Let’s visit the international art fair in London together
Today, as always, I’m taking you with me, but this time to an art fair. We’re going to discover together one of the most important international art fairs, Frieze London 2019. Every year in October, thousands of artists, gallery owners, collectors, and art enthusiasts come together in London for a week-long event called Frieze. During this time, London is filled with events, and the major auction houses organize their most important sales. And under the Frieze label, we’re not just talking about contemporary art, but also about 20th-century art, sculpture, and much more. Here you can visit hundreds of art gallery stands presenting their artists and, of course, selling their works. But London is not the only location for the fair. It also takes place every year in New York and, since February 2019, in Los Angeles.
Frieze. The history of the fair
The launch of Frieze took place for the first time in 2003. It was born from an idea of Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover, already publishers of the English magazine dedicated to contemporary art from which the fair takes its name. The connection with this magazine is very strong. After all, the magazine, founded in London in 1991, has always been very attentive to the avant-garde. In the 90s, for example, it was the first to invest in Damien Hirst, dedicating him the cover with one of his works dedicated to butterflies. The idea of the two editors of Frieze for the fair in the 2000s was to bring together some of the most renowned contemporary art galleries. In a fixed space and date, repeatable over time. The goal was to discover emerging artists and in a sense establish market trends. And to be honest, the idea worked and the fair has grown over time. In fact, it went from Frieze London to Frieze New York. And then, on the same dates as London, Frieze Masterpieces opened, no longer dedicated to contemporary art but to art from the origins to the 1900s.
Frieze Masters – The preview
And this year I had the opportunity to be invited on Wednesday evening for the preview of this section of Frieze. It is located inside Regent’s Park, a stone’s throw from Camden. As it is by invitation of the galleries, many of the protagonists of the evening are collectors. And for this reason, you can see the most beautiful pieces before they are sold. Frieze Masters includes the presence of about 130 galleries and is divided into 3 categories. A main section, a general section where most galleries are located. Collections, a section with two curators that requires the presence of collection pieces that have made art history over the centuries. For example, some works of ancient Japanese or Egyptian art. And finally, Spotlight, conceptually my favorite section. It is a corridor of 30 galleries that present only one exhibition, that is, a stand dedicated to a single artist. From a commercial point of view, perhaps the option with the highest risk, but from a curatorial point of view, one of the best exhibition choices.
Frieze masters. How to orient yourself
The best way to navigate the fair is certainly to use the digital or paper map available on the app. However, the risk of getting lost at the beginning seems high. But after a couple of rounds, you can identify the galleries that are of most interest and the pieces not to be missed.
Frieze master. My discoveries
This year I had a couple of discoveries that I didn’t expect. First of all, I realized that over the years I increasingly appreciate the combination of modern artworks, for example from the 17th and 20th century. A Bosch next to a Fontana, I don’t mind at all. Such a choice was made, for example, by the Gallery De Jonckheere from Geneva. A similar choice, which consists of a collaboration between two different galleries in the same stand, was made by Galleria Continua and Antichità Baccarelli Botticelli. Here contemporary artworks by artists such as Michelangelo Pistoletto were exhibited together with ancient artworks. I also noticed that even though I’m at the fair, I often appreciate the stands of galleries that bring more than one artwork by the same artist. Especially when they find a thematic connection. This year, for example, the choice of the New York gallery Nahmad Contemporary was very interesting for me. It brought several Miròs from the same period to its stand, dedicating a special space only to these artworks. Another fantastic example and perhaps one of the galleries that impressed me the most was Gallery Hyundai from Seoul with a space dedicated entirely to Nam June Paik. An American artist of South Korean origin who is now considered one of the founders and pioneers of video art in the 20th century. As for discoveries of artworks or new artists, there were honestly many. And perhaps this is also what I love about wandering through the exhibition spaces and chatting with the gallerists. First of all, the discovery of a pentagonal cut by Fontana, which I had never seen before, neither in a museum nor at an auction. Then the artworks by Ivon Hitchens, who I discovered was an English artist from the early 20th century, also present in the collection of the TATE in London.
The TATE and Frieze London 2019
And the TATE, even though it is a museum, is connected to another one of my discoveries this year. In fact, every year during Frieze London, the Tate can select some works to acquire for its own collection. All thanks to the support of a non-profit foundation called Endeavor. The budget is £150,000. And the works are usually by emerging artists or some well-known names from the 1900s. By officially becoming part of the collection, they are exhibited in all four of the TATE’s different locations in England. This year, one of the acquisitions is the work of Croatian female artist Jagoda Buić. I really like her work, probably because of the use of textile materials and crafting techniques.
Frieze Masters is not only an exhibition of works in the stands, but also a moment of artistic and market discussion and dialogue. For two or three days, thanks to Frieze Talks, some of the protagonists of contemporary art meet to chat and discuss. This year, there were no shortage of well-known names in contemporary art such as the artist Ai WeiWei or the critic and director of the Serpentine Gallery in London, Hans Ulrich Obrist.
And Frieze Masters is not the only fascinating moment related to Frieze and the world of modern and contemporary art. Another fantastic initiative that has emerged in recent years during the fair is Frieze Sculpture. With the idea that contemporary art should be known and accessible to everyone, around 20 works of art are chosen each year from the most important galleries. These sculptures are chosen to be exhibited for three months in Regent’s Park, creating one of the most interesting forms of public art in urban space in London’s history. This year, for the exhibition from July 3 to October 6, the selection was varied and truly interesting. When I went, what struck me the most was the fact that there were so many people who, between walks and picnics, were sharing the park space with the works of art.
Frieze Sculpture. The most interesting works
The most fun thing is that the works are distributed in a specific area. And through a map that can be downloaded on the phone, they can be discovered like a real treasure hunt. Of course, for me it was a fun but also interesting game. To find well-known names like pop artist Robert Indiana with his work One Through Zero. This consists of a circle of numbers from 0 to 9 of gigantic proportions. They rise like great milestones and reminded me a lot of Stonehenge. Or Vik Muniz with his 2015 Mnemonic Vehicle work. The exact scale reproduction of a 1973 Jaguar that takes up themes always present in his works such as memory and desire. However, Frieze Sculpture was also an opportunity to rediscover recently discovered artists. Huma Babba and her Totem sculptures that I had talked about in my video on Art Basel or Bill Woodrow with his 2002 work Celloswarm which consists of a string instrument entirely covered with golden bees and which loses its function over time and space and can no longer be played.
Frieze Sculpture. The discoveries
But in this hunt for artworks, I have to say that I also discovered some real treasures, by artists that I didn’t know before. For example, Johanna Raikowska’s The Hatchling, a giant-scale replica of a blackbird egg, the most common bird in England and also the subject of a song by The Beatles. Or Tudor Ball by Lars Fisk, a typical English architecture completely rescaled and reimagined to look like a Pokéball in which all the spirit of England is captured. And finally, there was an artwork that I loved for its relationship with the visitor and its main theme: Bridges by Ivan Argote, where we are invited to cross and step on the artwork as if it were a metaphorical bridge where the artist left a message to discover. And if you want to learn more, I suggest you take a look at my YouTube channel, where you can find videos about the art system and market, as well as travel tips and advice for art lovers. Thank you and see you soon!