Satirical Checklist Skewers Predictable Frieze London Offerings

Miriam Elia,
Miriam Elia, "A Guide to Art for Dummies: Frieze Checklist." Photo: Miriam Elia.

Tired of seeing the same familiar concepts at contemporary art fairs around the world? So is Miriam Elia, who has published a wickedly satirical checklist of all the clichéd pieces you can expect to see at Frieze London this week. As reported by the London Evening Standard, the pamphlet draws on the old “I Spy” format, offering separate lists for different types of work, including video installation, photography, and fine art painting.

Elia has previously skewered the art world with We Go to the Gallery, a parody of both popular UK children’s book series Peter and Jane and of contemporary art. (Example: “‘Is the art pretty?’ says Jane. ‘No,’ says Mommy. ‘Pretty is not important.'”) Elia and her brother and co-author, Ezra Elia, faced a copyright lawsuit from Peter and Jane publisher Penguin Books, but should now be safe under the recently-passed European Copyright Directive that declares satire to be fair use (see “New European Law Lets Artists Parody Copyrighted Works“).

The full Frieze “guide to art for dummies,” available at i-D magazine, includes such familiar tropes as “installation with an obviously anti-capitalist message, often using dollar-bills, red paint, crucifixes, and pictures of third world children in pain”; “a giant painting of a vagina”” “a video or installation about slavery, in which a white middle-class artist reflects on the pain of the African experience, because they feel really, really guilty”; and “a giant illustration that represents a microcosm of all human life, and involves lots of tiny people running around Screwing or killing each other (cowboys, people hanging themselves, ‘oppressed people,’ animals, bankers, slaves.)”

Now all you need to do is turn Elia’s list into a drinking game, and think how much fun your next art fair could be!


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