Every October for the past decade, the excitement whipped up by the arrival of ‘Frieze Art Fair’ in London has been the envy of many a fair organiser and the wider art world.
This Contemporary art fair attracts around
60,000 visitors from curators and celebrity VIPs to art students,
tourists and the general public and everyone in-between - it is the
Tate Modern of the art fair world.
It's not particularly smart, the simple,
utilitarian interior belies the huge price tags, and there is none
of the sumptuous decoration of a fair such as Masterpiece,
But whatever you may think of
Frieze, it's a phenomenon and the fact that it is
irresistible to so many raises the familiar question of why can't
the wider art market - Old Master pictures or medieval sculpture
for example - create the same excitement?
Well, this year, for the first time, the
organisers broaden their horizons beyond Contemporary art and we
will see if some of the Frieze magic can rub off on
The new Frieze Masters fair
will run alongside Frieze Art Fair from October
11-14 in Regent's Park, dedicated to paintings and sculpture
produced before the year 2000 with the aim of presenting "a unique
perspective on the relationship between old and new art".
The exhibitor list of 90 galleries was
released in May; a roll call of international names at the top of
their fields from London antiquities dealer Rupert
Wace and Parisian Old Master specialists De
Jonckheere through to tribal art dealer
Entwistle and the big brand, Modern and
Contemporary galleries such as Pace and
Gagosian who have locations all over the
"The idea is to do something unique," says
Frieze Masters director Victoria Siddall. "There would be
no point in trying to do something like another fair because the
marketplace is too crowded."
We meet in the Frieze offices
which are, as you would expect, the epitome of nonchalant
pared-back style, situated on the top floor of Rochelle School, a
sprawling Victorian building that is also home to a restaurant and
designers' studios in Shoreditch, in the heart of East London's
contemporary gallery land. TheFriezeteam moved here about a year
and a half ago, needing more space, and it has a young, fresh feel
- "we used to cook lunch and eat together every day, but now we
don't have time," says Victoria.
No wonder, as foundersAmanda SharpandMatthew
Slotoverhave this year added two more fairs to the Frieze
stable: Frieze New York, which had its inaugural fair in
May, and Frieze Masters.
Origins of Frieze
So how did the Masters idea first come about
and why did they think it could work in an already teeming fairs
"There were a variety of reasons," Victoria
says. "In the same way that the founders stepped in to fill the gap
in London for a big Contemporary fair, they saw the need for a fair
like this in London. So it came from us to a certain extent.
"But also over the years we had a lot of
dealers applying to Frieze Art Fair who were not
Contemporary dealers. These were some of the best galleries in the
world, but we had to tell them it was not the right fair for them,
but it gave us the idea, knowing that this level of gallery wanted
to have a presence in London."
Following the closure of the Grosvenor
House fair in 2009, SLAD (the Society of London Art
Dealers) approached Frieze about organising another
high-end fair in London, another factor that convinced them there
was a demand. In May 2010 Victoria was given a year to put together
a convincing business plan for the event, researching the market,
finding a venue and contacting dealers to gauge their response to
"Once we had a critical mass of good dealers
who are enthusiastic about the idea, we felt confident going
ahead," she says.
Above: Victoria Siddall, director of
Frieze Masters. Photograph by Linda Nylind, courtesy of
After graduating in English and philosophy
from Bristol University, Victoria started work immediately at
Christie's in their proposals department, working with all the
departments to secure consignments. She joined Frieze in
2004, working in sponsorship where she brought in Deutsche Bank,
Cartier, BMW and Pommery as backers. She then became more involved
in the organisation of the fair and her role changed to head of
development, looking at improvements.
"It was about what the galleries wanted, so
it was a natural step to investigate the possibility of another
fair. At the end of the year, if it was decided Frieze
Masters could go ahead, then I could run it, so obviously I
had a very vested interest in making it work!" adds Victoria.
No-one can doubt the Frieze brand's
knowledge and success within the Contemporary market. But to gain
kudos within the Old Master field and the wider art market they
needed to enlist the help of some influential names to add some
authoritative weight to the fair within this new territory.
Over the year of talking to many dealers,
Victoria noticed that the same names cropped up time and again as
respected and, importantly, well-liked dealers in their fields.
Eighteen months ago, she started inviting
them to join a selection committee and the resulting seven members
of the team are names many will know. They number three Old Master
specialists - Jean-Luc Baroni from London,
Fabrizio Moretti, who has galleries in Florence,
London and New York, and Richard Feigen from New
York. Alongside these are Sam Fogg, a London
specialist in Medieval, Islamic and Indian art; the London Modern
art dealer Thomas Gibson; Ivan
Wirth, whose Modern and Contemporary art gallery Hauser
& Wirth has bases in London, New York and Zurich; and, from San
Francisco, Anthony Meier, who deals in Post War
and Contemporary art.
"They've been amazing," says Victoria,
"because although people respect Frieze as organisers of a
Contemporary fair, this is a completely new area so we needed
people who were influential and added gravitas to the project.
"It was great to be able to show that these
people were already committed and enthusiastic about the concept of
the fair and they've been instrumental in both deciding how it will
work and also pulling the galleries in."
Speaking to ATG on the phone a few days
later,Fabrizio Morettiexplained that he was enthusiastic about the
project from the start.
"I was delighted to be asked by Victoria
because I've always been a great believer in mixing Old Master and
Contemporary pieces, in mixing periods without looking at the age.
The important thing is the quality of both. It will be unlike other
fairs, a chance to see Jean-Luc Baroni exhibiting alongside
Talk of Frieze Masters was rife at
this year's TEFAF Maastricht fair in March, unsurprisingly
as it was the month that the two-day-long selection meeting took
place. Anyone could submit an application and a detailed proposal
of what they planned to bring and how they would present it. "We
wanted the galleries to challenge themselves to think about how
they could present their work differently, not create the same
traditional stand as they would for other fairs," says
"The idea was that it was a fair and
transparent process, so that everyone could put forward what they
would plan to do rather than doing it by invitation only. We didn't
want to rule out unexpected applications from people we wouldn't
have thought of but actually would make a great addition to the
fair. And we did have some of those."
The fair was oversubscribed and those who
did not make the cut could appeal, which was discussed at a later
meeting. But Victoria hopes that the mix they have achieved will
work well and she is pleased with the breadth and quality: "We've
got one tapestry dealer, one antiquities dealer, one oceanic art
dealer, all of whom are at the top of their field."
The layout will be completely mixed, so
exhibitors have been asked to think about the fact that, for
example, although they might be bringing medieval sculpture this
might be sitting alongside a Dan Flavin light installation or a
Donald Judd sculpture on the stand next door.
So how will it look? The interior of the
Neptunus semi-permanent structure will be markedly more luxurious
than Frieze Art Fair's stark aesthetic and the 10,000 sq m
footprint is half the size. It has been designed by the
Manhattan-based architect and interior designer Annabelle
Selldorf, the woman behind the renovation of galleries
such as Haunch of Venison in London, Zurich and New York, Hauser
& Wirth on both Savile Row and Piccadilly, and New York's Neue
Galerie. So she certainly knows this market, both Modern and Old
The brief was to create "a space in which
ancient and modern art could be shown side by side and feel
comfortable" and the look will be "modern, minimal but also very
elegant". While at many fairs nowadays, dealers are given free rein
to paint their stands as they please, here they have a strict
palette to chose from: three shades of grey and a white for the
walls, a white, grey or black ceiling and a uniform grey floor.
"The idea is that people won't walk round
the fair and see a stand with red walls and think 'that's not for
me', to stop people from instantly discriminating because of the
architecture. Hopefully they will look at a work of art because
it's a great work of art, without thinking when it was made. It
makes it easier for us to mix the periods too," says Victoria.
The 79 galleries in the main body of the
fair have stands between 40 and 120 sq m in size, while those in
Spotlight (22 in all) each have 30 sq m stands on which to mount
solo artist presentations - a more affordable option "to encourage
geographical diversity", featuring some smaller galleries from
places such as Romania, Hong Kong and São Paulo.
Initially, many thought that Frieze
Masters would be right next door to Frieze Art Fair
in the south of Regent's Park, but in fact it will sit in the
north-east corner of the park next to London Zoo, a 15-minute walk
away. It's a pleasant walk through the park, but given how
notoriously lazy fair-goers can be, how will the organisers ensure
that visitors buy a joint ticket (£35) and visit both fairs?
There will be a minibus shuttle for general
public and chauffeur-driven BMWs for key clients. "I think the
distance between is purely a psychological barrier. We've learnt a
lot about transport from Frieze New York and if we can get
New Yorkers on a ferry up the East River I am sure that we can
encourage our visitors to take a short walk through Regent's Park.
However, we also have shuttle services between the two fairs," says
"The main thing for the galleries is that
the serious collectors come. We've got an amazing list of contacts
from the contemporary fair some of whom do not come to London every
October because their tastes are more for established contemporary
and Modern works. This has been supplemented by collectors who have
been put forward by the exhibitors at Masters."
Frieze Masters will open the day
before Frieze Art Fair, so there is no clash of opening
previews, and they have forged links with the National Gallery,
British Museum and V&A, which they say has strengthened
relations with some curators.
"Curators have always been very important to
us and we've always been delighted by the huge number of
international curators who take the time to come to Frieze every
year," says Victoria.
They worked with Nicholas Penny, director of
the National Gallery, to create the marketing material, using
close-up details of a 15th century Annunciation scene by Carlo
Crivelli from the gallery's collection across the whole marketing
campaign and website.
"The idea is that it's hard to place the
painting in terms of period - the bricks look quite Modern British
while the wings are clearly from a Renaissance work."
The so-called Frieze Week has
become a phenomenon in London as the fair has sparked a host of
auctions, fairs and exhibitions around town at the same time, which
makes London a honeypot for the Contemporary art world during that
week. Frieze Masters could make this week more relevant
for the wider art market.
"We hope that galleries across the board
will benefit and that the number of visitors that Frieze
brings to London will be felt across the city with an economic
boost for different types of business be it in hotels, restaurants
or shops as well in art galleries themselves," adds Victoria.
Of course, one of the other events in town
at the same time is the successful French-run fair Pavilion of
Art & Design London in Berkeley Square (October
10-14), now in its sixth year and owned by Patrick
Perrin. There is definite crossover between the two fairs,
and some previous exhibitors from PAD London exhibit
at Frieze Masters instead this year.
Victoria is reluctant to comment on another
fair but, when asked how she thinks the two events will sit
alongside each other, she says: "Frieze Masters will
show art throughout the ages rather than just modern. Secondly,
there's no furniture or jewellery at Frieze Masters, it's
just art, focusing on painting and sculpture.
"The idea that it shows the thread
throughout the whole of art history, from ancient through to
Contemporary, I think makes it quite unique," she says.
"It's a tendency that people have to say
'maybe it will be like this fair or that fair', and they will until
they have seen it. But I hope that when they visit they will see
that it is not like any other fairs."
High expectations ride on her shoulders but
many in this industry, young and old, would love to be in her