Preview: Frieze Masters 2014

Huon Mallalieu previews Frieze Masters in London this October, which has potential to be the very best of London's art fairs this autumn.

October 15 to 19 are going to be the busiest few days in a month of fairs, with not only Frieze London and Frieze Masters topping and tailing Regent’s Park, and PAD in Berkeley Square, but the Harrogate Antique & Fine Art autumn event at the International Centre in North Yorkshire. This week, I shall look at Frieze Masters, with a glance back to some September sales at LAPADA, and next week will turn to PAD and Harrogate. Following on their heels will be the winter Olympia Art & Antiques Fair (November 3 to 9).

The first two outings of Frieze Masters showed that it has the potential to be the very best of London’s art fairs. In order for it to do so, it is essential that organisers and exhibitors fully understand that they are creating something new. As the idea is to demonstrate to collectors that old and modern cannot just live in harmony, but enhance one another, the organisers must resist any temptation to raise stand numbers by including too large a proportion of modern galleries, which would make it seem just an overflow extension to the Frieze event across the park.

It would become all too easy for ‘crossover’ visitors to miss the old entirely. Already, the percentage is more than 60 new to 40 old. Then, the ‘Spotlight’ section of about 20 smaller stands putting on single-artist displays is limited to 20th-century specialists. Perhaps there is a case for earlier galleries there, too?

Last year, some of the Older Master dealers fully understood the enhancement point, weaving elements of modern and contemporary into their usual stock. I do not remember many, perhaps any, modern dealers doing the same in reverse. Others among the older brigade gave the matter less thought, showing a random modern piece without integrating it convincingly.

Originally, Frieze Masters was limited to ‘flat’ and ‘round’ art essentially, the traditional fine arts of painting and sculpture. Anti-quities came in under the heading of sculpture and now some Oriental dealers, such as Berwald and Ben Janssens, and specialists in medieval works of art are included by extension. Thus, Sam Fogg, Daniel Katz and the wonderful Brimo de Laroussilhe from Paris are present, as they should be in any gathering of the world’s best dealers.

Kunstkammer Georg Laue from Munich and Peter Freeman of New York will fully embrace the multi-cultural, or rather multitemporal, ideal, with their joint stand. They juxtapose Renaissance or Baroque objects with significant 19th- and 20th-century works of art to produce direct ‘conversations’. Ten years on from a joint show in New York for the exhibition ‘A Collector’s Cabinet of Curiosities’, the artworks on display do not only complement one another, they also show clearly that modern artists have been and still can be inspired by the Renaissance phenomenon of the cabinet of curiosities, the ever-fascinating Kunst- and Wunderkammern. Laue’s and Freeman’s choice exemplifies the correlation between old and new while emphasising the wonders of artistic creation.

Elsewhere, Thomas Gibson will be exhibiting a selection from the Long Collection, formed by Terry and Joe Long, who have been clients of the gallery for more than three decades. Their artists include Corot, Delacroix, Gauguin (another is with Jean-Luc Baroni), Léger, Picasso and Vuillard. From Amsterdam, Salomon Lilian is bringing an important Rubens portrait and the School of London paintings with Offer Waterman include several by masters still at work rather closer to the fair, Frank Auerbach (b. 1931) and Leon Kossoff (b. 1926).

Mr Kossoff has a vibrant 29½in by 22in charcoal-and-pastel drawing of Christ Church, Spitalfields, a favourite subject: ‘When you look at Christ Church, a whole new world of space is opening up. You experience space and light that you hadn’t before, that is what painting is all about. Space and light occupied by human presence,’ he has said.

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