Monday, 15 October 2012

Don’t Throw Tomatoes at Frieze Masters

Frieze was frenetic this year – tomatoes zoomed around the performance arena of Grizedale Arts' Colosseum of the Consumed construction, strange looking international collectors roamed the narrow isles in packs and galleristas stood primped and pumped ready to spring into action at the slightest sniff of money. Meanwhile the masses looked on, voyeuring at what they supposed was a glimpse into the art world. Well sorry to disappoint but this is not an art world that any artist I know recognises. Despite the best attempts of Grizedale’s food themed performances it was an empty, vacuous, art supermarket, the commissioned ‘Frieze Projects’ some kind of superficial sugar frosting to give the whole thing an art-like veneer. Frieze is not a place for artists – it is the dirty side of the business and if you are of a delicate disposition and want to carry on believing the art dream you should not go. 

Grizedale Arts, Colosseum of the Consumed, performance by William Pope 1 

So after a gruelling few hours I made my way with a heavy heart to Frieze Masters which as I’m sure everyone knows by now is the grown up, old art, version of Frieze. Officially described as ‘an opportunity to see and buy work ranging from the ancient era and old masters to art of the 20th century’ it promised to make the link between old and new art. I was cynical but as soon as I stepped into the huge Masters tent the atmosphere was different. The masses had thinned, the isles were wider and the colour scheme was a calming grey instead of the glacial white cube of Frieze. 

Frieze Masters, 2012

Frieze Masters was in fact a revelation, full of museum quality art that was also incidentally if you were interested, for sale. Each booth seemed to have been thoughtfully curated, many of them had exhibitions themed around a single artists or movement. Lots of work, even if I had not seen it before was very familiar. 

Dorothea Tanning

Looking at extensive displays of Morandi, Klimt and Schiele, early Warhol Drawings and Dorothea Tanning was as enjoyable and soothing as stepping into a warm bath. 

Andy Warhol

Photography was also very strong with whole stands devoted to William Eggleston (Victoria Miro), Richard Avedon and Diane Arbus. As well as these familiar friends there were also new discoveries such as a display of very strange looking 16th Century wooden horses by Juan Chaéz at Coll & Cortés Fine Arts which were a nice counterpoint to some ancient Chinese pottery horses at Ben Janssens Oriental Art. 

Juan Chaéz

The link between old and new art was also much in evidence – a wall of Picabia ink drawings at Galerie 1900 v 2000 a direct predecessor to Raymond Pettibon’s work. 

Francis Picabia

The Spotlight section featured single-artist shows by lesser-known artists – mainly from the 70s. One of the highlights Lygia Pape’s thread installation at Galeria Graça Brandao was beautiful, and flagged up a technique and aesthetic that is being revived in many contemporary works. 

Lygia Pape

There were some blurred lines between the two fairs – Alice Neel for instance was in evidence at Frieze proper while surely she would have made more sense at Masters, while the only Luc Tuymans I saw was at Frieze Masters. This aside Frieze Masters was an enriching experience and a fun place to play the ‘if I had the money what would I buy’ game (in a bit of a left field choice I’ve decided to go for one of Natalia Gontcharova’s 1930’s drawings of Tudor-style ladies at Galerie 1900 v 2000). Roll on Frieze Masters 2013.

Cathy Lomax 

Natalia Gontcharova

Frieze London and Frieze Masters
11–14 October 2012