Typically at an art fair, the work on display is at the discretion of the dealer. The inaugural “Artist-to-Artist” initiative at Frieze London, however, upends the script, inviting world-renowned artists to select emerging talents from their gallery’s roster to exhibit—to an inspired effect. 

“Artists have always been at the center of Frieze London and so it felt natural to place them at the fore of our twentieth anniversary celebrations,” Eva Langret, director of Frieze London, told ARTnews in an emailed statement. “The strength of the fair is reliant on the community that surrounds them and so I wanted to tap into artist’s networks, to broaden the parameters of both who gets to show at the fair, and who does the deciding. It was important to me that each of the nominating artists from the section had a track record of championing emerging talent, of using their own platforms in the service of others.”

The eight-artist nomination committee, whose work “has defined the contemporary art landscape over the past two decades,” per Frieze, includes Olafur Eliasson, Tracey Emin (presenting Vanessa Raw), and Simone Leigh (presenting Deborah Anzinger). Some pairs share affinities for materials or processes, while others seem united by ineffable attributes: a sense of purpose or existential anxiety. 

“[Mark Barker]’s practice is sensitive, at times unnerving, and peculiar in the best sense of the word. At the heart of it I always sense a profound humanism. It’s work for our times,” Wolfgang Tillmans said in a statement on his nominee, both of whom are represented by Shahin Zarinbal.

The pairing makes sense; both artists have, it often feels, a super-human sensitivity to the human body, noticing and—a greater feat— capturing the peculiarities of its interactions. For his Frieze presentation, the multidisciplinary Barker examines through drawings and sculptures the (surprisingly poignant) space of portable toilets—to be more specific, the ventilation screens that are positioned just above head height.

“Artist-to-Artist” is a standout of Frieze’s 20th anniversary programming, as it smartly subverts self-reference, instead projecting its hopes into the future by means of these rising and under-sung voices.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for Frieze to put artists—some who may not be new, but who aren’t mainstream—on this international platform,” Simonette Quamina told ARTnews.  Quamina, who was nominated by Alvaro Barrington, made an especially topical contribution given the fair’s preoccupation with the passage of time. 

A Praxis artist, she’s best known for her varied collage and printmaking techniques which incorporate autobiographical imagery. The newest works, shape-shifting graphite drawings which variously absorb and negate light, depending on the pressure she applied to the graphite, are a departure from her usual materials, though. Talking to ARTnews via phone from London, she was reluctant to concede the story unfolding here, though she said that like much of her work, they reflect the mutable nature of memory—in particular her memories of growing up across Canada, Guyana, Saint Vincent, and the United States. 

The frenetic pace of art fairs encourages—if not forces—cursory viewing, but Quamina’s work, and those of her peers in “Artist-to-Artist,” reward a slow look. 

“If you don’t have a relation culturally to where I’m from, and maybe see a flower in the print for its aesthetic pleasure, that’s fine,” Quamina said. “But if you take the time to look, research, or ask, it deepens the narrative.”

Langret, Frieze London’s director, added: “It has been gratifying to see the section, its artists and their presentations, so warmly received and I was especially thrilled to learn that Tate has acquired work from Ayoung Kim’s booth.”