Frieze gives performance art space to breathe

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Live section added to art fair in London’s Regent’s Park

Richard Nonas’s Hold-Fast; Push Through, 2014, part of Frieze’s Sculpture Park, photo by David Owens

Art fairs have always provided the market’s scenes of spectacle, and never more so now that they are giving space to its latest trend: performance art. At Art Basel in June, the 14 Rooms exhibition, held alongside the fair, proved popular, and this year’s 12th edition of Frieze London, which opens to VIPs tomorrow, 14 October, sees the launch of Live, a section dedicated to performance-based works.

These are not confined to the crushingly contemporary: of the six galleries selected, two are restaging earlier works (Franz Erhard Walther, Jocelyn Wolff gallery, will show his early action-sculpture works; and Robert Breer, gb agency, will restage his Floats—motorised objects originally created for the 1970 World’s Fair in Osaka.)

The revival theme runs through the not-for-profit Projects section of the fair too, which this year extends outside the tent and also has a performative air. Jérôme Bel, the French artist-choreographer, is bringing his Disabled Theatre to the UK for the first time (there will be three performances at The Shaw Theatre, 14-15 October, in partnership with Dance Umbrella.) The work—which employs a Swiss company of professional actors with learning difficulties sparked debate when it was shown at Documenta 13 in 2012.

The total number of galleries in the main section is broadly the same (119 this year; 112 in 2013, with four New York galleries not returning, perhaps because of Frieze’s edition in that city). However, the Focus and Frame sections have been merged into just Focus (37 galleries, versus 40 in the combined sections last year).

While Frieze London is opening and closing a day earlier this year, Frieze Masters—its sister fair for art made before 2000—continues through the weekend (15-19 October).

This fair will have fewer obvious changes to what has always been the favoured format since Frieze opened its second tent in 2012.

However, there will be more differences in the exhibiting dealers. While their total number is again similar (106 this year, 104 in 2013), there is more churn at Frieze Masters, as can be expected for a younger fair. Nearly a quarter of the galleries have changed.

Newcomers include London’s Ben Brown, who has switched to Frieze Masters after several years of showing in the coinciding Pad London fair (Berkeley Square, 15-19 October, 2014); and the Munich dealer Georg Laue

Fans of older art will be pleased to see Peter Paul Rubens’ early Portrait of the Emperor Servius Sulpicius Galba (3BC-69AD), around 1598, at the booth of Amsterdam’s Salomon Lilian. When this work was offered at Christie’s in 1990, it was marked as “attributed to” Rubens (it didn’t sell for within an £8,000 to £12,000 estimate), but it has since been cleaned and fully endorsed by all the major Rubens’ experts (it is being offered at Frieze Masters for €3m).

Deutsche Bank sponsors Frieze for the 11th year, while Alexander McQueen supports Frieze London for the second time and the department store Selfridges is one of this year’s new sponsors

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