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How To Enjoy Frieze Art Fair (Even If You Know Nothing About Art)

By Gee Marling

Frieze London 2015 © Linda Nylind/Frieze

The art world all but closes down for August, however it’s new school term officially starts this week when Frieze, London’s most celebrated contemporary art expo, opens its doors with a preview on the 3rd and 4th October followed by an opening to the general public on the 5th. Now in its 16th year, the fair has expanded to include Frieze Masters (showing work from antiquity up until the year 2000), and Frieze Sculpture, a new venture which opened in July and concludes on Sunday.

Frieze week, as it’s unofficially known, is one of, if not the most exciting weeks in the art world’s calendar, with openings at major art institutions, smaller galleries and blockbuster auction sales all timed to coincide with Frieze to capitalise on the presence of the art market’s heavyweights in London.

That presence has earnt Frieze a reputation as being something of a platform for the rich and famous to flash their cash, and as a catwalk for the fashion pack to show off the recently landed AW18 collections. If that sounds just a tad off-putting, let us take this opportunity to remind you that there are also dedicated art lovers who assemble annually to see work by some of the most exciting international contemporary artists, both established and lesser known all under one, albeit giant, roof.

Zucchini pasta bake | @sproutedkitchen

Listen up

It’s 100 years since women gained the vote in the UK, and Frieze London intends to use its international platform to respond to the fact that women artists are still under-represented in the art world and especially the market. There is a strong focus on female art and artists this year in the talks and events and, and a special themed section called Social Work, celebrates artists who challenged the male-dominated art market of the 1980s. Chosen by a panel of 11 women art historians and critics, the section will include both well-known and overlooked female artists, who address questions of identity, labour and visibility in their work.

Victoria Miro’s booth at Frieze London, 2015 © Benjamin Westoby/Artsy

Don’t Worry About Other People

Other fair goers may look like they know what they’re doing, and sound like they know what they’re talking about but… they don’t. Art is subjective. Looking at it and responding to it is a hugely personal experience and not one that should be influenced by what other people think. Don’t be afraid to ask the gallerists questions about the artists and the work they are showing, even if you have no intention of buying, you may leave feeling enlightened or infuriated, but at least you will have felt something!

ARosanna Orlandi © Mehdi Lacoste

Wear Trainers

It should be mandatory for attendees of all trade fairs, for want of a more glamorous word, to sport comfortable footwear at all times. There is a lot of ground to pound and it can get pretty tiring trudging around, especially if you want to take a second look at some potential purchases (lucky you in this case). Flats are quite unusual at Frieze, especially during the preview and first few days when the glitterati descend, but you’ll have a much better experience if you prioritise comfort.

Fair goers at Thaddeus Ropac stand, Frieze, 2017

Take a charged phone

Not ground-breaking advice but worth flagging as Frieze offers a wealth of inspiration in the form of colours, compositions, shapes, textures, thought-provoking and controversial subject matters, and of course, totally surreal conceptual pieces. You’ll want to snap those captions to remind you of artists you like, plus the works themselves. It’s definitely advisable to go to Frieze with a friend, but do try to take a bit of a solo time to absorb things at your own pace. You’ll need your phone to stay in comms with your buddy as there is a lot to see.


Ajarb Bernard Ategwa, Red Dancers, 2017, courtesy Jack Bell Gallery at 1-54, the Contemporary African Art Fair, Somerset House

Make a day of it

Frieze Masters is well worth a look, and there’s also a section dedicated to galleries which have been operating for 12 years or less, ensuring under-the-radar emerging artists are given a platform alongside those represented by the more established galleries. Outside of the fair, London is awash with art-based events such as 1-54, the Contemporary African Art Fair at Somerset House, and The Other Art Fair presented by Saatchi Art which allows visitors to buy direct from the artist, the latter is great if you’re just career as a budding art collector is just beginning.

Frieze Art Fair runs from October 4-7,

1-54 runs from October 3-7,

The Other Art Fair runs from October 4-7,

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