A Reactionary Viewing Experience

The absurd and the appealing comingle on a monumental scale at Frieze Art Fairs. Housing works by classical, modern, and contemporary artists, the two pop-up tents, separated by a fifteen-minute walk, provide temporary shelter to this season’s most sought after works.

Between the two tents, just under 300 galleries were featured. Chosen to showcase the breath and diversity of the current art market, these galleries exhibit a cross-section of work marked for sale. However, the exact price is often unmarked; a white blank typically follows the title, artist’s name, and date of creation. With price tags removed, viewers can observe Frieze without any burden of buying. Yet, unlike a museum exhibition, the purpose of Frieze is to sell. Serious private collectors and museum directors attend preview day to pursue the galleries, marking bidding prospects. Major galleries, such as Gagoisian, White Cube, and Hauser and Wirth, reported large ticket sales in the opening hours of the first public day. Curious parties, like myself, can access the exact sale prices of each work via an Internet search. Thus, Frieze is a thrilling event for the determined collector and the amateur student.

Sharing Regents Park for a span of five days, Frieze Art Fair and Frieze Masters attract strikingly separate clienteles. The former is highly trafficked, visited by trendy private collectors, young art connoisseurs, well-off professionals, and prestigious institutions form locales across the world. The tent is interactive, featuring a diverse array of performance pieces and installations. These commissioned spectacles spark discourse amongst those visiting. Many of the galleries showcased within its walls are visually perplexing. The works are often confrontational, sexually explicit, and epic in scale.

Differing drastically in style, Frieze Masters features more palatable and refined works. While revolutionary during their contexts of creation, the works, which grace the walls of Frieze Masters, are often easier to comprehend as we, the viewers, can investigate each work in relation past and present trends. Frieze Masters caters towards a more-seasoned selection of collectors. The work showcased is less visually confrontational. Even the design of the Masters tent is tailored to its target audience; it appears less like pop-up tent and more like a series of established galleries under one roof. The noise level is lower, with collectors quietly conversing, rather than loudly proclaiming the mastery of a work.

I would conjecture that students and academics constituted the small cross section of attendees who chose to attend both Frieze Art Fair and Frieze Masters. Yet, I believe that a dual-attendance is integral to achieving a complete understanding of the fast-selling contemporary phenomena exhibited in the former. While Frieze London can be enjoyed in its absolute form, it is most certainly complemented by the display of Master works that directly influence the present modes of depiction.

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