the frozen city at frieze art fair


Simon Fujiwara speaking at the Map Marathon at the Royal Geographic Society, organised by the Serpentine Gallery

Simon Fujiwara is the new kid in the contemporary art scene. If twitter to facebook is similar to facebook to google, then Simon is definitely the combination of twitter & facebook to established artists like the YBAs & Post-YBAs. Having graduated at the Städelschule in Frankfurt in 2008, he is receiving the Cartier Award from the Frieze Foundation (collaborated with the Gasworks) this year. 

As the award winner, he resides in the Gasworks in Oval, London from last August to prepare for his masterpiece in the Frieze Art Fair. Although Simon Fujiwara has an architecture education background, his art does not resemble the monolithic nature of contemporary "starchitects". Instead of a grand signature over numerous productions which makes all his works visually homogeneous, his work is developed with a grand narrative and filled with numerous details created to enrich the whole story-telling experience. His signature is not on a visual language, but on the autobiographical label. He simply employs people's desire to read though a person's mind and life; and others' perception on himself to construct his works. He is like a master builder in the renaissance age, filling his work with ornamental details which are all beautifully crafted on their own, but also form a collective image of the grand picture when seen from a distance. Famous for his hybrid art-forms employing performances, lectures and installations to showcase his works, the Frozen City is no exception in its creation and presentation.

Map of the Frozen City - click here for an enlarged view

In the Frozen City, his take on the word "Frieze" (which sounds like 'freeze') and name his piece as the present perfect tense 'frozen' is a delightful play of language which also fits well in the time and space elements in his work with respect to the venue of the present art fair. With so many press coverage on the work already, we would not repeat here again on what the Frozen City actually is here. You can check the links at the end of the post if you need to find out more. We found this commission is more relevant and connected to the venue compared to previous years, which varoius artists are invited to create a piece on each own and be placed in various locations inside the fair tent. Because every artist has his/her own creation, even though some of them may be producing his/her works as a site-specific piece, they would seldom produce a collective voice that could link all these commission works scattered around the fair tent together. While one may argue this approach may help promote more artists, that actually makes the whole act weak, reducing them to simply place-holders between gallery booths, with not much attention being paid to.

Whoever in Frieze that decided to grant Simon the monopoly of the full venue to play with is genius. Of course Simon also did a brilliant job in finding a unique concept which could make the work most site-specific and maximise the advantage of colonising the whole tent. The creation of 'check-point'-like excavation areas across the 'site' makes the whole thing a journey one is tempted to embark on and complete. Simon has demonstrated his architectural sense in 'masterplanning' his works and subsequently developed each excavation areas like 'plots' in a masterplan. His take on engaging his works with the fair itself (both its nature of trading in a market place and its physical arrangement of various functions) has made visiting the fair the only way to experience it. Irrespect of artistic value, this non-transferable art piece with an expiry date is a huge brand-building (or perhaps more precisely brand re-inforcing?) success for both the artist and Frieze. And after you explored the Frozen City, we are quite sure you would agree on handing Simon the Cartier Award.

Tour guide explaining to the fair visitors in the 'archaeological' site

We congratulate Simon Fujiwara for his success and look forward to seeing his next masterpiece! If you are more interested in his works, remember to check out the 2 interviews listed below.

Full photo set

Further Readings -
Page: British/Japanese Artist Simon Fujiwara Wins The Cartier Award 2010 by
Page: Simon Fujiwara's Residency in the Gasworks Gallery 01.08-20.10.2010
Page: Focus - Simon Fujiwara . Frieze magazine, Jul/Aug 2010
Page: Simon Fujiwara by 24.02.2010
Interview: by Hans Ulrich Obrist for Kaleidoscope magazine, A/W2010
Interview: by Francesca Boenzi for Mousse magazine, issue #20
Video: Bringing up Knowledge by musacmuseo, featuring Fujiwara's "the Museum of Incest" based on archaelogical site in Tazania
Video: Nytt av Nick Cave på Disidentifikation by kulturvast featuring Fujiwara's "Welcome to Hotel Munber" (at around 0:10)