Once a year, the sounds of lions roaring and parrots squawking that can often be heard drifting over Regent’s Park from London Zoo, are joined for a few days by the chattering of art lovers. But this time the wildlife has found its way into the tents of Frieze London and Frieze Masters, too. We rounded up some of the most fearsome beasts at the fairs.
Lindsey Mendick, various ceramic works (2021)
£6,500 each, Carl Freedman Gallery, Frieze London
Lindsey Mendick is scared of octopuses. Or at least she was before she started this series of ceramic works during lockdown. The London-based artist describes these pieces on Instagram as self-portraits, writing: “I seem to have morphed into [them]. I’ve made them when I’ve felt sexy, shameful, abandoned, frightened and everything in between.” One work references squeezing into a tight pair of jeans, while another includes her boyfriend’s penis.
Gilt-copper fish standard (around 1700)
Price undisclosed, Amir Mohtashemi, Frieze Masters
Can you fight like a fish? Not if it’s a man-eating giant catfish as found in the rivers of India. Such was the reputation of this savage creature, it was used in elaborate battle standards like this rare surviving example. Carried into war mounted on a pole, the fish standard was one of the most prestigious honours of Mughal India, awarded to the highest ranked nobles.
Mosaic depicting a unicorn (fifth century)
£280,000, Galerie David Ghezelbash, Frieze Masters
Notoriously hard to find, a unicorn can finally be yours at Frieze Masters. This mosaic dates from the early Christian period, and may have come from the Syrian village of Huarte. The unicorn has a long and varied symbolism, associated with everything from strength to fertility, vulnerability to purity. This example seems to have been based on an antelope rather than the more familiar horse.
Cian-Yu Bai, Healing Dream (2021)
€8,000, Stevenson, Frieze London
The Taiwanese painter Cian-Yu Bai had a strict childhood, studying until late at night and even on Saturdays. She eventually swerved her intended career as a teacher to become an artist, but still applies the same intensity and discipline to her work. Her almost calligraphic paintings depict calm, enveloping dream worlds, where you could perhaps turn into a magical creature like these lolling lions.
Florian Krewer,“ursa major” (2021)
$85,000, Michael Werner, Frieze London
Bear meets bare bum in this painting by Florian Krewer. He often pairs sexual imagery with depictions of animals including eagles, horses and dogs, tapping into the ancient connection between wild beasts and the instinctive, untameable nature of human sexuality. Krewer was born in Germany and studied under Peter Doig at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, and now lives and works in New York.