As the hype for Frieze Week arrives, the third instalment of Moniker Art Fair is taking over East London, putting down roots at the unique venue Village Underground; boldly calling itself the "alternative to Frieze Art Fair".
The atmosphere was what you would expect from an alternative to Frieze. As we approached the venue a queue was stretching to the end of the block, and it became apparent that Moniker expects be taken seriously. Judging by the crowd, it has a firm handle on becoming a rival to Frieze. A garish mural by Dutch "Calligraffiti" pioneer Niels "Shoe" Meulman (two days of painstaking work) hinted at the kitsch aesthetic within.
But does it rival Frieze? Moniker is digestible, the work approachable and provides a sweet release from Frieze frenzy. Thursday evening was gently packed, with art enthusiasts buzzing, gallerists promoting the work, and a predictably long queue for cocktails. With the support of their respective galleries, each artist has curated their own project space, delivering sixteen distinct sensory experiences under one roof; furthering the contrast between Moniker and the more traditional art fair format. We were able to navigate each space with minimal jostling.
The centrepiece is the prolific graffiti artist, Remi/Rough's installation 30th & Time. The London-based artist's pioneering adaptation of the language of graffiti art has been imperative in the redefinition of boundaries between graffiti art and gallery based practice. Combine this with Meulman's street art aesthetic and you're beginning to get an idea of the overall style of work on display.
Promising to engage with artists who ignore traditional routes into the art world, this year's Moniker is overrun with gallery commissioned "street art". Perhaps this is due to Moniker's agenda to attract not only some of the most talked-about artists, galleries and curators but to ensure that their work is cutting right across the gamut of unconventional art. The combination of street art, sculpture, painting, and pop art fuse an unorthodox bond that is an assault on the senses.
Seattle-born, London-based artist Nancy Fouts is the shining star of Moniker. Her "paradoxical art" playfully builds up a dichotomy between provocative and ordinary items. Fouts began her career in advertising, which is obvious in her visually powerful work that exudes a keen eye for detail. At Moniker, Fouts has created a room that recalls a 16th-century exotic cabinet of curiosities and artifacts. The environment she has created within her project space allows the viewer to enter a childlike state of mind, disassociating with preconceived ideas. Her work Owl Butterfly is the symbol of Moniker Art Fair this year, and with good reason. It's beautifully presented, and we lingered in Fouts's project space, revelling in the quality, crispness and aesthetic prowess.
Local artist Penny explores the act of cutting, by taking the art of stencilling to formidable new heights. His signature works are uncut sheets of dollar bills, sourced directly from the Federal Reserve. These stencils explore the paradigms of beauty and voyeurism, and are increasingly sought-after. Penny's self-discipline is evident not only in his intricate work, but in his approach: in some cases he allots an exact finish date for his artwork; while other works like Astro Decay clocked over 400 meticulous hours to complete. His background is in street art, although Penny now feels that his work on bank notes is "graffiti for your wallet".
Moniker Art Fair hopes to capture the zeitgeist when the jurisdictions of the contemporary and urban art worlds are increasingly intersecting. But has it? As I wandered through, I couldn't help but ponder this question. Moniker may be a nice distraction from Frieze, but I'm not sure I'm completely convinced that it is the "alternative". That being said, if you're keen on art fairs Moniker is one of the premiere satellite events. It hasn't yet become the spectacle that Frieze is, but it has succeeded in creating a platform for artists to be experimental.
Moniker 2012–Experiential Edition
Moniker 2012, the alternative event for the contemporary art market, will take place from 11th - 14th October at Village Underground, Shoreditch. Now in its third year Moniker Art Fair has become a highlight of London art week and attracts some of the most renowned and talked about artists, galleries and curators from this genre, which has its roots firmly embedded in urban culture.
Village Underground54 Holywell Lane
London Greater London United Kingdom EC2A 3PQ
Thursday7-‐9pm :£10 including catalogue
Friday & Saturday 11am–7pm: Free admission
Sunday 11am-‐5pm: Free admission