Frieze London: Black Artists, Women in Particular, are Notably Present in Select Programming and Exhibitions

“Untitled” (1998) by Berni Searle


FRIEZE LONDON AND FRIEZE MASTERS officially open to the public today and black women are notably present. This afternoon, artist Julie Mehretu will be in conversation with Thelma Golden of the Studio Museum in Harlem.

The conversation is part of Frieze Masters Talks, which is focusing on women speakers this year. The all-female programming marks the centenary of women’s suffrage in the UK and coincides with the seventh edition of Frieze Masters Magazine, which explores the contributions of women in art history.

Frieze London features more than 160 galleries from around the world are presenting contemporary works by more than 1,000 artists. Modern and historic works are on view at more than 130 galleries at Frieze Masters. Both fairs are at Regent’s Park from Oct. 4-7, 2018.


From left, Artist Julie Mehretu and Thelma Golden of the Studio Museum in Harlem are in conversation at Frieze in London on Oct. 4. | Mehretu portrait by Anastasia Muna


One of the highlights of Frieze London this year is Social Work, a special invitational section featuring monographic exhibitions by eight women artists who emerged in the 1980s and 90s making work with a distinct social and political bent.

Social Work is organized by a group of 10 curators and critics from UK institutions, including curator Amira Gad of Serpentine Galleries, and Melanie Keen, director of Iniva (the Institute of International Visual Arts), who selected the participating artists.

Works by Faith Ringgold of Englewood, N.J., are presented by ACA Galleries (New York); Apalazzo Gallery (Brescia) features Sonia Boyce; and Stevenson Gallery (Cape Town) is displaying work by Berni Searle, who works in a variety of mediums including photography, video, and film.

“My early work, made in the early ’90s was concerned with notions of identity as mediated by race, class and gender in processes of social change,” Searle said in an interview with Frieze. “In many ways, my identity had been made for me through the apartheid apparatus. …These questions were the preoccupation of critical theory in the ’80s, but the terms of the debate was set up by mostly western feminist thinkers during the ’70s. Their exploration of the social construction of femininity laid the groundwork for the expansion and examination of the notion of difference along racial, sexual and gender lines in the ’80s.”

“My early work, made in the early ’90s was concerned with notions of identity as mediated by race, class and gender in processes of social change.” — South African Artist Berni Searle

SONIA BOYCE, “The Audition,” 1997 (black and white photographs mounted on aluminium, variable dimensions). | Apalazzo Gallery, Courtesy Frieze


This afternoon (Thursday, Oct. 4), Boyce, a professor at Middlesex University and Professor of Black Art and Design at University of the Arts London, and Searle, who serves as director of the Art School of Cape Town University, are participating in Frieze Talks. The discussion “On Social Work” also includes artists Ipek Duben of Istanbul and Los Angeles-based Mary Kelly, with London writer Louisa Buck. The artists are talking about the intersection of art and politics and how their careers challenged the status quo.

Frieze magazine published an interview with Boyce in its July/August 2018 issue. She discussed her retrospective at Manchester Art Gallery and the cultural backdrop against which she has been working over the decades. Boyce said in part:

    Everything comes in waves and we’re on one now. Historically speaking, however, there’s always a backlash to a forward-looking movement. I find it shocking that, 100 years ago, we were talking about women getting the vote and, now, we’re discussing women getting equal pay. I’ve been involved in feminist debates and activism since the 1970s and, whenever we think we’ve resolved an issue, it goes underground and resurfaces as a refusal. I genuinely don’t understand why everyone isn’t a feminist – it’s simply about being treated fairly. It’s the same with race: what is so difficult about all people being treated equally? These questions can seem so simple but, obviously, there’s a lot of historical baggage that gets in the way.

On Saturday, Frieze Talks features South African artist Kemang Wa Lehulere in conversation with writer and editor Sean O’Toole. Both are based in Cape Town.

THE FRIEZE TATE FUND supports acquisitions from the fair for the Tate’s collections. This year, four works were acquired, including Boyce’s “The Edition” (1997), which is on view at Apalazzo in the Social Work section, and Claudette Johnson’s “Standing Figure with African Masks” (2018) from Hollybush Gardens in the main section of the fair.

In addition, the Contemporary Art Society’s Collections Fund at Frieze announced the acquisition of Kehinde Wiley’s first film installation “Narrenschiff (Ship of Fools),” 2017, from Stephen Friedman Gallery. The work is “emotionally affecting and visually compelling portrait of a group of black men at sea, capturing the full spectrum of the human condition. …The figures appear at one with the ocean, an enduring relationship throughout history, whilst suggesting wider concerns of international territories and governance.”

With an original score composed by Maxim Budnick, Wiley’s three-screen digital film projection is narrated by C.C.H. Pounder. The actress layers the work with meaning reading Frantz Fanon’s “The Wretched of the Earth” and “Madness and Civilization” by Michel Foucault.


KEHINDE WILEY, “Narrenschiff,” 2017 (three-screen digital film). | © Kehinde Wiley, Stephen Friedman Gallery, Courtesy Frieze


SOME OF THE MOST ENGAGING WORK is on view in the Spotlight section of Frieze Masters, where 22 galleries are presenting single-artist shows focused on overlooked 20th-century figures.

Eric Firestone Gallery is presenting Joe Overstreet‘s Flight Pattern paintings from 1970-72, 15 works on view in Europe for the first time. Many have not been shown in more than 45 years since they appeared in a 1972 solo exhibition organized by John and Dominique de Menil in Houston, Texas.

A longtime, New York-based community arts organizer, Overstreet founded Kenkeleba House with his partner Corrine Jennings in 1973. Encompassing both studio and gallery space on East 2nd Street, Kenkeleba House remains active, presenting exhibitions by artists of color.

One of Overstreet’s Flight Pattern paintings is featured in the traveling exhibition “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power.” Eric Firestone Gallery describes the paintings as “un-stretched canvases installed with ropes threaded through grommets and attached to the ceiling, wall, and floor. The language of geometric abstract painting is re-imagined into monumental installations that tell stories about the painful realities of African American history, and also read as symbols of hope, flight, and aspiration.”

The gallery provided a quote from Overstreet to the New York Times. The artist said: “I was making nomadic art, and I could roll it up and travel. We had survived with our art by rolling it up and moving it all over. I felt like a nomad myself, with all the insensitivity in America.” CT


TOP IMAGE: BERNI SEARLE, “Untitled,” 1998. | Courtesy the artist and Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg via Frieze


“Sonia Boyce: Thoughtful Disobediance” was released last year. The volume explore several collaborative video performances by Boyce. “American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s” coincided with the exhibition of the same name exploring the artist’s early political works about race, gender, and class. “Julie Mehretu: A Universal History of Everything and Nothing” was published earlier this year.


JOE OVERSTREET, “Fire Dance,” 1972 (acrylic on constructed canvas, 48 x 84 inches). | Via Eric Firestone Gallery


FAITH RINGGOLD, “Marlon Riggs: Tongues Untied,” 1994 (story quilt). | Courtesy: the artist and ACA Galleries


CLAUDETTE JOHNSON, “Standing Figure with African Masks,” 2018 (pastels and gouache on paper, 1630 x 1330 mm). | Hollybush Gardens, Courtesy Frieze


Five of the eight artists featured in the Social Work section, Frieze London 2018: From left, Ipek Duben, Sonia Boyce, Tina Keane, Berni Searle and Mary Kelly. | Photo by Linda Nylind. Courtesy of Linda Nylind/Frieze


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