For ten years now, London’s ‘Frieze’ art fair has been a temple that consigns itself strictly to the new and the now. Dedicated to art produced after the year 2000, collectors, curators and the general public have flocked to see the spectacle and view the next big thing.
But now Frieze have turned their
attentions backwards, to see if they can apply some of this magic
to the market for 'historical art' produced before the year 2000
with a new fair called Frieze Masters, directed by
For years, dealers and fair organisers in
the wider art and antiques market have watched in green-eyed awe as
Frieze excites the sort of attention and sales that they
can only dream of. Now, a few of them may get the chance to see if
some of the lustre of its trendy big sister can rub off on
In talking about their decision to
participate in Masters, many exhibitors refer to
'broadening horizons', 'attracting a new audience' and the hope
that people will look afresh at their stock when shown in a
contemporary context. The traditional 'fine art and antiques fair'
of old this certainly is not.
An air of infectious enthusiasm surrounds
this eagerly anticipated event, combined with a bit of mystery,
hearsay and cynicism. But can it live up to the hype?
The inaugural event is about to open,
running from October 11-14 (invitation preview on October 10) and
coinciding with Frieze London, as it must now be known,
now in its tenth year and undoubtedly the totem around which
London's Contemporary art market revolves.
Above: an image from the inaugural
'Frieze Masters' event which is running in London this week.
Photograph by Linda Nylind. Courtesy of Linda Nylind/
When the new fair was first announced at
the start of the year, many thought that it would be situated
alongside the Contemporary event's marquee in the southern end of
Regent's Park, but in fact it will be about a 15-minute walk away
in the North East corner of the park, next to London Zoo.
Just as big, bold, irreverent Frieze
Art Fair sprang from the booming financial times of 2003,
Masters seems a product of its own times, a few years of
recession have contributed to a more circumspect reconsideration of
the past. There is a need to set the contemporary arts in their
historical context, and a current zeitgeist for collecting and
looking at art in a broader way, across periods and cultures rather
than remaining confined to a single discipline.
The importance of Frieze week for London's
Contemporary art market is huge, but will Masters make it
of broader significance to the wider art and antiques market, as
(hopefully) a new wave of collectors, curators and dealers flock to
the city. That is certainly the plan, but the big question is will
the fair do the business across the board, from antiquities, tribal
art and early sculpture to Modern art and photography?
And how many of the 60,000+ visitors to
Frieze London will then make the, admittedly short,
trip across Regent's Park to Masters? I suspect a fair few
of the day-trippers and students who flock to the former may not
bother to pay more for the joint ticket, but those with a more
serious interest and who might actually buy will with any luck,
helped by the provision of a shuttle bus or, if you're deemed a
VIP, a chauffeur-driven BMW between the two events.
But onto the facts. Just over 90
exhibitors are exhibiting within a semi-permanent structure,
designed by New York architect and designer Annabelle Selldorf, and
they will be divided across two sections - 77 in the main body of
the fair and 22 in Spotlight, smaller stands dedicated to solo
artist presentations from across the globe.
The line-up is international, with
galleries from 18 countries, and truly top end, including a few
dealers who don't normally do UK fairs, such as
Antwerp-based Axel Vervoodt, and specialisms
span tapestry, tribal art, antiquities, sculpture and works of art,
as well as 20th century Modern art. In short, anything that can be
called 'art', but there will be no furniture or jewellery.
Exhibitors have been allowed to choose
from a palette of whites and greys for their stand designs, to
allow for a more seamless juxtaposition of periods, the intention
being that visitors will not be put off looking at Old Masters by
gaudy red walls. Furthermore, for the selection process every
dealer had to submit a detailed proposal of what they would bring
and how it would be presented because, Victoria Siddall explained,
"We wanted the galleries to challenge themselves to think about how
they could present their work differently, not create the same
traditional fair stand as they would for other fairs".
The bulk of exhibitors are still Modern
and Contemporary art galleries, some of whom exhibit at both
Masters and Frieze London, such as London's
Lisson Gallery and international über
galleries, Gagosian and
But Old Master dealers are also at the
fore, including a healthy number of London specialists such as
Jean-Luc Baroni, Colnaghi,
Derek Johns, Robilant + Voena,
Ben Elwes and Stair Sainty.
Stephen Ongpin, Emanuel von
Baeyer and Lowell Libson add their
expertise in works on paper of all periods to the mix as well.
Among the sculpture specialists are
The Sladmore Gallery (London) with 19th and 20th
century works and, with early European
sculpture, Daniel Katz (London) and
Tomasso Brothers Fine Art (Leeds).
Commenting on their decision to do the
fair, Dino Tomasso said: "We are extremely excited about the
crossover of cultures, that is collectors of Contemporary art and
those of antiques, particularly since sculpture looks so fantastic
when juxtaposed with Contemporary objects and placed in
And who else will join them? The mix is
expanded by the likes of antiquities dealer Rupert
Wace (London), tribal art gallery
Entwistle (London and Paris), Asian art from
Ben Janssens Oriental Art (London) and
James Hyman (London), who combines his stock of
Modern art with two special displays concentrating on early
An extensive series of talks curated by Jasper Sharp will take
place alongside the fair - see the website for details.