The Guide

An Expert’s Guide to Art in London Now

By Christine Ajudua  •    •  September 28, 2018

An Expert’s Guide to Art in London Now

By Christine Ajudua  •  September 28, 2018

The annual Frieze fair has just ended, but edgy art initiatives are keeping the city’s creative energy buzzing. One of London’s leading curators tells us what not to miss.

“The secret and the charm of London’s art scene is that it always reinvents itself—it doesn’t stay the same,” says Fatos Ustek. The same could be said of Ustek, a Turkey–born curator whose projects routinely become the talk of the London art scene. That’s particularly true during Frieze, the annual art fair running October 4–7 this year in Regent’s Park. This year, Ustek is part of the panel behind “Social Work,” a new, highly anticipated section celebrating female artists who challenged the male-dominated status quo of the 1980s. It promises to be thought-provoking and iconoclastic—Ustek trademarks.

Ustek made a name for herself in London for organizing the Institute of Contemporary Art’s Fig-2 program in 2015, which presented 50 projects in 50 weeks. She followed that up with Art Night 2017, with works popping up across the East End in the wee hours. This spring, she became the director and chief curator of David Roberts Art Foundation (DRAF), a London-based nonprofit focused on activating contemporary art collaborations across the United Kingdom.


With more than 160 galleries participating in this year’s edition of Frieze, plus a slew of parallel art shows, Ustek knows art lovers have a lot to take in. “London doesn’t have a biennial, but it has Frieze. Every year for one week, you see these incredible international audiences,” she says. “It’s not only about the fair—it’s about everything around it, all in harmonious collaboration.” Case in point: Do Ho Suh’s “Bridging Home,” a replica of the traditional Korean house where the artist was raised, now installed on a footbridge in the City of London. Ustek commissioned the work in partnership with Art Night and Sculpture in the City. She is also curating DRAF’s annual Evening of Performances on October 2, featuring Turner Prize–winning artist and musician Martin Creed and others at the historic O2 Forum Kentish Town.

Here, Ustek shares her hit list for this year’s Frieze Week.


“Knock Knock” at South London Gallery Fire Station

“South London Gallery has a very prominent position and role in London’s art scene, if not internationally. I’m quite excited that they’ve extended into the fire station across Peckham Road.” Renovated by 6a architects, the annex dates back to 1867 and doubles the gallery’s size. The opening show, devoted to humor in contemporary art, features the likes of Maurizio Cattelan alongside younger practitioners such as Danielle Dean. “It’s a beautiful building, and also good for the south of London. There’s a big art community living in Peckham, but audiences don’t go south [of the Thames] that much.South London Gallery Fire Station: 82 Peckham Rd; +44 20-7703-6120; until November 18

DRAF Curators’ Series #11: Institute of Asian Performance Art

“Every year, for Frieze, we invite a guest curator to come up with a proposal. This year, Victor Wang is looking at different iterations of art practice that are not in line with the Western canon. We have seminal figures from Taiwan, South Korea, China, and Japan from the 1960s and 1970s, like Tehching Hsieh and Kim Ku Lim, flying into London for this. The venue was actually our first gallery, so for one show we are literally going back to our history.” DRAF Institute of Asian Performance Art: 111 Great Titchfield Street; +44 20-7383-3004; Until October 28

Mika Rottenberg at Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA)

The Turner Prize–winning design collective Assemble has converted a former Victorian bathhouse at Goldsmiths, University of London, into one of the city’s buzziest new institutions for contemporary art. “They haven’t hidden the iron cladding of the baths, and downstairs is like a maze; the crypt was kept intact,” says Ustek. “It’s amazing architecture, and Mika’s work is the perfect match.” The New York–based artist has a series of videos and site-specific installations across seven of the galleries. “I really like the universe that she constructs—tapping into this quirkiness of invisible forces and interconnectedness of things—and also the way she installs her work, to create a kind of immersive experience.” Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art: Saint James’, New Cross; +44 20-8228-5969; until November 4

The Store X The Vinyl Factory and New York’s New Museum

“The Vinyl Factory has been a very interesting entry into the visual arts world,” she says of the record label behind limited-edition releases from the likes of Duran Duran and Florence and the Machine. Now, with Alex Eagle, creative director of The Store, they also host a multi-disciplinary arts program within a Brutalist landmark on The Strand, known as The Store X. “They’ve done amazing shows, and this cross-continental New Museum collaboration is very, very exciting.” Together, they’re staging “Strange Days: Memories of the Future,” an immersive exploration of radical video artists. The Store X: 180 The Strand; October 2 – December 9

Lawrence Abu Hamdan at Chisenhale Gallery

“Lawrence is an artist to watch from Lebanon. His work deals with sound and hearing and the knowledge that voices carry, and has a very forensic approach. For instance, at Liverpool Biennial he was measuring the sounds that bullets make” in order to determine whether real or rubber ones were used in a case of shootings in the West Bank. Abu Hamdan’s Chisenhale commission, “Earwitness Theatre,” explores the politics of listening in a Syrian prison. Chisenhale Gallery: 64 Chisenhale Rd; +44 20-8981-4518; until December 9

“Space Shifters” at Hayward Gallery

“This show is very interesting, with different artists responding to the concept of space and also to the Brutalist architecture of Hayward,” which recently renovated to raise its ceiling. “Monika Sosnowska is there, Anish Kapoor, Yayoi Kusama—some really exciting artists who have been working with the concept of space and play for a long time. And Richard Wilson has a seminal piece that he originally installed in the basement of Saatchi Gallery”—it involves flooding one of the galleries with engine oil. Hayward Gallery: Southbank Centre, 337-338 Belvedere Road; +44 20-3879-9555; Until January 6, 2019

“Surreal Science” at Whitechapel Gallery

Dutch art collector George Loudon has collected over 200 19th-century scientific objects, including massive glass jellyfish, illustrations of animals, and models of creatures “very meticulously made from unexpected materials.” Now, Italian artist Salvatore Arancio is responding to the Loudon Collection with a set of ceramic works interspersed among the historical artifacts. “I’m quite interested in his intention to bridge scientific innovation with artistic practice and curiosity.” Whitechapel Gallery: 77-82 Whitechapel High Street; +44 20-7522-7888; Until January 6, 2019

Tania Bruguera Hyundai Commission for Tate Modern Turbine Hall

“All of the galleries in Tate Modern are accessible to the public, but the Turbine Hall is inviting in the fact that everyone can walk in, without necessarily going up to the galleries. It’s like an in-between space, between streets and art gallery, and I feel it’s important to bring in an artist who has a strong social alliance and consciousness. [The Cuban artist] Tania Bruguera is very active with communities, and politically outspoken; she’s been through hardship. I’m sure her commission is going to be spectacular, and politically charged.” Turbine Hall: Tate Modern, Bankside; +44 20-7887-8888; October 2 – February 24, 2019

Where to Stay

Somerset House Frieze Week Program

“Somerset House’s studio program is giving [affordable] spaces and facilities to more than 85 artists at the moment, which is incredible, given the fact that rents are so expensive in London. During Frieze, they’re programming an open-studios event—a very meaningful and efficient way to activate an arts organization.” Somerset House also holds the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair during Frieze, which features 43 galleries showing more than 130 artists from across Africa and its diaspora. “I think it’s really important to bring awareness of production from Africa,” says Ustek of the fair. Somerset House: Strand; +44 20-7845-4600; Frieze open-studios and 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair on view October 4-7

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