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Frieze Masters 2013

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Middle Rhine tapestry, circa 1500. The field shows the Virgin Mary within an enclosed garden with a tame unicorn, used in this period as a metaphor for Christ. The Archangel Gabriel calls with a horn to the right three dogs symbolising hope, faith and charity. To the left a pelican spills its own blood over its chicks, symbolising the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. The plants that grow throughout the tapestry are associated with the Virgin Mary: roses, lilies and columbines. Sold by Gallery Moshe Tabibnia, Milan during the first days of the fair.

The second edition of Frieze Masters, in London’s Regent’s Park from 17–20 October 2013, has grown considerably from last year, establishing its own identity rather than seeming to be a spin-off from Frieze London. ‘Masters’ presents 130 of the world’s leading galleries, up 25 percent from last year, whereas Frieze London has 30 fewer exhibitors in order to make way for wider aisles. With 106 participants in the main section and 24 in ‘Spotlight’ ( home to smaller, more conceptual modern art galleries), the art ranges from the ancient era and old masters through to art of the 20th century. In fact for some the Spotlight section, a neat transition between Frieze and Frieze Masters, has been reported to be one of the highlights October’s London art fairs (PAD London is in London’s Berkeley Square at the same time).

The fair might not be to everyone’s taste (there have been a few sharp reviews in the press) but the presence of members of the TEFAF executive committee during the preview days, as well as many TEFAF Maastricht exhibitors, suggests that this event is being taken very seriously by the establishment, and rightly so. The quality of the exhibits cannot be doubted in HALI’s area of expertise, and their presentation amplifies the art rather than reducing it to stand decoration. The fair has a less stuffy atmosphere than many fairs with traditional art and antiques, although it must be said that the lack of furniture tends to help, as there is a distinct lack of gilt and ormolu. Sales were seemingly swift, and many stands had curated solo shows of artists’ work: there are more Alexander Calder’s than one can imagine – one was being packed for shipping on a stand as we walked  around.

The recipe for the fair’s success is twofold: it reignited the enthusiasm for art with cool architectural design allowing the diversity of the material on offer to open up new areas to all visitors, yet it retained the elite nature of the top end of the market, but with a light touch. It felt as if one was walking around a large gallery. The £25 entry ticket kept the riff-raff out but neverthess encouraged those who are interested but perhaps can’t afford the art to have a look around. As well they might as this is where taste for art is now being set, and the better the art world will be for its influence too.

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