This years’ Frieze had less shiny objects and boastful set-ups. And while much had been written about the importance of art fairs as global sales platforms, it looks like the power galleries have outgrown this trend. This was best illustrated by Gagosian and Hauser & Wirth who – instead of ostentatiously flashing their bestsellers – chose to create more inviting and interactive experience on their stands. Our top 10 picks were:

Best playground
The very first thing to hit your eye when entering this year’s Frieze was Gagosian’s playful display. A solo presentation by Carsten Holler, it spelled Gartenkinder in large scrabble tiles and included a giant rocking mushroom or a dice-shaped sculpture that doubled as a climbing frame. Children were encouraged to engage with the works by a bunch of cheerful gallery girls. Love and peace all around. Would Larry be melting with age, like cheese?

Best time capsule
The Hauser & Wirth stand, A Study in Red and Green, was curated by Mark Wallinger who recently joined the gallery. The presentation evoked the sentiment of Freud’s study mixed with a classic museum. The Sleeping Guard – a work by Christoph Büchel that was picked up en-masse by journalists – helped, but it was especially the contrast of the visual language of the fair and the inside of the booth that transferred the stand into a dreamy, nostalgic retro mood.

Best selfie opportunity
There wouldn’t be a Top10 without Gavin Brown’s enterprise, one of our favourite galleries with a cutting edge artist list and a love to put up a kick-ass show. This year we nominate them as the best stand to grab a enviable selfie shot. Many visitors were indeed seduced to get their iPhones out, and in action, in front of 3 impressive, gradient-perfect Suicide Paintings by Rob Pruitt.

Best trap
Tomoo and Ei Arakawa, two Japanese artists working under the moniker United Brothers, presented Does This Soup Taste Ambivalent? as part of Frieze Live. At the Green Tea Gallery stand, the brothers with their mom cooked and distributed soup made from fresh veggies grown in Fukushima (the region of the 2011 nuclear disaster). Visitors queued happily for a bowl of free soup, some of them probably ignorant of the origin of the ingredients. Others were aware, but took the risk anyway. Art takes courage after all.

Best wallpaper / trompe l’oeil
Esther Schipper‘s stand scored high on beauty with Thomas Demand’s cherry blossom wallpaper and Tomas Saraceno’s Cloud Cities. Demand’s signature style of creating elaborate paper-and-cardboard replicas and photographing them with an astonishingly life-like effect comes to full force in this subject. In line with the “good artists copy nature, great artists steal” quote, Demand is a thief par excellence.

Best carpet
Lisson joined the other superstar galleries in transforming their stand into a consolidated visual experience. We loved Joyce Pensato’s paintings, the mudded Adidas shoes and wearable tech by Ryan Gander, but the honourable mention goes to Cory Arcangel’s carpet – a giant woven version of his Photoshop Gradient Demonstrations that covered the entire booth’s floor. It was complemented with several works from his new Lakes series, celebrating the once so popular java applet that adds a rippling lake effect to digital images.

Best chair
Credit where credit’s due, and everyone who went to Frieze must agree that this particular award should go to Angela Merkel chair. There was something hilarious about Merkel’s frowning face set in transparent resin, part of Goshka Macuga’s installation at Kate McGarry‘s booth. Chair Merkel was accompanied by chair Duchamp and two others, but it was “das Mädchen” who turned all the heads.

Best art for investment bankers
We loved – and wished we had the funds to purchase – Danilo Correale’s Cat Bond Band shown at Galleria Raucci/Santamaria. A series of 9 prints depicting male torsos clad in power suits and combined with faultless quotes (What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?, Every society has the criminals it deserves., The end of labour is to gain leisure etc.) had the polished perfection and seductive chill worth Patrick Bateman. Looking through Danilo’s portfolio, we quickly discovered that a) we love just about everything he touches; and b) he’s based in London. So an artist’s interview hopefully follows soon.

Best retreat
In order to subvert the commercial and competitive atmosphere of the art fair, Mélanie Matranga used her space to build a small, unassuming café, where visitors could rest, work, have a (free) drink or just unplug their high-strung art sensors for a moment. From A to B Coffee and its simple, friendly message won this year’s Artist Award.

Best words
We enjoyed Omar Kholeif’s talk with artist Trevor Paglen Aesthetics of the Invisible, part of the Frieze Talks program. Trevor is researching science, contemporary art, journalism and political geography. These diverse topics resulted in a fascinating discussion about The Internet, state surveillance, drones and the need for more accurate imagery that can illustrate new digital concepts such as the Cloud, the information superhighway etc. Trevor expressed his thinking in an honest and straightforward way while highlighting the urgent political sentiment that is at the core of his work.


Our Frieze 2014 photos are on Flickr


gagosianDemand Danilo Correale Rob Pruitt Sleeping Guard

Goshka MacugaMelanie Matranga  United Brothers Frieze Talks