Frieze is the starting pistol for the art world’s runners. The interesting question is whether it is a sprint, a marathon or an aesthete’s Supermarket Sweep.
I can’t quite believe it’s got to that point in the year again: ‘summer’ ‘holidays’ over, Spear’s Awards out of the way (not that they weren’t a pleasure) and it’s already time for the Frieze Art Fair.
There have been some good private views already (Ryan McGinley at Alison Jacques Gallery was a star turn) but things kick off properly with Frieze (15-18 October): it is the starting pistol for the art world’s runners. The interesting question is whether it is a sprint, a marathon or an aesthete’s Supermarket Sweep.
A case can be made for each. The last category is not in fact a joke: if you have ever seen the Wednesday preview, which is when celebrities and major collectors are let in to snap up what’s good and hot before anyone else, you will note its resemblance to that much-maligned show of the Nineties. Essentially, buyers speed round trying to pick up the most desirable objects, rather than leisurely wandering through, alighting at a gallery here, a gallery there, appreciating the work and coming to a reasoned decision.
You can’t blame them: everyone wants to stop the inexorable march of Dasha Zukhova as she strides across the globe, cherrypicking the best on offer. And you know she’s serious about Frieze: she even has rollerblades for extra speed.
Sprinting is obvious. Frieze Week consists of a round of parties not seen since VE Day: every hauntable place in London is celebrating an artist or a gallery or their continued existence, and you will run up a considerable taxi bill to get to the best ones. It’s the 100m canape-grab.
But it’s the marathon aspect which really shows how important Frieze is. It’s a bellwether, a harbinger, a sign of art times to come: in brief, it sets the mood for the months to come. If you have a bad Frieze, the talk can turn against you and you may as well burn your canvases. If the whole of Frieze is bad – poor sales, poor attendance, poor quality of work – then the art market may stay depressed into the winter.
It’s the major event which launches the year in art, and like the Iowa caucus or the first night at Covent Garden, it may not just herald but influence what’s to come.