There's so much to love about art gallery receptions: The meeting of creative minds, the opportunity to get up close and personal to an artist you admire, and the chance to catch up with industry folks. And who are we kidding — there's also the free booze. If you're lucky, canapés which include caviar-topped crab cakes, Wagyu beef sliders and mushroom quiches often make their rounds. Then there's you: The unsuspecting guest, champagne in one hand and pacing your nods while talking to someone whose name you've forgotten the moment they've said it. Ah, art. What a way to appreciate it.
Tom Friedman's work for Frieze Art Fair last week recreated the typical art gallery scene in tongue-in-cheek form. In 'Cocktail Party', the American artist mimicked the art crowd in all its flamboyance by crafting 26 life-sized figures we've all met before. Playing out familiar roles in a private exhibition preview — complete with a velvet rope for alluded self-importance — the life-like VIPs toasted in an empty setting, completely oblivious to the fact that they've turned into a work of art.
Each figure is hand-carved by the artist. Friedman started by shaping a Styrofoam base, then layered it with clay and paint. The artist didn't skimp on detail — you see the guests sporting a variety of hairstyles, from dreadlocks and bleached tresses to headgear featuring turbans and caps. Rolled cuffs are spotted on paint-splattered jeans, while an older, bespectacled figurine opts for bright crimson lips. They're being served canapés and a vice of choice: be it a glass of wine, a cigarette or the occasional lollipop.
It's not all fun and games, though. Friedman plays with the idea of art appreciation itself — how viewers are part of the work but also separate from it. 'Cocktail Party' blurs the lines of reality and hyper-reality — as guests in an art fair watching guests of an art gallery, there's a weird 'art-ception' going on that actually makes sense.
You can bring the party home too, for a staggering one million pounds.
For more information, check out the Stephen Friedman Gallery.