So this year’s Frieze Art Fair has been and gone, and Regent’s Park has return back to an open space without the art world cramming itself into massive heated tents for the five days it appeared. We were fortunate enough to be able to get some comps (many thanks to Nick Hough for procuring!) to both the main Contemporary show and, for the first time this year, Frieze Masters, showing anything from pre-history to the end of the 20th Century.
So herewith some thoughts and impressions from those who went:
Having always wanted to go to Frieze, I had the joy of winning some tickets this year thanks to Publicis. It is the 10th Frieze in London, and is a contemporary Art Fair showcasing work from galleries from all over the world and organised by Frieze Art Magazine. This year there were two extra parts to this, the Frieze Masters (technically anything created pre-2000), and Frieze Sculpture, based in 3 separate location in and around Regents Park.
I arrived at Regents St tube, and amongst the unusually well-dressed people exiting there, I followed the crowds to the main fair. Once in you then realise the scale of this show. I picked up a map, and I think there must be at least 200 galleries on display, all showing probably at least 5 artists work. So as you can imagine, there’s a lot to see. Rather than wanting to see any particular artist, I wanted to wander around and see what caught my eye. I’m used to visiting an exhibition of one artist, so it’s exciting to browse work of many hundreds without any preconceived ideas of what you might come across.
Thankfully personal photography was allowed, so I just strolled at my leisure and snapped away at anything that caught my eye. I had 178 photos so quite a lot. It ranged from small pieces to large pieces, well-crafted work to very conceptual stuff. The only issue I had was with whether it was purely decorative or not. Being an art fair, some of it is designed just to look nice on someone’s wall, whilst other pieces are designed to provoke thought or discussion which I feel art should do. Being a designer I found most of it inspirational in its style and content, and feel it was a massively beneficial trip for me.
As amazing as it was, I was there 4 hours and still only saw about 3/4 of the main fair. As with many exhibitions, it gets to a point of overload where you can’t take much more in. And there were still 2 more fairs to visit. I guess next year i’ll have to get a 4 day pass instead! I would highly recommend a visit to anyone interested in contemporary art as you will come across many new and exciting things, and if you’ve got a few hundred thousand to spend, take your cheque book too.
Admittedly, for me part of the Frieze Masters fair’s appeal lay in watching, what I thought would be, a catwalk of overdressed oligarchs pointing at old masters, clicking their jewel-encrusted fingers and demanding that said indicated object be shipped off to a faraway palace where it would inevitably gather dust.
How wrong I was. Not only is the Frieze so subtle in its credentials as a bring-and-buy-gallery-sale-of-some-of-the-most-influential-artists-in-history, but there was a very little pretence about the whole affair. Occasionally, in one of the numerous mini-galleries you would hear a gentleman in a fedora whisper, “How much for the Picasso print,? Ah, £30,000 that’s quite reasonable…” knowing that he was deadly serious but apart from that and the £3.20 cappuccino the atmosphere was a calm appreciation of ‘good art’.
To an amateur art-lover the great thing about Frieze is that it is very unlikely you would have previously seen the work on display. Sure, you’ll recognise the artists, their signature style, but chances are that from the works on show you’ll gain an insight into an artists’ repertoire which is completely new to you: Warhol’s early line drawings and Richard Avendon’s ‘civilian’ photos for example.
Even more so, thanks to gallery staff who a) know what they are talking about and who b) aren’t afraid that you aren’t going to drop a couple of mil on their work, my art knowledge has now been both challenged and widened. New favourites are endless- but in particular they include the domestic scenes of Richard Hamiliton, (who currently has a retrospective at the National), powerful correspondent photography of Josef Koudleka, the fantastic pop-art collages of James Rosenquist and a Richter-esque sky-scene by Joe Goode …O and I could now describe to you in detail how Robert Overby made a latex mould of a shed.
Ever the optimist, I set myself a metaphorical budget of 10 mil. Sufficient enough to give me change from the £9.5 million ‘Le buste de l’homme’, I think I would definitely invest in a Warhol print currently gracing my screensaver, and a couple of black & white photos from Henri Cartier Bresson and Diane Arbus….or maybe ‘Ant 91′ by Yves Klein…?
The choice is a hard one, but that is exactly the ultimate benefit of Frieze. Even the lay-person such as myself, who would never be able to afford a cubic-zirconia version of the diamonds on show, is provided with glimpse of this world known as the “art-market”, and what a world it is to. In short, anyone who has an even vague interest in art should go to Frieze. You’ll learn a lot, see many weird and wonderful things and just for a second, you will feel that the 250 year-old Dutch master oil painting will one day be yours.
Frieze is popular. It has a following. Socialites outside the art world do attend. This is a rarity in an often “stayed” art world and I believe that the affinity we have for Frieze comes down to one simple fact: You don’t have to be a bigwig, pseudo-art connoisseur to appreciate Frieze. In fact, quite the opposite…The fair is designed for you to come as you are. Art buyers, first timers, art students, art lovers, art critics, socialites and tourists all flit by Degas’s, Richter’s, Picasso’s expressing their opinion. This openness to all results in the fair stimulating the very debate and conversation that art is meant to provoke. Frieze London is the pop event of the art world – as opposed to those constrained, nauseating expos that lecture you on what you are meant to see and feel when you gaze at blob of paint on canvas!
Having been to Frieze Masters I am about as close to being able to afford a Picasso as England are to winning the World cup. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to list a number of artists that I would have hanging by my fireplace, perched in the conservatory and/or gracing my bedroom. Please note that my budget is rather large – ranging up to £100 -£150 mill. Here goes:
1) Gerhard Richter – For me, he is the living master of abstract expressionism. There is so much rhythmic structure in the way the colours move. See below (this would do nicely!).
2) William Eggleston – His photos depict a fragile side to the American people and nation that is particularly poignant today.
3) Mondrian/Dubuffet – not too fussy here. Either would do. Mondrian because the simple range of colours and lines work so damn fantastically together. A Dubuffet as his paintings have a prehistoric, rustic nature to them that results in something new popping out at you when you catch a glimpse.
4) Giacometti – I can’t help but smile when I see this sculpture of this old pooch on the prowl. So much character.