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Art Market

Frieze week highlights: West African masks and New York bohemia

9 October 2023

With hundreds of exhibitions and events vying for your attention in London during Frieze week, Apollo’s editors pick out the shows they don’t want to miss

The British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare christens Stephen Friedman Gallery’s new Cork Street location with what the artist has called a ‘celebration of nature’ – a vivid display that includes his own sculptures, masks and textiles alongside works by nine established and emerging artists from across the African diaspora (until 11 November). Among the highlights of ‘Free The Wind, The Spirit, and The Sun’ are Shonibare’s Hybrid Masks, which combine human and animal features to explore the tradition of masquerades in West African regions, and Feeling Like a Bird (2023), a life-sized sculptural reinterpretion of an equestrian portrait by George Stubbs. In Shonibare’s work, a female figure rides sidesaddle, bearing birdcages on her back; birds can be seen freeing themselves from their confines.

Fresh Tendrils (2023), Will St. John. Courtesy Saatchi Yates

Crossing Piccadilly to St. James’s, the New York-based painter Will St. John is having his debut solo show at Saatchi Yates (until 22 October). St. John spent years studying Renaissance painting techniques across Europe and brings these skills to bear on his colourful portraits of bohemian New Yorkers – from drag kings and queens, to trans models, musicians and actors. One of the most striking works, Fresh Tendrils (2023) pairs St. John’s masterful use of light and shadow with the brilliant green of his subject’s hair. Elsewhere, he creates a collage-like effect in works such as Singing Queen (2022), in which a drag performer appears enshrined by floral motifs, referencing the aesthetics of flower painting.