Continuing in the vein of what had been an art-filled two weeks, from ArtVerona in Italy, to the Phillips auction in London, to an evening performance art piece at the Freud Museum, my capacity for art finally climaxed with one of the most important art events in the world, along with the Venice Biennale, Art Basel, and Art Basel Miami: Frieze London.
Frieze is an international art fair held every year in a sophisticated pavillion constructed every year in London’s Regent’s Park. It brings together rising artists from around the globe with established stars in the contemporary art world such as Bridget Reilly, Marina Abramović, Sarah Lucas, William de Kooning, and Takashi Murakami. Frieze was founded in 2003 by the publishers of the leading contemporary art magazine frieze, and due its success a sister Frieze fair in New York was announced in 2011, along with another fair called Frieze Masters, which features more classic works, that occurs at the same time as Frieze on the other side of Regent’s Park.
My best friend works in the arts and thus we were equipped with a VIP pass, which thankfully spared us from the steep £32 entry charge (£50 combined ticket with Frieze Masters) and the almost equally daunting queue. Once inside, we were treated to the top galleries in the world displaying the crème de la crème of their represented artists in one of the most impressive temporary structures I’ve ever seen (the bathrooms alone were far nicer than those of many of the permanent establishments I’d been to lately). We also got access to the VIP area, which consisted of some nice seating and a bar and café similar to those open to the general public, but more expensive. I don’t know about you, but paying £3 for an espresso definitely makes me feel like a VIP!
The art, however, was fabulous as expected. After having our fill of all the contemporary art we could handle, we exited the fair and took a nice walk across Regent’s Park to the Frieze Masters pavillion. The first thing I noticed upon entering Frieze Masters was that the structure that housed it was even nicer than that of Frieze. The walls and the floor were an elegant shade of grey, and plush seats dotted the space, providing weary collectors and admirers of art a welcome reprieve. The art on display consisted primarily of an impressive range of classic to modern art, with a sprinkling of contemporary art here and there. Works by masters such as Bruegel, Rembrandt, Picasso, Bonnard, Matisse, and Calder were all on display.
As with most art fairs, Frieze can be a draining affair, as it’s a rather large effort, both physically and mentally. I do recommend seeing both Frieze and Frieze Masters in one day, for the sake of simplicity, but steel yourself mentally for a long afternoon of walking and attempting to grasp the meaning of highly conceptual art. One of the fun things about Frieze, and major art fairs in general, is that the people who visit them are often almost as fun to look at as the art itself. Not only is the fair filled with eccentric artistic characters, but it’s also frequented by some high-net-worth individuals, as in addition to those who have the means to pay for the exorbitant tickets prices, there are a fair amount of actual collectors looking for pieces to purchase. So dress the part, as it’s certainly one of social events of the year, especially in the art world. If your networking in the art world needs some dusting off and you have to shell out the cash for the ticket, go ahead and do so, as Frieze, like Vegas and the Notting Hill Carnival, is something that everyone should experience once. But unlike the former two, it’s definitely alright to return to Frieze year after year.
Frieze, the art:
WHERE: Regent’s Park, London. Closest tube stop: Great Portland Street.
WHEN: Mid-October, yearly.
HOT TIP: Book your ticket for Frieze in advance, it’s not uncommon for the fair to completely sell out.
HOT TIP: In Regent’s Park between Frieze and Frieze Masters you can find the Frieze Sculpture Park, where selected galleries display their best contemporary sculptures. Best of all, it’s completely free.