The white-topped marquees that dot Regent’s park during the Frieze Art Fair have become a fixture of autumnal London. The fair has built an unrivaled reputation for attracting the world’s most exciting mix of industry-celebrated and undiscovered art for purchase. This October will mark a new chapter in the event’s history: after the success of their first New York fair in May, they’re now expanding into the historical art market, with a coinciding show entitled Frieze Masters.
Before joining Frieze in 2004, Siddall worked for the London auction house Christie’s. She now heads up the firm’s new venture into historical art.
“No one has ever tried to do a fair like this before,” says Victoria Siddall, the director of Frieze Masters. “It’s a totally unique and contemporary approach to historical art.” Unlike other meticulously segmented historical art fairs, Frieze Masters will put works from across the last millennium side by side. “You might see Donald Judd next to a medieval sculpture,” says Siddall. For her, the goal is to challenge the archetype of the artistic master as a white European male. This has meant enlisting Brazilian curator Adriano Pedrosa to select works from 22 of the 90 exhibitors that show artistry from both sexes in regions ranging from Asia to the Middle East.
Exhibiting pieces created before the 21st century has presented new challenges for Frieze, namely getting to grips with the intense authentification process that’s required in the historical art market. Siddall says: “This is a whole new world for us; at our contemporary fairs we just ask the artist, ‘Did you make this?’”
To solve the problem, Frieze had the bright idea of enlisting a committee of museum experts from around the world.
Born in Cologne and educated in Florence, Selldorf is president of the board of directors of the Architectural League of New York. Her remit is the Frieze Masters’ temporary gallery space.
Over Frieze’s history, the temporary exhibition space built for its contemporary fair has become almost as anticipated as the work it houses. Annabelle Selldorf is well versed in art spaces: she’s best known for the Neue Galerie in New York and renovating the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown. She’s also designed spaces for some of Frieze’s oldest exhibitors, such as Hauser and Wirth. “I’ve always admired how Frieze has supported different ways of design,” she says. “We’re mindful that there should be a sense of arrival.”
Selldorf’s structure, which will be walking distance from Frieze’s contemporary offering, is expected to incorporate her signature use of natural light and muted colour shades. She’s hinted that her minimalist design will be 4m-tall and give exhibitors the chance to customise their showing spaces. “We want to present a modern way of showing old masters and classical art,” she says.
As for creating an imposing gallery space that’s easily dismantled, Selldorf says, “Unlike other fairs that conceal that they are displaying in a temporary space, we’re saying it’s a temporary space but one that’s well made.”