After nearly two years without a Frieze event in London, the art fair juggernaut is back promising show-stopping pieces, ambitious booth designs and a jam-packed schedule of events.
Looking to reclaim top spot among London’s autumn art events following the online-only staging in 2020, the latest editions of Contemporary fair Frieze London and its younger sister Frieze Masters (where items date from antiquity to pre-2000) return to Regent’s Park from October 13-17.
Satellite events surrounding the fairs, known as Frieze Week, also return across London with museum, gallery and partner initiatives planned.
The busy autumn calendar indicates a return to relative normality for London’s art world, and with easing pandemic restrictions the city is re-establishing itself as a premier centre for art events such as Frieze.
“London has a great open vibrant feeling about it at the moment; everyone is excited to be back”, says Nathan Clements-Gillespie, artistic director of Frieze Masters. “Compared to New York, where I have spent a lot of time over the last 18 months, there is no sense in London that people have disappeared to The Hamptons and may or may not be coming back.”
By mid-September, ticket sales were around 25% above what they were in 2019 across both fairs.
He added: “Of course there is the red list so we know that it is unlikely we will get people from red-list countries, but I think the UK will be turning out in force and the exhibitor list is as international as it has ever been.”
In the nine years since its inaugural staging, the autumnal fair has quickly established itself as a leading destination for the world’s top-flight collectors and international museums. It emphasises cross-period collecting with modern, stripped-down backdrops – a “contemporary sensibility with a historical consciousness” as the organiser describes it.
The latest edition brings together six millennia of art, including antiquities, Old Master paintings and 20th century art, from a roster of top international galleries keen to return to the fair circuit.
“The galleries recognise there is a hunger for them to be back and they have gone above and beyond with the presentations being put together for this edition”, says Clements-Gillespie.
Ambitious and thought-provoking thematic stands are encouraged at Frieze.
Specialist in Italian maiolica Raccanello & Leprince, for example, is recreating a medieval Italian apothecary, while Marian Goodman Gallery showcases the apartheid works of South African artist William Kentridge (b.1955) from an entirely custom-made booth designed by Kentridge’s long-term collaborator Sabine Theunissen.
Elsewhere, Stuart Lochhead Sculpture celebrates the often overlooked (and misunderstood) medium of plaster with striking examples by Auguste Rodin (1840- 1917), Jean-Joseph Carriès (1855-94) and Rachel Whiteread (b.1963) among others.
Rare books dealer Peter Harrington charts the history of climate change and environmentalism through a £1.65m collection of rare books and original manuscripts (see opposite picture caption).
Waddington Custot presents a group presentation of American photorealist paintings conveying scenes from everyday American life in the 1960s-70s. The paintings come from a private collection built over more than a decade, and include works by Robert Cottingham (b.1935), Richard Estes (b.1932) and John Salt (b.1937).
Other highlights include Luxembourg + Co’s booth dedicated to Giosetta Fioroni (b.1932) – a relatively unknown name outside her native Italy but an important figure associated with the advent of Italian Pop art.
A group of early works from the 1960s by Christo (1935-2020) star at Colnaghi – his dream to wrap the Arc de Triomphe was posthumously realised a few weeks ago.
Safani Gallery showcases an ancient Egyptian statue with stellar provenance to a Harvard University archaeological team who excavated it in 1927. Joining these galleries are Johnny Van Haeften, Lévy Gorvy, ArtAncient, Peter Finer, Sam Fogg, Tomasso and Dr Jörn Günther Rare Books.
Themed fair sections include new addition Stand Out, curated by Luke Syson, director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, which brings together art objects supplied by various galleries standing at the fair.
“Luke’s mission with Stand Out is to take the ‘decorative’ out of the decorative arts and show these objects for the works of sculpture that they really are”, says Clements- Gillespie, who describes the section’s arrangement as an “easter egg hunt” around the fair.
Another, Spotlight, returns for a third year dedicated to pioneers of avant-garde art from across the world and is overseen by Laura Hoptman, executive director of The Drawing Center in New York.
It features solo presentations of work by overlooked 20th century figures including Paraguayan visual artist Feliciano Centurión (1962- 96) at Cecilia Brunson Projects / Galeria Millan, African-American painter Beauford Delaney (1901-79) at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, a solo presentation of work by Nigerian Modernist Obiora Udechukwu (b.1946) at Kó and Lebanese artist Huguette Caland (1931-2019) at Kayne Griffin.
Across the park, Frieze’s mammoth Contemporary fair welcomes a decent line-up of galleries offering a mix of work by established artists and up-and-coming talent.
As well as an extensive talks programme and a long-running exhibition of outdoor sculpture, a new section called Editions showcases leading publishers of editioned works and multiples by Contemporary artists such as Paula Rego (b.1935), Georg Baselitz (b.1938) and Frank Bowling (b.1934), while the Focus section is devoted to galleries established in the last 12 years.
Mirroring the comments of her opposite number at Frieze Masters, new artistic director Eva Langret said: “The list of galleries participating confirms London as one of the world’s most exciting art capitals, which has come through the pandemic with huge resilience.”