What Is Frieze Week And Why Does It Matter?

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 89 months ago
What Is Frieze Week And Why Does It Matter?
A work by Gabriele De Santis at last year's sculpture park. Photograph by Linda Nylind. Courtesy of Linda Nylind/Frieze

Frieze week: it has nothing to do with the weather getting colder. In fact it's the moment in London's art world calendar when everything hots up. The primary driver is the massive art fair Frieze London — one of the biggest of its kind anywhere — drawing international collectors from across the globe.

Because of this influx of influential people, the art world goes into overdrive, with several other fairs springing up across the city. Most commercial galleries are putting on a show with their signature artist(s), and some major gallery exhibitions are opening in Frieze week too.

What is Frieze?

Frieze London sees over 160 galleries and 1,000 artists set up in Regent's Park — an area where artworks regularly sell for millions. Frieze is now in its 13th year and displays purely contemporary art — that is, art by living artists.

For the last three years Frieze London has been accompanied by Frieze Masters, a sister fair specialising in older work — from ancient Roman artefacts right through to pieces made as recently as 1980. It's designed to showcase work that has stood the test of time, while Frieze London is all about the hottest new art being made today. If Frieze London is the bold attention seeker, Frieze Masters is the refined older sibling.

But be warned: neither art fair is cheap to get into. Tickets are £34 for Frieze London alone and £50 if you'd also like to visit Frieze Masters. If that sounds too dear, there's a free Sculpture Park outside, allowing you a taste. (To help navigate the sculptures we recommend the free Art Fund app.)

But if a few sculptures alone aren't enough to sate your appetite, there's plenty of cheaper goings-on:

Art fairs

Frieze's influence spreads far and wide; and if it isn't to your taste (or budget), other art fairs might be. These include African Art in 1:54, affordable emerging artists at The Other Art Fair and street art in Moniker Art Fair. Design fans can head to PAD and there are lots of editions on sale at Multiplied. If commercial art fairs aren't your bag, there's Sunday Art Fair and Sluice; both eschew the traditional art fair layout and are free to get into.

MC Escher will be opening during Frieze week at Dulwich Picture Gallery. © The M.C. Escher Company

Major exhibitions

Most major institutions have a big exhibition on when Frieze is in town. Some open before — such as Ai Weiwei at The Royal Academy, Auerbach at Tate Britain and Damien Hirst's new gallery — while others will open during Frieze week, including Escher at Dulwich Picture Gallery, Giacometti at National Portrait Gallery, Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Lee Miller at Imperial War Museum.

Commercial exhibitions

While all the collectors are in London, the commercial galleries (some who will be at Frieze) will be trying their best to lure potential buyers out to their gallery spaces. The plus side for all of us is we'll get to see plenty of free exhibitions featuring major artists. The world's largest art dealer Larry Gagosian will be opening a massive new space in Mayfair, there's a double bill of influential video artist Bill Viola in Blain|Southern and the Brewer Street car park, and the Fine Art Society is promising an exploration of performance art — let's hope it's as good as the exhibition they had last year.

Any fan of art will find plenty to see and do over Frieze week — the biggest concern being how to fit it all in.

Frieze week starts 12 October, while Frieze London runs from 14-17 October and Frieze Masters 14-18 October.

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Last Updated 08 October 2015