Frieze Art Fair is on its way and, as its Head of VIP Kristina McLean reveals, 2014 is set to be a key year for aspiring art collectors. Catherine McCabe finds out more
Art fairs can often be something of a serious business – a place where visitors scrutinise works in the millions from behind a firmly drawn yellow line. And yet, last year’s Frieze Art Fair was like an artful playground. Children and art critics alike could be seen climbing inside the ‘womb’ of Jennifer Rubell’s enormous ‘self portrait’ while Jeff Koons’ candy-coloured sculptures reflected the crowds – protected from sticky fingerprints by security guards. And somehow, there was method in the madness. The ‘art saturation’ of years gone by had been toned down for the sake of visitor experience: more space, fewer galleries, and a higher standard of work.
To date, Frieze remains one of the biggest events on the calendar of any collector but, for others, the ‘art’ world is an intimidating clique to penetrate. Kristina McLean, Head of VIP Relations at Frieze claims that 2014 will be a landmark year for the ‘green’ art collector with the launch of new initiative, Frieze Bespoke. ‘It’s aimed at people who are interested in collecting and learning about collecting, those who don’t really know where to start,’ explains Kristina, ‘it’s a programme of private tours of the fair, led by art world insiders. It makes the Frieze fair a little less daunting.’
Can a curious art lover ever really afford a Frieze-standard work? Kristina believes with the right advice, it’s more accessible than the headlines would have you believe. ‘We have things that are up to £5.5 million or more, but there are also works in the thousands. There are a huge amount of people in London – young professionals, who are interested in the art world, and we just want to make that easier for them.’
Frieze is treated as something of a holiday destination for seasoned collectors, many of whom are drawn by the huge choice of works on offer. Between Frieze London and Frieze Masters, the fair covers more than 7,000 years of art history. The key collectors are still found in America, though strong communities are emerging in Germany and France. ‘And we’ve recently been to China where many people were really looking at blue-chip contemporary art,’ says Kristina.
Art sales and commerciality are an inescapable part of any art fair, but this year sees a bold new move from Frieze with the launch of Frieze Live. Sponsored by Alexander McQueen, this new section aims to interrupt the normal order of the fair with performance and participatory projects.
Live will offer a chance for emerging galleries who have not previously worked with Frieze to use the space free of charge. One event will involve a performance from UNITED BROTHERS of the Green Tea Gallery, Iwaki with Does This Soup Taste Ambivalent?, where artists will ask visitors to taste soup cooked by their mother using vegetables grown in Fukushima’s 2011 nuclear disaster. The ingredients have been certified as safe, but participants will have to explore the theoretical threat that it may be radioactive.
There will also be an expansion in the Frieze Focus section of the fair, which showcases emerging galleries – good news for those aiming to collect from lesser known artists.
Kristina’s main advice for anyone visiting the fair, whether collector or bystander, is to talk to the galleries. Those people with the name tags sitting by the art are not installations, they are there to help. ‘Learning is such a key part of Frieze. If conceptual works are explained to you, you could fall in love. Don’t have it nagging you in your mind after you’ve gone.’ Anything else we should know? ‘Yes’ she says, ‘wear comfortable shoes, there’s a lot of walking to be done.’
Frieze London and Frieze Masters Art Fair will take place 15–18 October 2014 in Regent’s Park, combined tickets for the shows are priced at £50, visit friezelondon.com
For details on Frieze Bespoke visit friezebespoke.com