Masterful Frieze Masters

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I’ve loved Frieze Masters since it appeared on the art fair circuit three years ago. It’s not just the quality of what’s there. It’s the downright unexpectedness and revelation of it all. Here are a few thoughts from what was a disgracefully short visit last week.

1 You need to look round the corners – there are always gems around the corner at Frieze Masters. If you don’t keep looking, you could miss the Picasso or the Francis Bacon that’s just out of view.

2 There are things that you couldn’t imagine exist – the first work I saw this year (at Sam Fogg’s stand) was a drawing of the spire of Rouen Cathedral. I thought it might date from the 1820s, but it was the presentation drawing from 1500-1520. The level of detail was difficult to comprehend – and for it to have survived for that long…

3 Read the labels – they can keep you on the straight and narrow and shock the living daylights out of you, but they also provide snippets of interesting provenance and backstory.

4 All stands should have labels – some (step forward, Gagosian) don’t go in for labels and the stands are the poorer for it.

5 Good lighting matters – it’s an obvious point, but the most atmospheric stands had lighting that enhanced the works being presented.

6 Primitive art is having a moment – moving on from displaying stone and metal antiquities with modern and contemporary art, the fashion seems to be for wooden pieces of primitive art. Sometimes it worked; at other times, less so.

7 Having the talked about stand last year seems to have translated into sales this year – Helly Nahmad’s installation of a 1960s Parisian apartment was the talk of the fair last year and this year’s installation of an asylum demonstrated a similar level of detail – think medical records, domino games and abandoned roller skates. But if the number of works with orange stickers on their labels was anything to go by, the stand was also the focus of some pretty energetic buying.

8 Collaborating is good – there seemed to be a number of new best friends – Hauser & Wirth exhibited with Moretti Fine Art; Karsten Schubert with Tomasso Brothers. Again, the objective was the juxtaposition of modern and older pieces.

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