Frieze has already had an amazing year. The first edition of Frieze New York, held on Randall’s Island in May, confounded the mutterers by proving quite a few things – among them, that serpentine-shaped tents are gorgeous, that free ferries do indeed attract the punters, that the US is indeed hungry for a new contemporary fair, and that New Yorkers do not actually perish if they venture off the island of Manhattan. It brought praise from all sides (although dealers are always notoriously cagey about the actual volume of sales) – and if the extravagance of the presentation caused trouble at the company’s bottom line, it’s all investment for the future.
After this success, many organisations would be happy just to repeat their tried and tested October formula with contemporary work from 170-plus international galleries in Regent’s Park, now for the 11th year in a row, but Frieze is upping the ante still further. Frieze Masters launches simultaneously with the now-renamed Frieze London, just across the park in new tents designed by Annabelle Selldorf, the art world’s architect du jour.
While Frieze London will now confine itself to works of art made after 2000, Masters will throw itself open to the immense range of art before that date: we can expect anything from Italian Renaissance treasures up to late 20th-century photography.
The international fair calendar continues to fill up all the time – London Art13, launching next spring, is just one of several recent additions. But it’s likely that Frieze Masters will do more than merely add to the volume of events: it looks set to change the ecology of the landscape in all sorts of subtle ways. By encompassing Old Masters, it is moving into the hallowed territory of Maastricht and the Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris – but it promises to do so with a new look. By including modern art, is it going head-to-head with the simultaneous Pavilion of Art+Design (PAD) London, who have over the past few years increased their emphasis on modern painting and sculpture?
In response to this, Frieze Masters director Victoria Siddall reminds us that their range is firmly restricted to painting and sculpture, which leaves the broad eclectic field of antiques, furniture, lighting, objets d’art, design-art and much else to the elegant purlieus of PAD. But will that mean that PAD reverts slightly to its earlier identity as design-focused?
Each part of Frieze has its subsections. Frieze London retains its Frame section, for younger galleries showing a single artist: there are 22 of these, from countries as diverse as India, Brazil, Spain and Turkey. This year too there’s a new section: Focus, which was introduced at Frieze New York in May, is a sort of intermediate stage between the young ones and the grown-ups, 20 galleries that are less than 10 years old. And, as before, the commissioned Projects, as well as the talks and films, make up the package we’ve come to know.
Masters, where there will be 80 main exhibiting galleries, also has its interesting side-kick section. Called Spotlight, it consists of 22 galleries that are again each focusing on a single artist – alive or dead – and for this applicants were encouraged to think of it as a chance to present the work of someone who might be generally under-recognised or deserving more attention. Some hardly fit this brief – both Bruce Nauman and art-market superstar Sigmar Polke are on the list – but in other galleries we will have a chance to re-evaluate other talents.
Apart from the sheer quantity and range of work on offer in Regent’s Park in October, and its possible knock-on effect on other fairs around the world as well as in London, there may be another consequence of this division of art around the timepoint of the year 2000. What we loosely refer to as “contemporary” art may now be almost half a century old.
And this could go on and on – when does something stop being contemporary? For some time now, many people have felt the itch for new, more accurate labels, ones that move ahead with the march of the years. Or is the “contemporary” label more a matter of sensibility than of dateline? For instance, New York’s Acquavella Galleries are bringing to Frieze Masters a sizzling Picasso of 1969 – but Picasso is clearly a “modern”. The magnificent Eggleston photograph on this page – from an artist still thank goodness alive and working – is definitely what we’d call a contemporary work, yet it was made only a year after the Picasso.
So – what is Frieze doing here? Re-drawing some boundaries, remaking the way we categorise? Many artists will have work on both sides of the divide, and indeed seven or eight of the bigger galleries – Hauser & Wirth, Lisson, Pace, Victoria Miro and others are at both fairs. But at the moment, with it all ahead of us, no one you meet seems in any doubt that Frieze Masters will be a rich and gorgeous treat, just the fair we all want to see. What isn’t so clear – when you think of a huge fair entirely composed of works created in the past 12 years – is what Frieze London will be like.
Frieze London and Frieze Masters run from October 11-14 in Regents Park, London.
The FT is media partner of Frieze art fairs. See our Collecting Supplement next Saturday, October 6, as well as extra coverage in the daily FT during Frieze Week