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Frieze Masters 2014
October 15, 2014
The much younger sibling of the well-established contemporary art goliath Frieze London, Frieze Masters is really upping the game that is global art fairs. Now in its third year, Frieze Masters profiles any work created by renowned arts figures made pre-2000, meaning that anything from Ancient Egyptian artefacts to European Renaissance portraiture and true contemporary art are displayed side by side in the smaller tent in Regent’s Park.
If you have ever been to a Frieze art fair then there are certain tropes that you’d expect: overwhelming size, pressing crowds, ‘celebrities’ hanging around this year’s must-see pieces, and art you forget within a day or two. Frieze Masters has none of the above. The tent itself is cleaner and carpeted – the overall tone being set is not the white cubicles of contemporary art but a pleasant afternoon in the British Museum. Alongside this, the crowds are different; slower and more inquisitive, perhaps it is the fact that the space is significantly smaller than Frieze London that allows a relaxation not afforded to the cattle market of contemporary fair. In terms of celebrities, there are no ‘It Girls’ or fashion bloggers; it is true that Grayson Perry showed his face, but with artworks that so readily reference art history and a proven love for art and antiquities, that is hardly a surprise.
The stalls are set out into two areas; the Spotlight section and Exhibitors. Although difficult to differentiate while walking the fair, these two areas are designed to serve distinct purposes. Exhibitor stands tend to be larger and allow galleries to showcase a variety of artworks from different artists and even periods. The Spotlight stands, on the other hand, are given over to galleries showcasing solo presentations of artists from the 20th Century. Sometimes this line is blurred however, with galleries such as Marlborough Fine Art dedicating their Exhibitor space to Francis Bacon lithographs – one of the most engaging and exciting stands in the entire fair.
All the fun of the art fair is in the juxtapositions created by the diverse list of exhibiting galleries. It is easy to imagine that Frieze Masters may be the only fair in the world where you can view Oceanic and Eskimo Art (courtesy of Galerie Meyer) next to a display of Chuck Close portraits and Jasper Johns American Flags (via Craig F. Starr Gallery). The most expensive artwork on display this year is Rembrandt’s Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo, 1658. Beautifully painted, there is an allure to this work that beacons you in to Otto Naumann Ltd.’s stall. The subtle glow of Rembrandt’s flesh tones, along with the darkness of the background, transfixed many a viewer during Frieze Master’s PV. However you don’t expect to see many Rembrandts outside of public exhibitions in your lifetime and it is a moment that most art lovers would wish to grab. On the other end of the scale there were several quite prolific artists spread around the fair: Sigmar Polke, perhaps due to Tate Modern’s current retrospective, appeared across several stands alongside artists like Barbara Kruger who crept into a few displays.
The prize for most impressive display goes undoubtedly to Helly Nahmad, who hosted a stand described by a rather suave Frenchman met whilst viewing as “Magie” (magic). Helly Nahmad have created an imaginary collector and created a complete Parisian apartment for this man, complete with Joan Miro paintings (available to purchase) and cigarette butts (for set design). Engaging and surreal, walking into what feels like such a private space in one of the most public environments in the art world, this stand has more detail than most artworks – worth a visit of its own, it would be worth the gallery creating this installation around the world.
Frieze Masters is an odd thing. It is part National Gallery, part White Cube, and part private study. Lovingly curated and full of genuine riches, it is an easier space to enjoy than Frieze London. Obviously no one would ask you to make a choice between the two spaces (a joint ticket for both is available, along with a shuttle to ferry you between the two) but if you had to… well we might nudge you towards the newcomer.
For tickets and information go to friezemasters.com.