In the past five days i have been to six exhibitions and four art fairs. It is safe to say that the quiet Summer season is over and the London art scene has reached its peak this Frieze Week.
This year was my first at Frieze and I must admit I found it a little overwhelming. The venue is a huge blur of bright white stalls. It is ‘ultra modern’ and embellished with designs by Thomas Baryle in rest areas: repeated prints of shoes and cows – really impressive, also giving your eyes a break from the intensity from the whiteness of the fair. The fair consists 175 of the worlds leading contemporary galleries and is an artistic delight.
However, Frieze Masters is what really impressed me. While others have commented on the uneasy mix of artists from different periods being shown side by side, I found it exciting. At the main Frieze, the super galleries of White Cube, Gagosian etc are all grouped together in the centre of the fair, yet as they represent the same artists, there is a lack of variety. There are only so many Damien Hirst’s one can look at in a small spacial area. At Frieze all the work is of the same period, it has all been produced since the year 2000. While there is a lot of interesting work that hasn’t been seen before. After a while you begin to lose concentration, it is too big, your eyes and feet get tired and what would have really caught your eye at the beginning, is, at the end, just another painting or sculpture. However Frieze Master’s is quieter, it is smaller and dare I say it, less manic. The booths are painted a shade of grey one would expect to see on the walls of the National Gallery and even the restaurants are a little more high brow. It is more varied. From ancient to modern you can see pretty much everything from Picabia, Picasso, Patrick Caulfield and Andy Warhol to oceanic art, medieval artefacts and sculpture from antiquity. The fair also shows that it is not just the contemporary art market that is booming and puts a stress on the importance and influence of art history.
Frieze Masters shows work from before the current century, it has a bigger scope and doesn’t restrict itself to one period. Whilst it was an experience to go to Frieze, in this case the new was just a large version of smaller art fairs and this ‘new’ type of ‘older’ art fair was exciting. It eclipsed all the wonder seen at the main Frieze. With all its Turner’s and Degas’ and Freud’s, Frieze Masters is the fair I will definitely be returning to when the hustle and bustle of the art world returns next year.
Frieze and Frieze Masters close later today at Regents Park, London.