Art Market

The 15 Best Booths at Frieze London and Frieze Masters 2021

Allyssia Alleyne
Oct 14, 2021 6:19PM

Sin Wai Kin, installation view in Blindspot Gallery’s booth at Frieze London 2021. Photo by Linda Nylind. Courtesy of Linda Nylind and Frieze.

After last year’s online viewing rooms, Frieze London and Frieze Masters are officially back in Regent’s Park. In all, 276 galleries from 39 countries are participating across both fairs—just shy of the 290 who mounted booths in 2019—and if the winding queues outside the tents and the bustling booths within on opening day are anything to go by, the crowds are hungry to see what they have in store.

Galleries have mounted a mix of quietly political statements about the state of the world, reflective pandemic projects that show what artists do when they don’t have their usual duties or distractions, and aesthetic reassurances that the “new normal” was just a drill. There are also a number of clever Instagram traps that will end up as backgrounds for countless selfies over the coming days. Here are the must-see booths from both tents.

Lehmann Maupin

Frieze London, Booth F4

With works by Do Ho Suh, Liza Lou, Hernan Bas, Billy Childish, Gilbert & George, Lee Bul, Angel Otero, Alex Prager, and Erwin Wurm

Installation view of Lehmann Maupin’s booth at Frieze London 2021. Courtesy of Lehmann Maupin.


Lehmann Maupin’s ode to what senior director Isabella Icoz described as “our frequent and tactile relationship” with the concept of home over the last 18 months is anchored by what will likely be the Instagram backdrop of choice for this year’s fair: Hub-2, Breakfast Corner, 260-7, Sungbook-Dong, Sungboo-Ku, Seoul, Korea (2018), a translucent pink polyester structure by South Korean artist Do Ho Suh. The work, priced between $300,000 and $600,000, conveys how the artist spent much of his time during the pandemic, and is one of many domestic spaces that he’s given the ghost treatment to over the years. His practice, Icoz explained, is all about exploring “notions of home, memory, marginality, and the correlation between psychic and physical space.”

If the breakfast nook is the main event, the smaller framed works—including new collections of rainbow-colored door chains, knobs, and sockets; and venous “ScaledBehaviour” door segments woven from polyester thread and resin—are worthy supporting acts. More than 15 works from his “Specimens” series had sold for a combined $1.4 million by the end of the fair’s first day.

Be sure to also keep an eye out for beaded sculptures from the similarly crafty Liza Lou—both the monumental Tree of Forgiveness (2021) on the booth’s exterior wall (which was priced at $385,000 and has sold), and Let it Roll (2008), a roll of silver glass beads woven and wound like ribbon (and priced at $130,000). The gallery is hosting a solo show of her work at its Cromwell Place outpost in West London.

Stephen Friedman Gallery

Frieze London, Booth C10

With works by Deborah Roberts

Deborah Roberts, installation view in Stephen Friedman Gallery’s booth at Frieze London 2021. Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery.

Viewing Deborah Roberts’s fractured portraits of Black children always makes for a poignant yet unsettling experience. Digitally collaged together from found photos, textile patterns, digital ephemera, and other materials, her hybrid figures make physical the ways that playfulness and innocence intersect with darker themes of violence, corruption, and otherness.

These themes are once again at play in the works on show in her solo booth with Stephen Friedman Gallery at Frieze. “[Roberts drew] strength from her recent isolation during the pandemic, using this as a sustained period of creativity to push the complexity and scale of her work,” said Jonathan Horrocks, a director with the gallery.

Just five new works are on show, and each is given ample room to breathe and to shine. Boys with multifaceted faces don cartoon merch and prison stripes. Little girls strike childlike poses offset by intense stares. (All the works were sold by the end of the first preview day, for prices between $125,000 and $150,000.)

The presentation will coincide with an exhibition of the artist’s work at the Bluecoat in Liverpool—an 18th-century school turned cultural center—set to open on Friday. It will be Roberts’s first institutional show. To Horrocks, both feel especially timely given the injustices that “unfortunately persist in Britain as well as in American society.”

James Cohan

Frieze London, Booth B17

With works by Firelei Báez, Gauri Gill, Teresa Margolles, Josiah McElheny, Christopher Myers, Jordan Nassar, Naudline Pierre, Yinka Shonibare CBE, Elias Sime, Fred Tomaselli, and Grace Weaver

Installation view of James Cohan’s booth at Frieze London 2021. Photo by Dan Bradica. Courtesy of James Cohan.

James Cohan’s booth is dominated by the soft afternoon air as you hold us all in a single death (To breathe full and Free: a declaration, a re-visioning, a correction) (2021), a constellation of works on paper from Firelei Báez, the New York–based painter of Haitian and Dominican heritage. Together, they’re a sight to behold: 81 reproductions of historical documents that she’s covered with abstract gestures and strange figures, all rendered in bright hues of acrylic gouache. (At the end of the fair’s opening day, the work—offered as a whole for $350,000—was on reserve.)

Many of the original documents are maps of the Caribbean that were designed by colonizing Europeans “drafting their perspective of the world at that time,” according to David Norr, a partner at James Cohan. “So many of [Báez’s] characters and many of the gestural actions disrupt those histories.” He pointed to a selection of works featuring the feminine shape of the ciguapa—a hair-covered creature in Dominican folklore known for trickery and disruption. “They’re often camouflaged or in a state of transformation, and they’re seen as change agents,” he explained. “And that’s part of this work: to look back at a fixed history, to disrupt it, and to imagine a possible future.”

Many of the other works on display engage in similar conversations around notions of Western colonialism, both recent and historical—including Elias Sime’s sculpture TIGHTROPE: ECHO!? (2021), partly assembled from circuit boards discarded by the West and dumped in his native Ethiopia, priced at $85,000; and Palestinian American artist’s Jordan Nassar’s stunning (and sold) O unsewn Time! (2021), a portrait of an imagined homeland, cross-stitched in collaboration with artisans living in the West Bank.


Frieze London, Booth H13

With works by Lin Ke

Lin Ke, installation view in BANK/Mabsociety’s booth at Frieze London 2021. Courtesy of the artist and BANK/Mabsociety.

In what must be Frieze’s most meta display, Shanghai gallery BANK/Mabsociety has mounted in its booth a presentation of works that blur the line between digital and physical painting. First, there are the works themselves: ghost-like “Sky Paintings” by the Chinese artist Lin Ke. Each of the portraits starts with a bare-bones watercolor recreation of a classical work of art (all priced at £3,500, or about $4,800). These are then scanned, edited in Photoshop, UV-printed onto panels of aluminum and acrylic, and then overlaid with the translucent, checkered backdrop that is characteristic of the software. The printed works on aluminum range from £6,000 to £20,000 ($8,200–$27,300).

“They’re kind of like physical manifestations of Photoshop files,” said Mathieu Borysevicz, the gallery’s founder and director. “The artist is thinking about what it means to make a painting or make a painting exhibition in the 21st century.”

The gallery has expanded on this concept through its installation. The booth’s walls are covered in a vinyl printout that depicts the artist’s computer desktop, complete with open Photoshop and finder windows. As a final touch, Lin’s desktop backdrop is an image of a booth in a white-tent art fair. “The idea was to be self-referential. Our presentation really unveils the process,” Borysevicz said. “Every booth here, I’m sure, was rendered on a computer first before they put it up. We’re collapsing that space between the virtual, the actual, and that space in between.”

80m2 Livia Benavides

Frieze London, Booth H6

With works by José Vera Matos

José Vera Matos, installation view in 80m2 Livia Benavides’s booth at Frieze London 2021. Courtesy of the artist and 80m2 Livia Benavides

From a distance, it’s practically impossible to know what you’re getting into with Peruvian gallery 80m2 Livia Benavides’s booth, but it’s worth getting up close. The 21 drawings by Lima-born artist José Vera Matos, priced between $7,500 and $8,500, appear at first to be purely abstract, but their shapes—at points erratic, at others geometric and almost gridlike—are in fact made up of excerpts from the French critic and philosopher Édouard Glissant’s The Poetics of Relation (1997), written out in almost unreadably small text.

Just as Glissant—who was born on the island of Martinique, an overseas territory of France—was concerned with the history of colonial violence and postcolonial notions of identity in the Caribbean, Vera Matos’s work considers the tensions around such subjects within the South American context. “I wanted to represent a timeline in which we can see the tensions, coincidences, ruptures, and even the birth of new languages and dialects resulting from the clash between cultures over time,” Vera Matos explained over WhatsApp. The series, he said, “reflects on language and writing as essential tools for the conquest and domination of the Americas, but also on how those same tools later became a means of resistance used throughout history.”

The drawings’ erratic patterns and curvilinear shapes are intended to evoke pre-Columbian forms inspired by traditional textiles and pottery, while the rigid columns of minute text that surround them represent the domination of European colonialism.

David Kordansky Gallery

Frieze London, Booth E1

With works by Lucy Bull

Lucy Bull, installation view in David Kordansky Gallery’s booth at Frieze London 2021. Photo by Mark Blower. Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery.

Upon seeing one of Lucy Bull’s new works in David Kordansky Gallery’s booth on the first day of previews, a passerby observed that the work seemed “a little garish.” This is, in fact, a massive understatement. Bull’s trippy paintings are full-on assaults of texture, rhythm, scale, and acid color. They seem to morph before your eyes, adopting new shapes or suggesting hidden forms or interstellar spaces, like something generated by computer vision software.

But they are, in the end, pure abstraction. “They’re totally abstract, non-objective color field paintings in a sense,” said Kurt Mueller, a director at David Kordansky Gallery, likening them to Surrealist dreamscapes. “Essentially, they’re stream-of-conscious paintings.”

Each work conveys a sense of movement and depth, the result of careful manipulation. Bull applies veils of colors with a brush, then scrapes, stamps, and rakes the surface with a comb-like tool. “On the one hand they’re chaotic, but they’re also extremely soothing in ways,” said Mueller. “You can get lost in these paintings.”

Collectors seem to be finding themselves in Bull’s work. Within hours of the fair’s opening, the seven works on show—priced between $25,000 and $85,000—had all sold.

Nature Morte

Frieze London, Booth B11

With works by Jitish Kallat, Imran Qureshi, and Tanya Goel

Installation view of Nature Morte’s booth at Frieze London 2020. Courtesy of Nature Morte.

At Indian gallery Nature Morte’s booth, we’re given a peek into the pandemic diaries of two different artists. Tanya Goel, the New Delhi–based, Yale University–trained painter best known for her monumental gridlike abstractions, turned to her garden for inspiration, plucking individual blooms and documenting their changing colors as they decay through radiant watercolors. Each study is based around brightly colored, radial, concentric circles, systematically arranged to represent a specific bloom. “We thought it was interesting in the context of the tradition of botanical studies in the U.K.,” said gallery director Peter Nagy.

On the wall opposite, the gallery is showing 30 works by Jitish Kallat, who has created a drawing for each day of the pandemic. (The 30 works on show, sold together and priced between $20,000 and $50,000, represent June 2021.) Drawn on grid paper and stamped with the date, time, global population, and Indian COVID-19 statistics of the day, these “Integer Studies” represent fleeting, unremarkable moments individually, but tell a more powerful story when regarded as a document of a historic time.

The booth also features works by Pakistani artist Imran Qureshi reinterpreting miniature painting techniques that originated during the Mughal Empire.

Victoria Miro

Frieze London, Booth C9

With works by Milton Avery, Hernan Bas, María Berrío, Inka Essenhigh, David Harrison, Alex Hartley, Secundino Hernández, Ilse D’Hollander, Chantal Joffe, Idris Khan, Yayoi Kusama, Doron Langberg, Chris Ofili, Celia Paul, Paula Rego, Tal R, and Conrad Shawcross

Installation view of Victoria Miro’s booth at Frieze London 2021. Courtesy of Victoria Miro.

Flowers for spring may not be groundbreaking, but for Frieze in the fall? Perhaps not—but Victoria Miro’s optimistic booth is still worth the visit. The works on show flex the breadth of the gallery’s all-star roster. The presentation includes a beguiling trio of subtly erotic watercolors from Chris Ofili; a wall-sized version of Beacons, the rotating steel work that Conrad Shawcross installed in Ramsgate last month; a narrative-driven father-son scene by Paula Rego, Across the Forest (2017); and somber lockdown bouquets from Chantal Joffe.

“The reason why we chose this subject was the idea of it being a renaissance. We’re back in the groove again, so to speak,” said Matt Carey-Williams, the gallery’s head of sales. “Flowers represent fertility and growth, and, in this instance, regrowth. There is also, of course, with flowers as a motif, a lachrymose side to their signification…so there’s a little bit of that that underpins it as well.”


Frieze London, Booth H22

With works by Sin Wai Kin

Sin Wai Kin, installation view in Blindspot Gallery’s booth at Frieze London 2021. Courtesy of the artist and Blindspot Gallery

The Canadian artist formerly known as Victoria Sin has chosen Frieze to reintroduce themself under their nonbinary Cantonese name: Sin Wai Kin. After building a career on exaggerated femininity through drag, Sin is going all in with a 1990s boy-band pastiche, casting themself as a variety of good-looking pseudo archetypes: “The Storyteller,” “The Universe,” “The One,” and “Wai King.” All represent facets of Sin’s personality, and their individual “looks” combine the nonthreatening handsomeness of the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC with face paint inspired by characters from Chinese opera.

The boys star in a music video–cum–two-channel installation for their single “It’s Always You” (its five editions and two artist’s proofs are priced between $10,000 and $20,000); a set of foam cutouts (on offer together—naturally, for all of your fandom needs—for under $10,000); and a series of posters, pre-folded and creased to resemble magazine cutouts. “We’re just trying to celebrate that whole theme, but there’s a queer joy to it as well,” said James Ambrose, an associate manning the booth.

Various Small Fires

Frieze London, Booth A20

With works by Glen Wilson

Glen Wilson, installation view in Various Small Fires’s booth at Frieze London, 2021. Courtesy of the artist and Various Small Fires.

With its display of new works by Los Angeles–based artist Glen Wilson, Various Small Fires has brought a bit of the outside world in. Panels of synthetic resin printed with photographs of the artist’s local community are woven through rusted gates salvaged from buildings that were demolished due to gentrification. You’ll see a different image depending on which way you swing the gate: One side is printed with a figurative scene, while the other portrays something more abstract.

“Each one has a particular story; oftentimes, these are people he’s formed relationships with. That one is actually his son,” said gallery manager Mallory Cohen, pointing to two images of a boy walking toward what looks like a sky on fire, while carrying two water buckets. “[Wilson] does a lot of work in Hollywood, too, so also they’re super cinematic; the colors are really saturated.”

By the fair’s second day, two works had already sold, while others remained available for prices between $20,000 and $30,000. Due to the durable nature of the plastic Wilson uses, his works don’t need to be confined to the gallery space. “We’ve exhibited them outside actually, and people who have bought them from us now have them outside,” Cohen said.

The Gallery of Everything

Frieze Masters, Booth H7

With works by Janet Sobel

Janet Sobel, installation view in Gallery of Everything’s booth at Frieze Masters 2021. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery of Everything.

The expansively named Gallery of Everything is focusing on one specific artist in its booth, giving the Ukrainian American Janet Sobel her first solo showcase outside of the U.S. since 1946. Like many women artists, Sobel’s contemporary reputation belies her influence: A homemaker and mother of five, she took up painting as a hobby at age 45, and was embraced by the likes of Max Ernst, André Breton, Peggy Guggenheim, and Jackson Pollock, who was inspired by her drip painting techniques.

The standout works here are the messier ones, where drips, scribbles of paint, and other chaotic abstract gestures seem to blur the line between pure abstraction and Surrealist symbolism. But the gallery has also pulled together examples of her earlier works—figurative, folklore-inspired scenes subtly imbued with a sense of the strange, like a tree topped with a human head. These will set you back between £35,000 and upwards of £100,000 ($48,000–$137,000), while the drip paintings start at £75,000 ($102,000).

Frieze Masters, Booth H4

With works by Obiora Udechukwu

Obiora Udechukwu, installation view in kó’s booth at Frieze Masters 2021. Photo by Yosuke Kojima. Courtesy of the artist and kó.

For its first Frieze Masters showing, Lagos-based gallery kó has turned its focus to Nigerian painter and poet Obiora Udechukwu, presenting a series of paintings and drawings completed between 1960 and 1990. They range from figurative early works depicting refugees of the Nigerian Civil War in cold tonalities, to enigmatic, abstracted watercolors inspired by the lines, shapes, and patterns of Uli art—“an Igbo art tradition that was historically used for body art and wall murals,” explained gallery founder Kavita Chellaram. “In later works in the 1990s, there is a real emphasis on color and scale.” The works on paper are priced between $5,000 and $10,000, while paintings range from $25,000 to $200,000 depending on the size and period.

While not as well known outside of the country as within its borders, Chellaram said the artist has been “an important voice in the development of modern art in Nigeria,” inspiring a generation of artists while serving as director of the art department at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. It seems the Tate has taken note: At the fair, the institution acquired one painting and three works on paper by Udechukwu for its permanent collection.

Lévy Gorvy

Frieze Masters, Booth E9

With works by Carrie Mae Weems and Terry Adkins

Installation view of Lévy Gorvy’s booth at Frieze Masters 2021. Photo by Richard Shellabear. Courtesy of Lévy Gorvy.

In its booth, Lévy Gorvy has proposed a sort of imagined conversation between photographer Carrie Mae Weems and the late sculptor Terry Adkins, who were close friends from their meeting in the 1990s until Adkins’s death in 2014. “We wanted to do a presentation that really celebrated their friendship and the shared links in their work,” explained Pietro Pantalani, an associate director at the gallery.

Though there are obvious formal differences between the two artists’ practices, the presentation makes a convincing show of the thematic and conceptual interests they shared—most visibly when it comes to representations of Black historical figures, and themes of biography and history more broadly. The resonances come to the fore in selections from Weems’s “Blue Notes” series (2014–15)—priced between $20,000 and $50,000—where Claudia Lennear, Thelonious Monk, and other entertainers are obscured by blocks of color; while in Adkins’s work, the artist turns a parachute, a microphone stand, and a feather headdress into a portrait of Jimi Hendrix. Pieces from Weems’s “Louisiana Project” (2003) were created at a time when the two were very close.

“There is a mutual desire to abstract and recompose known images,” Pantalani added. “They were very aligned in their view of what art should do, and the potential for art—especially when looking at historical figures, which was the bulk of their research in those years.”

Thaddaeus Ropac

Frieze Masters, Booth F6

With works by Georg Baselitz, Joseph Beuys, Gilbert & George, Robert Mapplethorpe, Arnulf Rainer, and Emilio Vedova

Installation view of Thaddaeus Ropac’s booth at Frieze Masters 2021. Courtesy of Thaddaeus Ropac

At first, it seems as though Thaddaeus Ropac has just brought together a selection of its heavy-hitters: pieces by Gilbert & George; PG-rated portraits from Robert Mapplethorpe; faint sketches by Joseph Beuys; an ominous Georg Baselitz. But in fact, the gallery is attempting to recreate a bit of past magic. It has brought together a number of key works from Documenta 7, which was curated by Dutch curator Rudi Fuchs.

In 1982, Fuchs (who helped with this reinterpretation) picked a set of disparate artists for the closely watched German quinquennial and arranged their works in jarring, unexpected groupings, rather than installing them for visual cohesion or chronology. While this approach may not seem at all out of the ordinary today, Polly Robinson Gaer, executive director of Thaddaeus Ropac in London, explained that at the time, the decision was “a truly radical approach.”

“Rudi called this curatorial approach ‘weaving a tapestry’ and used poetic metaphors to create really unconventional connections between works, while celebrating the artist’s individual voice,” she said. “He really surprised the audiences by also placing the contemporary art amongst the classical sculptures in the museum in Kassel, which really shone a light on the relationship between the old and the new.”

BorzoGallery and the Mayor Gallery

Frieze Masters, Booth D12

With works by Jan Henderikse

Jan Henderikse, installation view in BorzoGallery and the Mayor Gallery’s booth at Frieze Masters 2021. Courtesy of the artist, BorzoGallery, and the Mayor Gallery.

If Do Ho Suh is providing the Instagram backdrop of choice in the main tent, BorzoGallery and the Mayor Gallery provide a similar lure at Frieze Masters with their joint mini retrospective dedicated to the Dutch artist Jan Henderikse. Their presentation of his wall of empty bottles of beer, stacked with pleasing uniformity within wooden crates, was mobbed consistently throughout the first preview day (though it remained available to purchase for €200,000, or about $231,000). “This has been photographed all day,” said Mayor Gallery director Christine Hourdé, just before the tents shut for the night. “People love this work. It’s been Instagrammed many, many times.…The eye loves that idea of something that you can recognize and organize in your brain so quickly.”

The booth is a concise yet broad look at the artist’s practice, starting with works from his days with Nul, the Netherlands’s response to Germany’s Group Zero; Henderikse first created the beer-crate work for the group’s 1962 show at the Stedelijk. Other highlights include his minimalistic “Coin Constructions,” formed of rows of individual pennies applied to plywood—the more geometric of which are “an homage to Malevich and to Albers,” Hourdé added—priced between €30,000 and €60,000 ($34,700–$69,400); and the Nouveau Réaliste works he made by affixing battered license plates to patterned fabric, on offer for prices between €27,500 and €42,500 ($31,800–$49,200).

Allyssia Alleyne