It's that time of year again when art dealers polish their large, structurally pronounced eyewear and flog their wares in tent city. The art world's marathon, Frieze Art Fair is back.
Statistics: Frieze started in 2003. 170 or so galleries take up 20,000m2 of Regent's park. They pay stand rental of £320 per sq metre. That's £38,400 for a four-day hire of a 120m2 booth. Punters pay £27 for one-day entry and it has 68,000 visitors. Sales figures are not made public. There's no business like art business.
The 'fair' bit in the title is the clue to its purpose and Frieze founder Matthew Slotover has this to say: "Art fairs are vastly compromised situations in so many ways. We know that. It's not like going to a gallery and spending hours with a single work. But it is a great opportunity to see loads of stuff and there is a buzz which makes it exciting." I agree, Frieze is exciting and once you get over the fact that it is basically Westfield for billionaires you can enjoy it for what it is; A market-place for the big boys. At over £10,000 for the smallest of booths (for which there is a very strict criteria) only galleries at a certain financial level can show there.
But despite the unease some feel at the continued merging of art and finance, what Frieze does is create it's own 'art season' with many other satellite events, taking place during what is now called 'Frieze Week'. It is also the time that the blue-chip galleries have their best shows, so even if you don't fancy forking out £27, there is a lot of free stuff around.
Sunday Art Fair, which was by far the most interesting of the satellite shows from last year, is free to get in and takes place nearby. This year it features some great galleries, including Limoncello and Arcade from London and New Gallerie from Paris amongst others. The carefully curated show is in a slick-free space and are a welcome respite from endless Warhol's at some stands in Frieze.
The big opening this year is The White Cube in Bermondsey, set to be the biggest private gallery in Europe. It is by all accounts still a building site, which is fairly apt, as the first show is called 'Structure and Absence' and includes work by one of my favourite artists, Jeff Wall. There is also a smaller gallery within the building that will be showing 'emerging artists', although a cursory look at the roster makes me question that term. Artists such as Kitty Kraus and Marieta Chirulescu seem to have already 'emerged'. I'm really looking forward to these shows and this new space.
Last year's party at Museum of Everything was legendary and a counterpoint to the A-A-Armani brigade. Known for showing Outsider Art, they too have a show opening during Frieze, Exhibition #4.1 - a retrospective of self-taught fibre artist Judith Scott in the brutal environs of Selfridges Hotel.
Thomas Dane, who represents so many great artists like Steve McQueen, Michael Landy and Anya Gallaccio, is christening a new space designed by David Kohn Architects. Don't expect fireworks during the biggest sales week, but Dane can be relied on to have subtle, discreet and challenging work and the inaugural show is by German artist and former Neue Wilde boy, Albert Oehlen.
I'm also looking forward to the new kid on the block, Sluice Art Fair near Bond Street which is showcasing non-profit artist-run galleries, including the exciting George and Jørgen, Studio 1.1 and the ever-reliable Transition gallery. Of particular interest for me is an installation piece by Michael Petry, an artist who has collaborated with PayneShurvell.
Frieze is an exhausting way of getting a simplistic overview of the art world. Yes, there are embarrassing pieces of press grabbing tut like the €81million yacht for sale, but it is this kind of crass commercialism that is neither art nor fair.
However, within Frieze there are many superb commissioned pieces as well as Frame, a section for younger, more challenging galleries to have a shot, and outside of Frieze there is enough art for everybody.