Monday, 19 October 2015


Frieze Masters tries to make old pictures fashionable by mixing them with the moderns. I like my old masters unfashionable and splendidly isolated, so I approached my first visit with low expectations. How wrong I was! There was a good deal not to my taste, it's true. But there were so many good and unusual things. My highlights were concentrated at a handful of stands, which shows the value of a good dealer. Some make money by having a good feel for popular taste (or maybe popular among the 0.1%). But some dealers just have exquisite taste (or maybe taste that coincides with mine). 

Richard Nagy created a mini Neue Galerie with great twentieth century German and Austrian fine and decorative art, including a roomful of Schieles (above). Stephen Ongpin had a wonderful selection of drawings, but I especially liked this tempera still life by Eliot Hodgkin (below). His stand focused on nineteenth and twentieth century drawings, but my taste is more towards the Italians in the corner, including two drawings of  elephants by Stefano della Bella.

Picture: Stephen Ongpin
Stephen Ongpin has a wonderful gallery in Mason's Yard, next to Jean-Luc Baroni. Baroni's stand was the other great highlight of Frieze Masters, where I became one of those annoying tourists taking photos of every single picture. Everything he had was good and interesting. 

Picture: MS
Highlight is this astonishing Degas, which doesn't reproduce well. There's a better image on the dealer's website, but I'm using mine because I wanted to show the frame. Baroni's and Ongpin's pictures were perfectly framed, which makes such a difference. 
Picture: ArtDaily
I know nothing about Antonio Mancini, to my shame, but his Portrait of Luigino Gianchetti as a Violin Player is magnificent, also with Baroni. 
Picture: MS
Doyen of Dutch dealers Johnny van Haeften had some superb Jan van Kessels and a floral still life by the underrated Simon Verelst. Didier Aaron & Cie was stuffed with unusual treasures, including a still life of leeks by Joakim Frederik Skovgaard (nope, me neither - but fine picture), a Museum Corridor by Christien Dalsgaard and several fine Alfred Stevens. Weiss had a great Pourbus portrait, a rare first rate picture by a normally fairly ordinary artist. And Sam Fogg had A monumental drawing for the crossing tower of Rouen Cathedral, presented to the Cathedral Chapter on 8th March 1516 by the master mason himself. It is indeed monumental, an enormous scroll confronting us at the entrance to the fair. A photo can't do it justice; the detail below gives a sense of the intricate details. It would be a perfect acquisition for the Victoria and Albert Museum, should any of you wish to buy them something?
Picture: MS
The powerful impression of works like the cathedral drawing drown out the memory of things I didn't care for and displays I didn't like. I went to the main Frieze fair too, but I have nothing original or insightful to say about it. By way of a sample, here is a self portrait by Tracy Emin, in case any of you care for such things:
Picture: MS


  1. Mancini was a favourite of Hugh Lane and as a result the Hugh Lane gallery in Dublin has a number of his works: Generally, they are not on display but as part of the current Hugh Lane exhibition, a number of them are on display.

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