The old and the new(ish): Frieze Masters 2015 presents a plethora of classic works
As the more serene, stately and buttoned-up cousin of Frieze Art Fair, this year’s Frieze Masters offered a plethora of eclectic and beguiling objects from across the centuries, with less of the hustle and bustle of the main tent. To the untrained eye, there were lots of works that looked like more famous paintings — a portrait of Napoleon’s coronation copied from the original by Jacques-Louis David and an anonymous German crucifixion scene that looked like it might have been a Rogier van der Weyden. Then there were the pieces that really were by who you thought they were by: a real Samuel Palmer watercolour, an oil painting by Esteban Murillo, a drawing by Egon Schiele and so on.
Another conceit for many of the fine booths at Masters was to mix the old with the new(ish), perhaps pitting Renaissance and Roman busts against a backdrop of subtle abstract waveforms in gouache by Bridget Riley — the whole enterprise being a collaboration between antique dealers Tomasso Brothers and contemporary gallerist Karsten Schubert. A New York gallery bringing Agnes Martin drawings shared space with a cabinet of historical curios including spooky mannequins and spiky rackets for a brutal looking ball game from 17th-century Italy called ’pallone’.
As always, in the aisles of an art fair the singular or solo presentations shone brightest, with Cuban painter Carmen Herrera’s elegant geometric compositions charting five of the ten decades she has been on the Earth appearing to have landed from some other, futuristic planet. An amazing mixed collection of cubism adorned the stand of Simon Dickinson, while another London-based gallery showed an astonishing range of Richard Hamilton prints, going back to the 1940s. Now an annual fixture, the ambitious Helly Nahmad installation imagined an asylum as inhabited by the brutish French painter Jean Dubuffet, while a two-person show at the quirkily inventive Museum of Everything also included a secret cocktail bar behind the curtains to provide weary time-travellers with a bracing horseradish vodka — itself a strange combination of flavours that somehow combined to work wonders.