Portrait of the Artist
Jennifer Rubell, the American artist and niece of Studio 54 co-founder Steve Rubell, brings a maternal touch to this year’s Frieze Art Fair with her autobiographical piece Portrait of the Artist. The pristine white nude, cast from steel-reinforced fibreglass, reclines like an odalisque at the Stephen Friedman Gallery stand. The sculpture is a replica of Rubell’s own eight-months-pregnant body, except it is eight metres high: the large belly, which is carved out to leave an egg-shaped void, can accommodate a fully grown adult. Spectators are able to clamber into the artwork and curl up inside as if they are the artist’s unborn child.Rubell’s intention was to create a monumental gesture of unconditional motherly love. There is a feminist statement here, too: Rubell has appropriated a style and scale historically reserved for male leaders to show, she says, “an emotion that is intensely personal and un-heroic”. The artist adds that watching members of the Frieze audience enter in the sculpture’s womb is “tremendously satisfying” – in her eyes the enlarged form was “incomplete until the first viewer entered”. Amid the hustle of Frieze’s mini-city there is something undeniably appealing about the opportunity to put your feet up in the foetal position in the name of art. Not to mention the comfort factor.