Frieze Masters

Author ········· Mariam Nader
Published ······ Online, Sep 2012

Section ·······  Art & Design

Hassan Sherif, Ruler & Wire (1984). Courtesy of Sfeir-Semler.

Since 2003, the Frieze Art Fair London has been held annually in lush Regent’s Park, a royal park ripe with cultural and historical significance. For the last four years, Frieze London has been attracting an average of 60,000 visitors each October—to spectate, participate, purchase and network. Usually featuring over 170 different galleries and their respective artists, (not to mention commissioned works and not-to-be-missed talks from notable and international fine arts professionals), it is no surprise that this particular fair is ripe with cultural capital, and is hugely anticipated every year. 

This year, visitors to Frieze London can also take a short walk through Regent’s Park to enjoy the inaugural opening of Frieze Masters, a fair that is taking a decidedly new approach in its curatorial vision, closing in on the heels of 10th edition of Frieze London. Frieze Masters aims to explore the relationship between contemporary art and the works of the past (from 1960s Minimalism to ancient art) by juxtaposing art works, and will be housed in a temporary structure designed by Annabelle Selldorf. The interior will be minimalist and modern, with a muted palette of greys and white which will allow gallerists to display pieces from various eras of history without the feeling of untimeliness. 

Kota Reliquary, Guardian Gabon Wood. Copper, brass, iron. Courtesy of Entwistle London.

This initiative comes at a time when more than ever, it seems that artists are looking to the past for dialogue, inspiration and direction. So although Frieze London has always been associated with the idea of ‘new’ art, the roots of contemporary practice are never too estranged from the histories that they react to. “We have always been a fair which puts artists at the centre of what we do, and in our conversations we have found that many artists engage with these ideas,” says Victoria Siddall, Director of Frieze Masters via an e-mail interview. “We know that there is an active dialogue between the past and present, and we hope that by bringing a contemporary approach to historical material we can make it an active conversation.”

Rupert Wace, Ancient Art Two Mesopotamian stone duck weights, 2nd millenium BC. Lengths: 36 and 14 cm. Provenance: Both weights from private European collection. Courtesy of Rupert Wace Ancient Art, London

Whether or not your preferences lie with old art or new art, there is sure to be something for every visitor at Frieze Masters. Lovers of pre-modern art practices will enjoy Spotlight, curated by Adriano Pedrosa, a section of the fair dedicated to solo artist presentations of work from the twentieth century. According to Siddall, “this section is a place to discover works by figures both familiar and less well known and is a means for visitors to reconsider the idea of the master, in particular stretching the definition of ‘master’ to include women and more geographies that it might otherwise be associated.”

Birgit Jürgenssen, Mrs. Churchill (1976). Pencil, colored pencil on handmade paper 62,5 x 45 cm. Courtesy of Galerie Hubert Winter, Vienna.

Much of art history is currently, in many intro-level courses, taught from a Euro-centric perspective. Frieze Masters hopes to illuminate some of these missing voices in the trajectory of art history by including galleries from countries like Lebanon, Brazil, Mexico, Romania, Turkey, Argentina and China, to name a few. Though at the moment a Lebanese gallery is the only contributor of Middle-Eastern art, the team at Frieze Masters hopes to see more applications from this part of the world, as it would contribute to the geographical diversity the fair hopes to garner. In the aforementioned Spotlight section, Galerie Sfeir-Semler in Beirut presents the work of Hassan Sharif, an artist whose practice is concerned with the negative effects of consumerism. Born in Dubai in 1951, Sharif is often credited for being one of the pioneers of contemporary art in the United Arab Emirates. His inclusion in this particular section of the fair speaks to this idea of “masters” from often-marginalised regions of the world.

Frieze Masters is on from 11-14 October, Regent's Park, London

Based in Toronto and of Lebanese descent, Mariam Nader studied art criticism at OCAD University. After finishing an internship with Canadian Art Magazine this June, she will be working freelance as a art critic and essayist.