Carsten Höller Plays at Art

THE DAILY PIC: Frieze fair as fun park.


Frieze art fair just closed in London, and like all such things it was more like a playground for the rich and silly than a serious art-viewing experience. At the very front of the fair, a notable installation called “Gartenkinder”, made by Carsten Höller for the Gagosian booth, acknowledged the art-fair-as-fun-fair dynamic: Höller created a little playground where both adults and children could frolic. There was a room-size hollow dice whose dots were holes you could climb through. There were Scrabble tiles the size of dinner plates (the word “danger” had been spelled out when I went by, maybe by some recent MFA). There was a huge rubber octopus whose tentacles could hug you tight (a portrait of Larry Gagosian?)

Höller said that he imagined the shoppers at Frieze parking their kids there to play, thus connecting his project to the ball room at Ikea, and the fair to a Billy-buying spree. Höller’s project also seemed to respond to pans of his past works–which included giant sliding boards and swing sets–as empty fairground entertainment: If you can’t beat ‘em…

But for all the needling in Holler’s piece, there was also a deeper, more important conceit. At its most fundamental, all art is play–play with forms, figures, ideas, metaphysics, even the gods. And just as children absolutely need to play to come alive as humans, so adults need the toys of art to be fully themselves. Höller’s achievement was to collapse the two kinds of play into a single work. (Photo by Lucy Hogg)

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