A Feminist Statement
The London Frieze Fairs Champion Women Artists

There’s still a lot to be done: The current report of the British Freelands Foundation shows that even today women in the art world are extremely disadvantaged. In 2017, only 22% of the solo shows at major noncommercial London galleries were devoted to women. The situation is not much better at the commercial galleries in the British capital, where the share of women artists is just 28%. And on the ArtReview Power 100 list, the ratio hasn’t changed for years: 60% men versus 40% women. To counteract the situation, this year’s Frieze London and Frieze Masters art fairs are focusing on feminism and simultaneously celebrating the 100th anniversary of the introduction of women’s suffrage in Great Britain.

Deutsche Bank, the main sponsor of the two fairs, is also involved. At its lounges, it is exclusively presenting works by women artists that were chosen from the corporate collection by Tracey Emin and her studio. A total of 60 works, by artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Rosemarie Trockel, Kara Walker, and Marlene Dumas, are on view. In addition, Emin contacted all of the living artists represented in the collection and asked them for postcard-sized works to be auctioned off at the fair and on the Internet. The proceeds go to organizations that are working to improve the plight of disadvantaged woman. The response was enormous. A total of 220 artists submitted more than 800 works.

To generate more attention for female artists, Frieze London initiated the Social Work section this year. It features works by socially committed artists who rebelled against the male-dominated art market in the 1980s. Social Work is a continuation of the Sex Work section, in which curator Alison Gingeras presented pioneers of feminist art likes Birgit Jürgenssen and Dorothy Iannone in 2017. This year, a team of eleven curators selected eight artists, including the U.S. American Faith Ringgold, who in her detailed figurative paintings and quilts tells of the pride and self-empowerment of the black community. In her provocative photographs, sculptures, and installations, the British artist Helen Chadwick engages with her own body. The South African Berni Searle does the same, yet her films and photographs also allude to the traumatic consequences of apartheid.

South African artists have a strong presence at this year’s Frieze. Stevenson Gallery is showcasing new works by Moshekwa Langa, who is currently included in The World on Paper, the opening exhibition of the PalaisPopulaire. Goodman is presenting William Kentridge, and Marian Goodman is showing new works by Kemang Wa Lehulere at the fair, to whom the gallery is also dedicating a solo exhibition in its London branch. Both artists are also represented in the Deutsche Bank Collection. In the Focus section, which is dedicated to upcoming galleries, Blank from Cape Town is showing Bronwyn Katz, Donna Kukama, and Cinga Samson, newcomers of the South African art scene.

Kemang Wa Lehulere was also invited to Frieze Talks. This year, the Talks explore the role of autobiography in art with international participants. Deutsche Bank’s “Artist of the Year” 2017 talks about this issue with Sean O’Toole, a top South African art expert, who has written articles for ArtMag. At Frieze Talks, two 1980s icons will sit on the podium: the multimedia artist Laurie Anderson and Nan Goldin, whose very private, autobiographical series The Ballad of Sexual Dependency influenced a whole generation of photographers.

Frieze Masters is presenting historical works, ranging from typical everyday artifacts to the 20th-century avant-garde, from a contemporary vantage point. Its program also has a feminist bent. Exclusively women were invited to the Talks. Artists such as Tacita Dean, Julie Mehretu, and Amy Sillman talk with curators including Thelma Golden from the Studio Museum in Harlem and Ann Demeester from the Frans Hals Museum about their work and about ways of bringing contemporary and old art into dialogue.

Strong female positions can also be found at the over 130 international galleries at the Masters, particularly in the Spotlight section, where art history is rewritten. Each stand is devoted to a 20th-century artist who has been overlooked hitherto on account of gender, origins, or the idiosyncrasies of the art trade. Among others, the Italian Pop Artist Titina Maselli, Dorothy Antoinette ‘Toni’ La Selle, a pioneer of nonrepresentational art, and the geometric objects of the Greek sculptress Nausica Pastra can be discovered here. 

Frieze London / Frieze Masters
October 5–7
Regent’s Park, London