Image: Matthias Ballmann

The Sheridan&Co team headed down the road to Frieze Art Fair in Regent’s Park, a contemporary art show, exhibiting work from more than 1,000 artists, from more than 160 galleries.

Here are a few themes that caught our eye, and we are sure they will soon filter into retail, and other industries:

Feminism

 Image: Laura Bushell

According to Tate director, Maria Balshaw, we are currently experiencing a ‘golden moment’ for female artists in the UK, although they are still underrepresented in the industry.

Frieze organisers also looked to gender parity, with an entire section on feminist art. Sex Work: Feminist art & Radical Politics, curated by Alison M. Gingeras, featured transgressive art from the 70s and 80s, with pieces from Judith Bernstein and Betty Tompkins, while “My/Her Body My/Her Choice” flashed in neon lights from Andrea Bowers. A timeline in the A.I.R. gallery documented collaborations with feminist artists and the wider historical context, highlighting the development of second-wave feminism.

These exhibitions resonate with the new tribe of consumer activists, who rally around brands that stand for a cause and promise social change. Gender equality, inclusivity, and diversity have all seen coverage this year, from product launches like Fenty Beauty and initiatives like Smirnoff’s ‘Choose Love’ campaign during Pride, although much more is needed for true equality.

History

Image: Hauser & Wirth

Hauser & Wirth presented their historic installation as an old, small-town museum, complete with mottled glass display cabinets and a miniature gift shop selling pencils and traditional trinkets.

The fictional Bronze Age presentation, ‘Bronze Age c. 3500 BC – AD 2017’ saw contemporary sculptures from Henry Moore, Paul McCarthy and Rashid Johnson, displayed alongside ancient artefacts loaned by the British Museum and fake Bronze Age objects from eBay.

According to the installation’s curator, historian Mary Beard, ‘It’s a slightly satirical take on an institution we know and love, but putting a 2,000-year-old untitled bronze next to modern work changes the way you think. You concentrate on the single medium and start to look at the material rather than thinking ‘oh this a great work by so and so.’

We loved how this exhibit reflects retail concepts we’ve seen over the summer, in which brands encourage consumers to look to their countries and traditions, when turbulent times make people question the concept of home. The idea of the small-town museum is so quintessentially English, and the mixture of genuine artefacts with eBay fakes puts an interesting twist on our return to our roots in search of the familiar.

The Environment

Image: Lucy + Jorge Orta

Environmental factors were reflected in this year’s Frieze, both in its installations and its venue design. The entrance to the fair, designed by Universal Design Studio, aimed to promote sustainability, with 400 tonnes of responsibly sourced waste aluminium, to be recycled after the event.

At Lucy + Jorge Orta’s Antartica, visitors were issued an Antarctic passport, symbolically becoming ‘world citizens’, and pledged to protect the environment and support justice and peace throughout the world.

Inspired by recent community gardens, Various Small Fires recreated in miniature the Survival Piece #5: Portable Orchard by eco-artists Helen and Newton Harrison. The installation displayed fruit-bearing trees and planting instructions, placing the original 1972 concept in today’s context of a post-Brexit Britain.

We’ve seen the environment reflected more widely in the last couple of years- first with the retail trend of biophilic design, with greenery displayed throughout stores to improve air quality and calm consumers, as an antidote to modern city life modern city life.

Science-Fiction

Image: Olivia Erlanger

Olivia Erlanger worked with BMW to create futuristic, science-fiction-inspired multimedia piece, ‘Body Electric’. The immersive installation is part of the artist’s ongoing exploration of the relationship between technology and the natural world, and takes influence from BMW’s integrated designs.

According to the artist, “As humans begin a mutative synthesis with our machines, ‘Body Electric’ considers the changing relationship that we have to the environment, as our embodied experience of the ‘natural’ becomes increasingly mediated and distorted by objects of our own design.”

We recently explored how Sci-Fi in the arts are manifesting in beauty and retail, and can’t wait to see the other visual directions this theme inspires.