opacity of art and artists, I'd have to say that the intentions and ideas of the artist and the wider context of the art work don't really matter unless there's an aesthetic response first. You have to like looking at it, or experiencing it.
Generally it felt as if there was a retreat to safer, more saleable work from name artists (though not much from the old school names of the 50s and so on). Fewer monstrous installations. Lots of paintings and easily installable work. Less video than in previous years. Tillmans, Shrigley, Ruff et al at multiple galleries.
Lots of photographs, but too many porny ones. Lots of painting, much of which has either strongly representational elements together with the abstract, or representation appearing to operate at large and small scales. But too much faux-naif painting. Quite a few works which comprised aggregations of smaller framed pieces, some of which were signed, faked celebrity photos. There's a resurgence of coloured pencil drawing, perhaps displacing monchromatic trend of the last few years (it's very foolish to attempt trends from a single show).
The media are (finally) in no doubt that the art market is in trouble. The Art Newspaper reported sales down and buyers haggling in its free daily at Frieze, and auctions since Damien Hirst's celebrated £95m Sotheby's sale in September have been getting low bids. Speculation in young artists is over. UBS head of art banking: "Every gallery and auction house is trying to leverage quality". Small dealers are feeling the pinch, large dealers are getting squeezed by auction houses. Interesting times. Despite the exodus to the private sector in the last couple of years, will there be a return to power for public museums, curators and critics?
My photos are here. These are the ones I liked the most:
The Approach's space was brilliant: Martin Westwood, John Stezaker et al. Westwood is new to me, and very strong: assemblages of drawing, collage, sculture, cut paper, iconography of 1980s corporate culture. I need to come back to Westwood, but in the meantime: at The Approach, Strange Flowers, Art Now at the Tate, Approach show 2007.
Sea Hyun Lee at Gagosian (well, it looks like Sea Hyun Lee but Gagosian annoyingly don't identify their artists). Paul Noble at Maureen Paley. Peter Peri (as ever) at Carl Freedman. Darren Almond at Matthew Marks - the thing about Almond is that his work is always solid.
Leslie Shows (painting and collage) and Ajit Chauhan (ink drawings) at Jack Hanley. Also, Ged Quinn at Wilkinson. Felix Gmelin at Vilma Gold had some beautiful atomic explosions in clay. Thomas Bayrle at Barbara Weiss anthropomorphises graphs and data. Dr Lakra at Kate MacGarry.