It's that time of year again. 'Frieze Week' has descended upon London for its ninth year and its centrepiece, the fair itself, held its preview day on Wednesday. Super-VIPs arrived early and queued for the first entrance at 11am. Another round of average-VIPs hit the aisles at 2pm and by evening the tent was packed with well dressed revellers looking at art and each other (particularly at Nigel Slater and Gwen Stefani). The fair feels bigger than ever this year but perhaps a little less exuberant than in the past, undoubtedly due in part to the perilous economy on both sides of the Atlantic. But everyone is here once again, which must be that there's still a certain amount of optimism.
The word from serious collectors was that they weren't particularly impressed with this year's offerings but that doesn't mean that there weren't some highlights for the more typical cultural enthusiast. On Thomas Dane Gallery's stand, Londoner Michael Landy's 'Credit Card Destroying Machine' is a fabulous contraption of saws, levers, stuffed toys and a wood chipper that will make a drawing, signed by the artist, for anyone willing to have a credit card shredded and spewed out in bits. (You may remember that this same artist once systematically destroyed all of his belongings in an empty department store on Oxford Street.) It's bound to be a crowd favourite. The gallery has also put together a beautiful studio-style hang of works by all of its artists that is worth spending some time with.
A lot of the larger galleries did seem to be playing it safe, but it's harder to do that in Frame. This is the section of the fair dedicated to single artist presentations by galleries less than six years old. It is a particularly strong selection this year and the countries represented by the Frame participants is impressive: Colombia, Argentina, Japan, Poland, Israel. There are four great, smaller London galleries in Frame as well; they are all well worth a look.
Frieze Projects gives artists the opportunity to produce new, site specific commissions for the fair and always gives rise to some great work that seems to lift the fair beyond its commercial foundation. Christian Jankowski has a yacht company attempting to sell one of its boats from a conventional gallery stand. Be sure to find your way to Pierre Huyghe's otherworldly fish tank as well.
On a more practical note, many potential visitors will be happy to hear that the dining scene has expanded this year. A pop-up restaurant by Mark Hix, himself a figure in the London contemporary art scene, is there again and more spacious than in years past. Moshi Moshi is new on site this year, selling sushi and Japanese treats. Gail's is back but rather than being stuck in crowded corners, they are given annexed space with lots of seating, meaning that it's possible to get away from the crowds and sit quietly over your tea and pecan brownie before diving back in.
Frieze Art Fair runs through Sunday 16 October in the southern end of Regent's Park. More than 170 galleries from around the world are participating this year. There is also a programme of high calibre talks, an education programme and an outdoor sculpture park (which can be viewed for free). Visit www.friezeartfair.com for more information.
Photos by Chris Osburn and Zoe Craig.