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Frieze London opens its doors to the public on Thursday, October 5, but the 2017 edition kicked off in July with the summer opening of Frieze Sculpture. As London’s largest showcase for major outdoor art, it includes significant works by artists such as Sir Anthony Caro, John Chamberlain, Urs Fischer, Takuro Kuwata, and more. In the tent, more than 160 galleries are participating, with a particularly strong showing from Latin America, and the special exhibition “Sex Work: Feminist Art & Radical Politics,” curated by Alison Gingeras, featuring radical feminist work since the 1960s. Victoria Siddall, director of Frieze London, Frieze New York, and Frieze Masters, filled Whitewaller in on the 15th edition of the fair and the role Frieze plays in today’s contentious political climate.
WHITEWALL: This is the 15th edition of the fair. What does that anniversary mean for a fair like Frieze that used to be the new kid on the block?
VICTORIA SIDDALL: In many ways Frieze London still feels very fresh, both because it is still relatively young compared to many of the big international fairs, and because we continue to innovate every year with new curated elements. The fair has maintained the thoughtful curatorial and critical approach that distinguished the fair when it first opened 15 years ago.
Frieze London has also grown to become a vital commercial platform for galleries of all stages and sizes, and has established itself as the place for collectors to discover significant artists and artworks from around the world at a range of prices.
I am particularly happy that many of the exhibitors that joined us for the first fair in 2003 return each year to showcase their incredible programs and the pioneering artists they support, including David Zwirner, Maureen Paley, Greene Naftali, White Cube, Sprüth Magers, Stuart Shave, and Gisela Capitain.
WW: Ruba Katrib will co-advise the Focus emerging galleries section. Who are some of the fair first-timers of note?
VS: Galleries making their Frieze debut in the Focus section include Gypsum (Cairo), Revolver Galería (Lima), blank projects (Cape Town), Cooper Cole (Toronto), Emalin (London), Instituto de Visión (Bogotá), Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler (Berlin), and Union Pacific (London).
WW: Ralph Rugoff curates Frieze Talks around artists’ responses to “alternative facts.” How was that topic arrived upon?
VS: With the political landscape across the U.S., Europe, and the world rapidly evolving and growing increasingly polarized, Ralph thought it would be compelling to shape a Frieze Talks program that will explore how—in an age of “alternative facts”—artists’ capacity to beguile and disrupt conventional notions of “the real” takes on new meanings.
WW: What role do you see the fair playing in responding to the current political climate?
VS: The role of Frieze is to provide a platform to showcase the work of the most significant and dynamic artists working across the world today. As we saw at Frieze New York in May, many artists’ works reflect and engage with the political, social, and cultural climate either head-on or more indirectly, which makes the fairs even more interesting sites for dialogue and the exchange of ideas.
WW: Outside of the fair, what exhibitions are you most looking forward to seeing in London this October?
VS: I am really looking forward to seeing Rachel Whiteread at Tate Britain; Jean- Michel Basquiat at the Barbican; and the survey of Jasper Johns at the Royal Academy of Arts, the U.K.’s first in 40 years. I would also strongly encourage anyone visiting London to see the Tate Modern show “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power,” which will still be on during Frieze Week.
This article appears in Whitewaller London & Paris 2017, out this week.