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Frieze Week London 2023

20 Moments From 20 Years of Frieze London

Two decades of the fair in moments, according to Cory Arcangel, Steven Cairns, Lubaina Himid, Mike Nelson, Sarah McCrory and others

BY Chris Waywell AND Matthew McLean in Frieze London , Frieze Week Magazine | 09 OCT 23

2003 ‘The First Person We Employed Was a Curator’

‘We felt that London deserved a time in the year when the spotlight was on it, and we wanted to make a place where people could meet and things could happen. All the decisions we took were trying to lead towards that. So, we employed an architect and graphic designers who could really create an exciting identity that got across that this could be a fun place to be. Actually, the first person we employed was a curator. Not an admin person. It was Polly Staple, who sat down and said, “You’ve got six months to work out how this can be a platform for artists and a place where things are actually made.” We’d come from a magazine background; we’d always wanted to have a great talks programme in London, like the ICA did in the 1980s. In a bizarre way, we sort of started an art fair to allow us to fund a talks programme.

‘No one involved had done an art fair before. There was tension and stress and grown men crying. I was on holiday in the summer of that year and I got a call from Matthew [Slotover, Frieze co-founder] saying: “You’ve totally fucked it, no one’s coming to this art fair.” But I reminded him we had a strategy: we had to have one, because we didn’t know any collectors at all. I was like: “We’ve got the best galleries in the world: the good collectors will come.” I think we’ve always put our belief in the art and that that’s the bit that matters.

‘The art world was small at that time: but we thought about who the interesting architects were, the interesting novelists, the interesting dancers, chefs, fashion designers, and we added them to the invitation list, though we never anticipated they’d come. We wanted it to be for us, but to be permeable and inclusive, too.

‘Opening night: insanity. I remember standing in the entrance corridor and it felt like watching every person doing interesting, creative things in London was there. The crowds were unmanageable. And it was raining. People like Anish Kapoor in the rain for an hour.

‘We hated the queues. So, we worked to fix them. We got them better every day. We didn’t wait till the next year. It was our goal from day to day to improve. Still, the biggest high for me will always be the opening day of that first fair. You can’t replicate the extraordinary shock of that success.’

Amanda Sharp is co-founder of Frieze. She lives in London, UK.

Lisson Gallery, Frieze London 2008. Photograph: Linda Nylind
Lisson Gallery, Frieze London 2008. Courtesy: Frieze and Linda Nylind; photograph: Linda Nylind

2004 Cory Arcangel Finds What He’s Looking For

‘When I attended my first Frieze in the early aughts, finding that energy was my absolute priority. That energy included transmissions I received from one of Mark Leckey’s soundsystems shown at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in 2002; I was so enthralled and starry-eyed, it seemed to me as if the whole city was vibrating. What kind of place was London that it could produce such things?

‘As luck would have it, I stumbled upon a gallery-cum-apartment whose name is lost to history [Miller’s Terrace, run by Ash L’ange and Nicky Verber before they co-founded the gallery Herald St], where Relph and Payne had an exhibition. Among other things, they had placed a pair of trainers on a copy machine. Again: my generation, my land- scape, my world.

‘Twenty years later, every day I pass a Relph and Payne print at the entrance of my office in Stavanger, Norway. It’s there because I want to be reminded of that time of discovery: of meeting Ian White, of 2-step, of VHS tapes and of moving/ image/magical grey and rainy London.’

Cory Arcangel is an artist. He lives in Stavanger, Norway.


A Landmark Acquisition for Tate

Founded the same year as the first fair, the Outset Contemporary Art Fund is a philanthropic organization dedicated to supporting new art. From 2003–15, the Outset Frieze Tate Fund acquired 100 works from the fair for the Tate collection. In 2005, these efforts produced an historic moment: the first ever performance work to enter the Tate collection was acquired at Frieze, Slovak artist Roman Ondak’s Good Feelings in Good Times (2003), which takes the form of a queue of people. The Frieze Fund supported by Endeavor has continued the mission of acquiring works for the nation at the fair since 2016, while Outset returns to Frieze this year with a takeover of the entrance corridor by recipients of its Studiomakers Prize, awarded to outstanding MA Fine Art graduates from London art schools. Curated by Annie Jael Kwan (curator of the capital’s forthcoming Brent Biennial 2025), this project is the first time the prizewinners have collaborated: another first for Outset at the fair.

Channelling, the Outset Studiomakers Corridor Commission, is on view in the Frieze London entrance corridor for the duration of the fair.


Mike Nelson Enjoys the Silence

‘In 2006, I was commissioned to make a project for Frieze, a work entitled Mirror Infill which occupied a hidden space between the gallery booths accessed by three doorways. The work – a photographic darkroom bathed in red light – documented the construction of the fair, from the building of the tent to the arrival of the galleries. To do this, I was allowed access to all parts of the fair at all times. My memory is of being in the tent alone in the night, walking the aisles and booths as if in a giant puzzle or game, the myriad of gallery names and artists’ crates mixing and morphing in the whiteness of the deadening quiet of night.’

Mike Nelson is an artist. He lives in London, UK.


Faith Is Rewarded by a Flea Market

‘Frieze Art Fair seemed like one of those ideas that was successful before it had even taken place: same with Frieze Masters, when it came to being. I remember Matthew [Slotover] coming over to talk through the list of invited galleries with Leslie Waddington whom I was working for at the time, and just thinking: This is so going to work.

‘The fair instantly achieved a celebratory atmosphere: not only in its busyness — at the first one, I remember Leslie, let’s say, vibrantly, taping off the stand due to the number of people — but for the serious focus it materialised and continues to bring to London, its galleries and museums, as well as its capacity for unifying art with other parts of the cultural sphere, like fashion and food.

‘The most memorable stand for me is Rob Pruitt’s Flea Market at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in 2007, for its commitment to the breadth of what the platform of a stand, and by extension, a gallery, could be. [Pruitt invited dozens of artists, including Jeremy Deller, Jonathan Horowitz and Sam Taylor-Wood, to offer their own art and collectibles on the stand, with prices starting at £0]. At that time, it seemed that such a gesture was so suited to have taken place at Frieze.’

Phillida Reid is the founder and director of Phillida Reid gallery in London, UK. She lives in London.

Cory Arcangel, The Golden Ticket, 2008, commissioned and produced by Frieze Foundation for Frieze Projects. Photograph: Dominick Tyler
Cory Arcangel, The Golden Ticket, 2008, commissioned and produced by Frieze Foundation for Frieze Projects. Photograph: Dominick Tyler


A Crash, Confusion and a Golden Ticket

For writer Nate Freeman, Sotheby’s 2008 sale of more than 200 new Damien Hirst works, ‘Beautiful Inside My Head Forever’, which netted $200 million is: ‘a defining moment in the pre-recession contemporary art boom’. Freeman notes that Lehman Brothers bank announced its closure the very same morning, auguring the first great financial crash of the new millennium.

At the 2008 fair, opening almost exactly one month after the Lehman news, Frieze Projects (curated for the second year by Neville Wakefield) echoed some of the crisis’ confusion. German artist Andreas Slominski installed digital signs displaying incorrect times and weather reports, while Cory Arcangel (him again) sent chocolate bars to galleries whose applications to exhibit had not been successful, one of which contained a ‘golden ticket’ entitling the recipient to participate in the fair with a free booth. Exhibitors were cautiously optimistic through the uncertainty: Thaddaeus Ropac, participating since the first fair, reported: ‘If you’d asked me this morning, I would say we were preparing for a slowing of the market, but after 2pm, it really picked up.’ ‘Sales are happening less quickly,’ he added. ‘But we prefer this.’


An Emerging Star Introduces Particle Physics

Many ideas emerge in a guided tour of the fair, but, in 2009, visitors could consider something a bit different: the fundamental nature of reality. Your Napoleon, a commission by the American artist Jordan Wolfson, saw visitors sign up for one-to-one walking tutorials in string theory with David Berman, a physicist at Queen Mary University of London. Each tour was then re-enacted by performers the following day, with interventions and interpretations by the artist, creating a loop of cultural commentary that ranged from awesome to agitating. ‘I consider myself one of my viewers,’ Wolfson told the New York Times in an interview about the piece, ‘and it would be paradoxical to speak simultaneously to myself and others.’

Wolfson’s project was the result of the Cartier Award, one of a long line of awards for emerging artists at Frieze London, which have supported the likes of Cécile B. Evans, Kiluanji Kia Henda, Rachel Rose, Mika Rottenberg, Himali Singh Soin, Pilvi Takala, Mario García Torres, Alberta Whittle and Abbas Zahedi. The 2009 commission was Wolfson’s first major project in the UK, predating his acclaimed presentation of Raspberry Poser (2012) in Los Angeles, Warsaw and at London’s Chisenhale Gallery, and his triumphant debut with David Zwirner in 2014.

See the commission by the 2023 Frieze Artist Award winner, Adham Faramawy, at Frieze London.

Paul Simon Richards, This Is Lucky, 2011.
Paul Simon Richards, This Is Lucky, 2011. Courtesy: Frieze Foundation for Frieze Projects; photograph: Polly Braden


A New Curator Embraces Risk

Wakefield, Sarah McCrory was appointed curator of Frieze Projects in 2010, overseeing such memorable commissions as Simon Fujiwara’s fictive archaeological dig under the fair’s floor (2010), Monster Chetwynd’s performance A Tax Haven Run by Women (2010), which included a full-scale homage to the Catbus from 1988’s My Neighbor Totoro, and a food-based collaboration with Grizedale Arts, where Pope.L devised a tomato-throwing competition called Life Is Unfair (2012) and Nicolas Party presented a giant mortadella sausage, so heavy it almost couldn’t be brought into Frieze for fear of collapsing the floor.

In particular, McCrory recalls collective Lucky PDF’s television studio, which broadcast happenings live from the 2011 fair: ‘In an “episode” by Paul Simon Richards,’ she says, ‘wrestler Tiny Iron fought his nemesis Rage, in a fictional romp around the fair. It was brilliant, but we nearly had heart failure, as the wrestlers got a bit carried away and rumbled dangerously close to a huge Kaws sculpture. Side note: Tiny Iron has the biggest biceps in Britain, measuring 24 inches in circumference.’

Sarah McCrory is director of Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art, London, UK. She lives in London.

Michael Landy, Credit Card Destroying Machine, 2010
Michael Landy, Credit Card Destroying Machine, 2010. Courtesy: the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery


The Credit Card Machine Creates a Craze

‘We have seen queues at Frieze over the years, but we didn’t expect to create queues on our own booth. In 2010, Michael Landy was commissioned by Louis Vuitton to make an artwork for the reopening of its store in London. The choice of Michael was daring for a luxury brand: he was known for his irony and his profound reflection on consumerist culture, destroying the entirety of his possessions in 2001 during the two-week performance Break Down, commissioned by Artangel. For Vuitton, Michael created a gigantic kinetic sculpture, inspired by the late Swiss artist Jean Tinguely. The work was set in motion by a pedal and dozens of bits of rusty metal junk, tools and old toys, would start shaking and clicking. At the same time, an assistant would feed your credit card (it had to be valid, crucially, not expired) into a grinder and the machine would then make you an original kinetic drawing, which Michael signed.

‘Vuitton had first refusal on purchasing the sculpture after the exhibition and, perhaps unsurprisingly, decided to pass. When Credit Card Destroying Machine (2010) was sent back to us we thought of Frieze: what better playground with its engaging philosophy and engaged audience?

‘We never expected the work to create such a craze, but as word got out that for the price of your credit card you could get an original Landy drawing, people started queuing to participate. By the time the fair ended on Sunday, we had produced hundreds of drawings and collected hundreds of ground-up credit cards. Another daring and inspiring person, the collector Dimitris Daskalopoulos, acquired the work at the fair, and allowed it to continue its clicking and grinding life in places like Athens and the Museum Tinguely in Basel.

‘This event has a special place for us, not only as one of the best moments at Frieze, but also in the 20 years of Thomas Dane Gallery’s life.’

Francois Chantala is partner at Thomas Dane Gallery, London, UK, and Naples, Italy. He lives in London.


Olympic Commissions, a New Fair and an Audience with the Pope of Trash

Over the summer, Frieze participated in the Cultural Olympiad of the 2012 Olympic Games with a series of public artist commissions in the Games’ host boroughs, such as Anthea Hamilton and Nicholas Byrne’s giant, inflatable installation Love (2012). To mark a decade since the original fair, Frieze Masters was launched: a fair dedicated to historical art.

Meanwhile, at the newly renamed Frieze London, director, author and art lover John Waters gave a keynote at Frieze Talks, curated by frieze magazine’s Dan Fox, Jörg Heiser and Jennifer Higgie. Waters was due to discuss ‘stupidity’ in a ‘for and against’ debate with the artist Sturtevant, who was sadly unable to join due to illness, meaning Higgie stepped in for a ribald discussion that took in dirty jokes and the legacy of Mike Kelley. At one moment, Waters cited his oft-quoted watchword: ‘If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them.’ He clarified that what he’d actually do is still fuck them and just offer to get them some books the morning after. Over the years, Frieze Talks has welcomed giants of contemporary art and culture, including John Akomfrah, Daniel Buren, Douglas Coupland, Adam Curtis, Nan Goldin, Zaha Hadid, Brian O’Doherty, Yoko Ono, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Agnès Varda and Vivienne Westwood. In 2010, artist Jeffrey Vallance even invited four mediums for a panel discussion, so visitors could hear the likes of Marcel Duchamp and Frida Kahlo ‘speak’.

Grizedale Arts & Yangjiang Group, Colosseum of the Consumed' (2012) - William Pope L, 'Tomato Shy'.
William Pope L, Tomato Shy, 2012 Commissioned and produced by Frieze Foundation for Frieze Projects 2012. Courtesy: Polly Braden; photograph: Polly Braden


A Turner Prize Winner Is Smitten

‘The stand-out Frieze London memory for me was Falke Pisano’s installation on the Hollybush Gardens booth in 2013. It was called Instrument for a Spatial Conception of Repetition (2013). It was the most daring, precarious, clever and elegant piece I had ever seen at an art fair. I fell in love and it has stayed with me ever since.’

Lubaina Himid is an artist. In 2017, she won the Turner Prize. She lives in Preston, UK. 


An Empire State of Mind Arrives

Fresh from visiting the Louvre, Beyoncé and Jay-Z arrived on the Eurostar to visit the London fairs, taking selfies at David Zwirner’s Frieze London booth, before heading to Frieze Masters to admire works by Rosemarie Castoro and Rembrandt. Art-loving musicians are Frieze London regulars: Usher first visited the fair in 2012; Rihanna followed in 2019, acquiring a work by Pacita Abad from Manila’s Silverlens in the Cosmin Costinas-curated feature section Woven; in 2022, Lionel Richie selected a trio of Calida Rawles works from Lehmann Maupin’s Frieze London stand in the first hours of preview day.


A Video-Art Pioneer Does Disco

‘Charles Atlas’ 2015 Frieze Film Commission was a testament to his pioneering role in “media-dance” since the 1970s. The film’s dialogue between dancers Cori Kresge and Hiroki Ichinose, with their silver sci-fi costumes and the set’s dry ice, evokes a celestial dreamscape with a hint of disco. It’s choreography for the camera and the television screen, an intimate canvas where video effects lend an otherworldly texture. The work, broadcast on Channel 4, pays homage to the transient energy of the dancefloor. It seamlessly integrates the televisual context and the screen, an example of Atlas’ collaborative genius, pushing boundaries in performative and visual arts.’

Steven Cairns is curator of Artists’ Film and Moving Image at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London, UK. He lives in London.

Launching this year, the ICA x Frieze Artists’ Film and Moving Image Programme showcases emerging and under-exposed artists as well as rediscoveries submitted by Frieze London galleries, which are selected by a jury including Cairns, independent curator Róisín Tapponi and Greg de Cuir Jr. of the Kinopravda Institute in Belgrade. Screenings will take place at the ICA, from 10 to 15 October. 


An Inspiring Reflection on Queer Progress

‘In 2016, Frieze London presented a new section curated by Nicolas Trembley, entitled The Nineties. It provided an opportunity to step into recreations of ground-breaking shows from that decade, one of which was Wolfgang Tillmans’s first-ever exhibition in 1993, with Daniel Buchholz. Tillmans pinned and taped glossy prints to the wall alongside magazine spreads and tear-outs, including photographs he’d taken for i-D magazine of Gay Pride in Berlin the previous year, 1992. Seeing these images within the context of Frieze London was one of the many beacons of light that encouraged and led us to organising the first ever Queercircle event in November 2016. This year is the 20th anniversary the fair, but it also marks two decades since the repeal of Section 28, which banned “the promotion of homosexuality”: it’s important to remember how recently queer art just couldn’t be shown in certain contexts in this country.’

Ashley Joiner is a curator, filmmaker and the founder and director of Queercircle. He lives in London, UK.

Queercircle are providing daily tours of Frieze London focusing on the work and stories of LGBTQ+ artists.

Installation by Renate Bertlmann at Richard Saltoun, Sex Work section, Frieze London 2017
Richard Saltoun, Sex Work section, 2017. Courtesy: Mark Blower and Frieze; photograph: Mark Blower


The Joy of ‘Sex Work’

When iconoclastic New York and Warsaw-based curator Alison Gingeras was invited to curate a section, she came with a typically bold proposal: to celebrate a generation of artists working at the extremes of feminist practice since the 1960s, whose output had been sidelined or, in some cases, even seized and censored, for its challenging sexual frankness. The resulting section – entitled Sex Work: Feminist Art & Radical Politics – included a dolled-up, rotating pink phallus by Renate Bertlmann (who would go on to represent Austria at the Venice Biennale two years later); collages by Penny Slinger (whom Dior invited to collaborate on a landmark runway show in 2019); epic painterly depictions of intercourse by Betty Tompkins; and a timeline dedicated to the pioneering feminist gallery A.I.R. Gingeras deliberately proposed showing controversial work to test Frieze’s willingness, she told the Financial Times: ‘I assumed they would say no [...] But they embraced it.’

Curated feature sections to follow included Social Work (2018), showcasing women artists selected by a panel of women artists and curators; Woven (2019), exploring global fibre art, curated by Cosmin Costinas; and a trio of more philosophically inclined sections: Possessions (2020), curated by Zoé Whitley; Unworlding (2021), curated by Cédric Fauq; and Indra’s Net (2022), curated by Sandhini Poddar.


New Initiatives and a Reassertion of Asian Art

Strengthening its links with London and UK institutions, Frieze launched two new initiatives at the 2018 fair. The Camden Art Centre Emerging Artist Prize selects an artist exhibiting in the Focus section for young galleries to realize a debut solo show at the renowned north London institution. Its inaugural recipient was Hong Kong video artist Wong Ping, presented at the fair by Hong Kong’s Edouard Malingue. Meanwhile, the Contemporary Art Society’s Collections Fund at Frieze was initiated to acquire work at the fair for the collection of a UK regional museum, who bid for the opportunity via proposal. In the first year, The Box – based in the port city of Plymouth and known for its focus on portraiture – gained works exploring identity and with maritime themes, including a video installation by Kehinde Wiley depicting Black men at sea, presented by Stephen Friedman Gallery, and two performance costumes by Canadian-Korean artist Zadie Xa from the stand of Union Pacific.

Work by artists in Asia and from the Asian diaspora formed a strong presence at the fair that year. In Frieze Sculpture, an interactive glass and metal spire by the Korean artist Kimsooja, presented by Axel Vervoordt, towered over the English Gardens. Lisson Gallery foregrounded an arresting 2018 portrait of a transgender woman by Chinese artist Liu Xiadong; and Pace’s stand prominently featured Chinese artists, selling porcelain wall sculptures by Yin Xiuzhen and a mirror installation by Song Dong.

An ambitious presentation of an Asian artist was a significant moment for White Cube’s Georgina Wimbush: ‘One of the most memorable moments was when, in 2018, we did away with the traditional booth concept and built a cage-like construction to house a solo presentation of new works by Liu Wei. We have been one of the first large galleries to establish ourselves in Hong Kong in 2012 and it felt important to reverse the flow, bringing Asian artists to the West.’

Georgina Wimbush is a director at White Cube, a gallery in Hong Kong, London, UK, New York, USA, Paris, France, Seoul, South Korea, and West Palm Beach, USA. She lives in London.


A Step in a Greener Direction

When environmental audits identified a number of improvements to the fair’s carbon footprint, Frieze made the decision to switch to HVO biofuel, dramatically reducing emissions. Plastic VIP cards were also scrapped in favour of digital passes.

Frieze’s first carbon audit took place in 2007, but as the urgency of the climate crisis has grown clearer, the fair has provided space and visibility to ecological efforts. In 2021, charities including ClientEarth and Julie’s Bicycle were given space at the fair, and the Gallery Climate Coalition (GCC, of which Matthew Slotover and Frieze alumnus Victoria Siddall are founding members) received a booth to promote its carbon calculator and showcase a Wolfgang Tillmans print, donated by Maureen Paley to be sold as a fundraiser for GCC. In 2022, a collaboration with Platform Earth saw Es Devlin’s I Saw the World End (2022) displayed in the fair’s entrance corridor. This year, visitors to the fair are again invited to nominate an environmental charity to support, with Frieze match-funding all donations.


A Pivot in a Pandemic

By the autumn of 2020, the global coronavirus pandemic precluded large-scale public gatherings, including Frieze, and the fair took a novel, hybrid format. More intimate in-person events – from gallery openings and tours to a curated Live programme (featuring Alvaro Barrington, Mandy El-Sayegh, Denzil Forrester and Haroon Mirza), among others taking place at Frieze’s No.9 Cork Street and livestreamed online – joined purely virtual events, like the Frieze Viewing Room (FVR), providing galleries with a new tool to reach audiences. Significant business on the FVR during the week included the sales of a suite of paintings by Ulala Imai at Union Pacific, an installation of 40 William Kentridge bronze sculptures by Goodman Gallery, and an Alex Katz canvas to a French collector by Thaddaeus Ropac. Hauser & Wirth’s Iwan Wirth told ARTnews' Angelica Villa of first-day sales ‘totalling over 15 million dollars’, including a 2020 George Condo painting for $1.8 million. Its title? The New Normal.

arl Freedman Gallery, Frieze London 2021  Photo by Linda Nylind. Courtesy of Linda Nylind/Frieze.
Carl Freedman Gallery, Frieze London 2021. Courtesy: Frieze and Linda Nylind; photograph: Linda Nylind


Party Time

With Frieze London returning to a full in-person fair with a timed booking system to limit crowd sizes in the COVID-19 era, there was an air of rejuvenation and rejoicing: 80,000 visitors came through Frieze London and Frieze Masters in the week. At the fair, Rene Matić became the youngest artist to feature in the Tate collection after the 24 year old’s work was acquired from the Arcadia Missa stand by the Frieze Tate Fund Supported by Endeavor, while Carlos/Ishikawa wowed visitors with a solo presentation of London-based artist Issy Wood, including a booth floor hand-painted by the artist. Around town, there were knock-out shows by Jordan Casteel at Massimo de Carlo, the late Noah Davis, curated by Helen Molesworth at David Zwirner, John Giorno’s first UK exhibition at Almine Rech, and an Antwuan Sargent-curated group show at Gagosian.

On the Friday evening of Frieze Week, at the newly opened Toklas restaurant, fashion icon Donatella Versace hosted artists including Matt Copson, Anthea Hamilton, Prem Sahib, Sung Tieu and Wolfgang Tillmans alongside the likes of Dua Lipa, Princess Julia and Kylie Minogue for a knees-up. ‘It feels like old times,’ observed party photographer Dave Bennett.


Frieze Music Brings the Noise

‘Seeing Self Esteem at Frieze Music was really wonderful. It was at KOKO and it was wild. A lot of these things that I do I quite often feel like an outsider. In the evening, after going through this day where you’re meeting so many different people, to see your best friend who you love on that stage entertaining the whole of the art world is bloody surreal. She used to do karaoke in my living room.

‘Frieze should be fun: it can have joy and humour. The stakes don’t need to be that high. It’s not always a terrifying thing, it’s a massive platform. And it was really lovely to be able to do something as part of it that was celebrating a different type of culture. It reminded you that art is about pleasure and enjoyment. To see such a happy, exuberant crowd showed how Frieze is able to shift to adapt to different times. And that’s what art should do: it should adapt.

‘Creating art is like creating a party that other people want to join in with and be excited about. You’re absolutely honoured if someone wants to join your party.’

Lindsey Mendick is an artist and co-founder of Quench, a project space in Margate, UK. She lives in Margate.

Stevenson, Frieze London 2022
Stevenson, Frieze London 2022. Courtesy: Frieze and Linda Nylind; photograph: Linda Nylind


Looking Ahead

‘The 20-year history of Frieze London is dizzying. Looking back, there have been doppelgängers (Elmgreen & Dragset, 2005), street vendors (Lloyd Corporation, 2013), opera singers (Laure Prouvost, 2018) and tea parties (Yasmin Jahan Nupur, 2019). When compiling a list of Frieze alumni artists, gallerists, curators, writers, thinkers and patrons, an overwhelming sense of joyous community prevails, with a feeling of boundless creativity and playfulness that’s perhaps unexpected from what is ultimately an international trade fair. 

‘Frieze London is everything at once: a marketplace, a learning space, a commissioning and curatorial platform, a meeting place. Its deluge of ideas, people and artworks feels so far removed from the humdrum atmosphere of an industry event. Its long efforts to integrate artists and ideas into the fabric of the fair, to make the experience less trade-like and more art-like, has changed what the art world expects of art fairs – permanently.

‘It has also reflected a wider cultural moment, which has seen the art world grow in size, scope and reach, and start to evolve in ever-greater proximity with popular culture. Indeed, Frieze London’s trajectory since 2003 mirrors the spectacular transformation of London into an international arts capital. In an Artforum interview in 2008, Frieze co-founder Amanda Sharp noted that, in 1991, when she and Matthew Slotover launched frieze magazine, there were “maybe five serious international galleries in London”. In 2023, more than 130 galleries participated in the last edition of London Gallery Weekend, and new spaces continue to pop up in all corners of the city.

‘At the same time, the city has morphed into a financial hub, completing its transition into an international powerhouse in the age of globalisation. While this transformation has not been without consequences for those who call the city home – in particular communities displaced by gentrification – it has also propelled London and its artistic communities into a new era of professionalism and internationalism. Today, the whole world is in London: the ever-growing list of international artists and gallerists who work here, the international students at its art schools, or the global cultural leaders that helm its institutions.

‘Meanwhile, a new generation continues to chart paths towards greater systemic change, embedding principles of equity and social and racial justice into the very fabric of the city’s institutions and structures, putting London at the forefront of rethinking what a truly global, inclusive and diverse artistic community can be. Accordingly, Frieze London continues to change, too, with a renewed commitment to showcasing as broad a spectrum of the local and international art world as we can, to platforming new voices, and to championing new ideas in our emerging post-COVID, post-Brexit reality. To work with our community of artists, galleries, institutions and curators towards the art world that we want, we must continue to cross boundaries and blur definitions, finding the productive ‘in-between’ space where possibilities are born. Novel forms of collaboration are key to invigorate our arts ecosystem and our broader artistic community. If we want to go far, we must go together.’

Eva Langret is director of Frieze London. She lives in London, UK. 

As told to Matthew McLean and Chris Waywell 

This article first appeared in Frieze Week, London 2023 under the headline '20/20 Vision'.

Main Image: Cory Arcangel, The Golden Ticket, 2008. Commissioned and produced by Frieze Foundation for Frieze Projects 2008. Courtesy: Frieze; photograph: Dominick Tyler

Chris Waywell is Senior Editor of Frieze Studios. He lives in London, UK.

Matthew McLean is creative director at Frieze Studios. He lives in London, UK.