The Tate Goes on a Buying Spree for Provocative Artworks at Frieze London

The list shows that institutions are betting on some recent trends continuing.

Still from Lawrence Abu Hamdan's Rubber Coated Steel (2016).
Still from Lawrence Abu Hamdan's Rubber Coated Steel (2016). © Lawrence Abu Hamdan, courtesy Maureen Paley, London.

London’s Frieze Art Fair has only just officially kicked off, but the Tate is already picking winners and flexing its muscles as a collector. Reports from the fair preview brought word of four significant sales to the institution within a few hours of the fair’s opening.

A breakdown of the acquisitions highlights a few recent developments now getting the official institutional stamp of approval.

First, the artist, critic, and experimental writer Hannah Black continues her ascent (her name came to prominence earlier in the year when she penned an open letter accusing a Dana Schutz painting in the Whitney Biennial of being racist, and calling for its destruction). The Tate purchased the British artist’s 2013 video work Intensive Care/Hot New Track—produced during her time studying at the Whitney’s Independent Studio Program—from the London-based gallery Arcadia Missa in Frieze’s emerging art-oriented “Focus” section.

Second, the recent prominence of politically driven art hasn’t let up. On the heels of his win of the Abraaj Group Prize, Berlin-based Lawrence Abu Hamdan—whose work uses sound to focus on the politics of hearing—sees his 2016 video Rubber Coated Steel go to the Tate from London’s Maureen Paley gallery. That video focuses on an investigation into a 2014 shooting of two West Bank teenagers by Israeli soldiers.

Finally, the art world is continuing its streak of revisiting and revalidating the work of older female artists—with particular emphasis on female sexuality.

The Tate procured works by Dorothy Iannone and Mary Beth Edelson as part of its buying spree. (In a twist of fate, both are female artists, both born in 1933, and both from the United States.) Both artists were featured in the fair’s special curated section dubbed “Sex Work.”

Dorothy Iannone, Wiggle Your Ass For Me (1970). Image courtesy Air de Paris, Paris.

Iannone’s 1970 painting Wiggle Your Ass For Me came courtesy of Air de Paris. Edelson’s was picked for Selected Wall Collages, a monumental wall-based installation of small, hand-drawn ink, marker, and paper on canvas collages (1972-2011), brought by New York’s David Lewis.

Mary Beth Edelson, <i>Selected Wall Collages</i> (1972-2011). Image courtesy David Lewis, New York.

Mary Beth Edelson, Selected Wall Collages (1972-2011). Image courtesy David Lewis, New York.

“As Edelson’s first UK acquisition, this is a significant and historic acquisition for the artist and the gallery,” Dmitry Komis, director of David Lewis, told artnet News.

In discussing the details of the sale, Komis explained the process: “We exchanged images with Tate digitally in advance, but all the main acquisition conversations took place on site with curators. What a wonderful start to Frieze London!”

For the second year, the Frieze Tate Fund was supported by talent agency WME | IMG (which owns a stake in Frieze), with £150,000 ($198,800) given to underwrite the museum’s purchases.


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