In London: At the Frieze Art Fair

October 21 2014

I arrived in London early Saturday morning and ran over to catch the wonderful zoo that is Frieze London. This year was a different mix of players, with some interesting galleries from places like Mumbai and Sao Paolo. Trends included conceptual installation art, performance art, lots of images with applied language, and a number of galleries from different countries presenting work from the same select group of German photographers.

Among my favorites was Jonathas de Andrade’s photographic installation entitled, “Looking for Jesus,” where he photographed a selection of faces of men from Amman, who look more like the artist, and who might look more like a non-Westernized face of Jesus.

He says, “Where I came from, Jesus is a blond man with blue eyes, Wandering around the river of Jordan, I realized that he could hardly have looked like that. Silent, observant, dark-skinned, fragile, full of vitality, what could be the nature of this young man?” Very thought-provoking to photograph people from a culture where the art never contains a physical image of the Prophet. Other great pieces included Takashi Murakami’s “Cosmic Truth,” Alex Prager’s “Untitled (Parts 1), which is a provocative use of the photographic medium and vocabulary, and a lyrical group of photograms from Thomas Ruff.

All in all, there were few moments where my heart beat fast as there have been at other Frieze fairs, but it was a terrific immersion in the crazy business of art these days.

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October 09 2014


by Kyrie Chamberlin, Mercurylab staff

I went a little bit before closing time, which was my first mistake. When you walk in, it’s like a mad house. There are people everywhere, there are clothes all over the floor and there never seems to be enough staff. Everyone looks slightly lost and is constantly bumping into one another.

I went originally to get a gift, but I stayed to buy some affordable fashion for myself. Primark has so much on offer that it’s almost dizzying. Everything is cheap, and cheaply manufactured, but you get what you pay for. That's part of the Primark Experience. You don't go to McDonalds expecting a steak dinner; you go for a super cheap, sometimes questionable burger. Primark isn’t trying to seduce you with nicely crafted, high-end goods—that's not what their brand is about. Their brand attributes: disposable, trendy and fast. Likely not ethically produced, either. This brand has nothing to do with quality. They want you to buy a lot, and you want to as well. That’s part of the sense of urgent anxiety that starts to churn when I’m in their stores.

I ended up buying a couple of dresses, a jacket, and my gift items. The jacket is actually very chic, and you would never know it was from Primark. That’s the good news. Anyway, my second mistake was not trying anything on. I ended up having to return one of the dresses (pink with a crisp white collar) because the collar was not even close to being centered. Don't be too shocked!

The checkout lines are unsurprisingly very long, but they move relatively quickly. This is key because once you are ready to pay, they need to get you out of the store as fast as possible before you reconsider. The clothes are not worth a long wait in line, which they know.

Of course, the returns line is separate from the cashiers. It’s almost like a secret place (hard to find, so hard to return – classic customer manipulation). It’s tucked away on a different floor in a corner on a different, airless floor. The line is deceptively short, but since everyone is returning many items, a complication always ensues. Customers were hot, angry and impatient. Again, this is not surprising, as a store hawking cheap, disposable products is frequently unconcerned with providing a good customer experience – Primark is a fast food shopping experience.

I have to say, I would go back. Primark is so inexpensive, and so well stocked, it’s almost addictive. Although, I never want to return another item, so next time I will have to gather up my courage to attack the dreaded fitting rooms. Help!

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