Art in Regent's Park

Frieze London opens for its tenth edition

The Frieze Art Fair returns from New York to London this Thursday, bringing together 175 of the world’s most innovative contemporary art galleries in a bespoke temporary structure erected in Regent’s Park. Exhibitors will come from 35 countries including Argentina, China, Columbia, Hungary, India, Korea and South Africa. Furthermore, this year the Fair includes two exciting (if a little overdue) new sections: Focus and Frieze Masters.

Focus is only open to galleries established after 2001, each of whom are invited to curate up to three artists’ works at the Fair, while Frieze Masters, which will run in parallel with the main festival and require a separate ticket, will present “a contemporary perspective on historical art”. That is to say, for the first time, Frieze will sell old as well as new art.

Over 90 galleries from territories including Spain, Lebanon, Turkey and Brazil will exhibit works “ranging from the ancient era and old masters through to art of the 20th century”, a decision praised by the Guardian’s art critic Jonathan Jones. “Lo and behold,” he writes, “the art world has discovered that time is not flat. We do not occupy an eternal present. There were artists before we were born, and there will be artists after we die … New art is not an orphan: it is the child of history. Frieze Masters will make it easier for everyone to see that.”

Frieze curator Sarah McCrory has commissioned five site-specific pieces for this year’s Fair. One, a structure which explores the “use-value” of art by providing a forum for artists who produce food, chaotic dining events, performances and talks has been created by Lake District-based Grizedale Arts and the Yangjiang Group collection. Another will see a section of Regent’s Park smouldering as a field of incense burns to suggest contemplation and reflection (Joanna Rajkowska), and a recreated crime drama scene by Asli Çavuşoğlu will interrogate the parallels between murder mystery production and the destructive decisions taken when making art.

The Fair will also boast films, talks and a Sculpture Park curated by Clare Lilley, Director of Programme at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, alongside gourmet food, workshops and a Family Space. Although the primary function of the Fair is to sell the works exhibited, most visitors will attend as spectators rather than prospective buyers. In fact, Frieze stopped publishing sales figures in 2006, for this and other reasons. Tickets are limited “to ensure the best experience for all visitors”, but for those not lucky enough to get a ticket, the Sculpture Park is open free to the public.

Frieze London will be in Regent’s Park from 11-14 October.

"The Maids" by Paula Rego, a Frieze Master. Image: Frieze.

Philip Maughan is a freelance writer in Berlin and a former Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

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Drama without sensation: A Separation is an unsettling novel of distances

In Katie Kitamura’s novel, it is the distance between the narrator’s two selves that causes her most discomfort.

In a 2013 interview with Guernica, the online magazine, the novelist Katie Kitamura discussed how publishing’s “deeply patronising attitude” towards female readers results in overtly feminine book covers, featuring, for instance, women in bathing suits. “That’s not the kind of book cover that makes me want to buy a book,” she said.

The cover of Kitamura’s latest novel, A Separation, does, surprisingly, feature a woman in a bathing suit. But there is something quietly unsettling about this picture: the woman, who has her back to us, is awkwardly cropped out of frame from the elbows up, and she is sitting at the edge of an oddly shaped pool. Most of the cover is solid turquoise – a bright wash of negative space.

Kitamura’s unnamed narrator is a poised literary translator. As the novel opens in London, we learn that she is married to Christopher (a charming, haphazard non-author) but, in secret, they have been living separately for the past six months. When she receives a telephone call from Christopher’s mother, Isabella, informing her that he has seemingly gone missing in Greece, she doesn’t let on about her disintegrating marriage but boards a plane to look for him.

Much of the rest of the novel takes place in Greece: at a “very pleasant” hotel, in “perfect weather”, the pool “heated to a very comfortable temperature”. The area has recently experienced a string of devastating fires, leaving patches of scorched earth. The location has an almost eerie surface stillness that jars with the mystery at its heart. In this way, Kitamura (an art critic as well as novelist) creates a setting somehow reminiscent of David Hockney’s A Bigger Splash, Christopher’s sudden disappearance leaving behind no visible ripples.

The narrator, too, has a glassy composure at odds with the tumultuous events. On deciding to end her marriage formally, she shows neither despair nor relief, but anxiety about the etiquette. “I assumed – I had no prior experience to go on – that asking for a divorce was always discomfiting,” she says with typical understatement, “but I could not believe it was always this awkward.” Of her feelings for her new partner, Yvan, she notes that they seem more like “administration rather than passion”, and then offers a moderated gloss of Hamlet, “You cannot say you did it out of love, since at your age romantic passions have grown weak, and the heart obeys reason.

Her emotional separation from the trauma of her circumstances allows the narrator to examine the facts of her husband’s disappearance. She knows Christopher was unfaithful and she immediately identifies the hotel receptionist as the object of his attentions. We never see the narrator professionally translating, but the novel is concerned with her attempts to read the deeper meanings behind the remarks and behaviour of those around her. She finds it easy to imagine unseen contexts to conversations: an argument between Christopher’s parents, an embrace between her taxi driver and the hotel receptionist. As she writes, “Imagination, after all, costs nothing.”

Her propensity for projection is such that some things remain lost in translation. Even the most minute interactions can be misread. When Christopher’s mother comments that the two women’s love for her son connects them, “she was looking over my shoulder, as if watching someone approach . . . she was staring at nothing”. The novel occupies this imaginative negative space: the gap between what people think and how they appear.

Ultimately, it is the distance between the narrator’s two selves that causes her most discomfort. How long will she allow others to read her as the concerned, loving wife? Should she admit she wants to find Christopher in order to request that they separate officially? As her search continues she notes, “There was a small but definite wedge pushing between the person I was and the person I was purporting to be.”

There is a suspenseful and menacing tone to Kitamura’s prose that might trick a reader into thinking, at first, they are in the territory of thrillers such as Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Both these novels, like A Separation, have narrators who defy readers’ attempts to fathom their emotional depths and to deal with questions of how well you know anyone – even your own partner. But this is a work free of sensation, or even resolution. As the narrator notes, in the shock of an event it is natural to look for a more dramatic narrative. “But in the end,” she says, “this is only chasing shadows. The real culpability is not to be found in the dark or with a stranger, but in ourselves.”

A Separation by Katie Kitamura is published by Clerkenwell Press (231pp, £12.99)

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 23 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's permanent revolution