Unearthing the contemporary – Frieze Art Fair

Frieze art fair

The word ‘Frieze’ in relation to contemporary art has become synonymous with what’s cutting edge, cool and of course, a little bit pretentious.

In other words, Frieze represents the most contemporary of contemporary art. Anyone who wishes to claim the accolade of being in tune with the ebb and flows of the art market must be an annual presence in the affair. Frieze however, is not a private member’s club for the arty elite but a gigas of a sales spectacle. Frieze is a 3 day long art fair exhibiting and selling the most prestigious of works produced by solely living artists. This means that no historical masterpieces or blockbuster paintings created by the largest names in the art historical canon are sold, opting rather to focus on the works that are currently being made. The fact that Frieze employs a strict ‘contemporary-only’ policy ensures the already exclusive art is wholly avant-garde and up to date and more crucially, creates an image of a fair that is strictly ahead of the times, thus attracting the most fashion-forward of artists and clients.

One may view this as ironic when considering the fact that traditionally the word ‘frieze’ is used to describe an ancient band of sculpture – depicting a carved motif on the wall of a classical building –  which is arguably the most contrary form of art when compared to today’s contemporary works.

However, with the trendsetting reputation of Frieze in mind, it is no surprise that the fair is frequented by a multitude of  eager visitors comprising of press, prospective buyers and spectators (those of which make up roughly 50% of the footfall). In this case it is just as fruitful to consider Frieze as an enlivened and expansive exhibition rather than solely a demanding venue in which you are pressured to buy. In fact I would recommend the Frieze art fair as an organic gallery space, wherein the multiplicity of exhibits each offer something entertaining, possibly shocking and undoubtedly divisive. Furthermore, as Frieze is held in a temporary structure which is flooded by natural light in London’s regal Regent’s Park, the venue manages to avoid feeling stuffy and enclosed but promotes an energetic atmosphere. Frieze is ultimately rather fun, even if you don’t enjoy contemporary art, the fair is a perfect way to observe how the notorious art world functions. Even if you don’t want to buy, there is much pleasure in looking, especially when Frieze provides a visual feast that just keeps giving.


To exhibit at Frieze, over 500 galleries and artists apply annually. The selection of whom is exhibited is made by an elite committee of highly regarded gallerists working in the art universe.

The very fact that the decision making process is so clandestine merely adds to the air of privilege associated with the lucky chosen, further imbuing their exhibits with a sense of exclusivity and desirability to dedicated buyers.

Frieze tapestry

Frieze however, is not solely comprised of a one large exhibition space piecing together the entries from many disparate galleries, but includes venues called ‘Frame’ and ‘Focus’, created to display the endeavours of singular artists. For instance, ‘Frame’ is a space dedicated to solo artist presentations and is open to newer galleries, whom have only been existence for less than  8 years. ‘Focus’ on the other hand, displays art projects specifically commissioned for the fair and have been approved by the board prior to the show.

Frieze rose sculpture

Furthermore, to quell the electric atmosphere of the Frieze fair itself, is the Sculpture Park, only a short walk away from the main gallery, and nestled in a verdant and picturesque pocket of what is known as the ‘English Garden’. Unlike the Frieze fair, there is no requirement to purchase a ticket when visiting the Sculpture Park as it is open to the public.

The natural beauty in the leafy setting that houses the Sculpture Park is juxtaposed against and enhanced with the wealth of cutting edge sculptural talent executed by both established and emerging Frieze-approved artists.


To add variety to the mix, Frieze also hosts a series of Keynote lectures aptly named ‘Frieze talks’. ‘Frieze talks’ are held daily and the programme of lectures, panel debates and discussions held by some of the art-world’s leading figures, theorists and seminal critics are open to all Frieze ticket holders. Some of the past speakers have been household names such as Bridget Riley, and the topics addressed have been in line with  cerebral discussions on issues such as the limit of television’s influence on contemporary art. Truly an engaging affair, the Frieze talks are a reason to purchase a ticket to the fair in themselves; offering a thought-provoking lecture series reminiscent of what is delivered at top universities and unearthing some of the ‘concepts’ that frequent ‘conceptual’ art.

2013’s Frieze art fair takes place between the 17-20 October, and so purchasing a ticket sooner rather than later is much advised. More So if you’re someone with even a fracture of an interest in contemporary art. This is because Frieze is London’s best answer to a contemporary art extravaganza and therefore is the most efficient way to explore the medium whether you boast little or surplus familiarity with it.

Frieze art fair is dynamic, energetic and indicative of one of the most bizarre yet enthralling world that runs parallel to today’s society – contemporary art. Whether you love or loathe what you see exhibited, an insight to what experts consider to be the leading art of our time is illuminating to say the least.