Ten years ago, an art fair pitched a tent in London’s Regent’s Park. Now film stars and oligarchs queue to get in to the HQ of the see-and-be-seen art scene. Charlotte Philby examines its cultural significance for The Independent:
“On 17 October, 2003, Frieze Art Fair launched in London. According to the press release, this long weekend would see “124 of the leading galleries in the world, from 16 different countries, showing new work from over 1,000 artists [in an] 11,000-square metre space in a prime location in Regent’s Park, in an installation designed by the leading architect David Adjaye”. It didn’t disappoint. Unsuspecting passers-by who found themselves ambling through the gardens that morning might have wondered if they’d taken a turn into a surreal parallel universe. By the time the official photographer, Dafydd Jones, turned up an hour before opening, the queue outside the vast temporary gallery was around the block; at the front stood Grayson Perry in frilly splendour, alongside some of the world’s richest collectors. It was, Jones recalls, “a success from the moment the doors opened” – and a people-watcher’s paradise.
Inside the world’s most glamorous tent, oligarch Boris Berezovsky perused the displays flanked by a towering bodyguard; a few feet away, Hugh Grant and his art advisor ‘um-ed’ and ‘ah-ed’ over potential acquisitions. Perhaps he had his eye on Paola Pivi’s Slope, the inaugural Frieze Project (the annual on-site commission, made by a different artist eachf year), which saw visitors rolling down a grass hill erected inside the tent; or Tino Sehgal’s This is Right, which involved a bunch of kids chatting about what they didn’t get about art. “These were the boom years,” Jones recalls. “There were all these people – many of them dressed quite scruffily – falling over each other to buy pieces.” Ryan Gander, now 37, was one of the artists whose work was on sale that first year: “I was young and very naïve about what the art world was like… the opening night felt to me a bit like going on a school trip or a Butlins holiday, where everyone knows each other.”
Read on at The Independent.