Understanding an Art Fair and its Dynamics: Frieze Art Fair London

As the MACE 16 group, we visited the Frieze Art Fair in London on Friday, 7th of October. It was my second time in Frieze, but I was still excited for this new experience. In addition, this time I was going to pay much more attention to things like my surroundings, the people who visited the fair and the place.

Jorge Valdez (2016)


With my lovely classmate Stef, we walked through the galleries for some time, had coffee and later shared our thoughts on our experience. So, in this blog I’ll be sharing my thoughts, some of our shared opinions and the concepts we discussed related to the Frieze Art Fair.


Before I came to class I did some research online to know more about the fair. I got some general information from the main site of Frieze like the fact that the fair was founded in 1991 by Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover. I also didn’t know that Frieze was actually a media and events company that publishes 4 magazines and organizes 3 international art fairs. It was nice to know, since I can check them out.

During last week’s Entrepreneurship Society event ‘how to come up with a business plan for your business’, we were introduced to the idea that there wasn’t a perfect business plan and that every business had its own journey. To support his point, the speaker told us some of the stories of the most successful and well-known companies in the world like Facebook, Nike and Coca-Cola. The fact that they all started from somewhere, either by finding a gap in the market or by solving a problem (as we have been learning in our Design-Thinking class) made me feel more confident about coming up with an idea that would eventually become a successful business, either in class or in the future. So I thought to myself, what about the Frieze Art Fair? How did it start? I found the answer on the website of Independent in an article by Alice Jones (2011). In Amanda Sharp’s words: “Our idea was simply to get really good galleries, put them together in a park in a nice bit of London and the art world would come.” I assume they didn’t even expect it to become a huge success.

Now I guess it’s time for me to write down some of my observations of the fair. Firstly, in terms of visitors, I realised they were from all around the world (I even heard Turkish), they were all different ages mainly between 18 and 40.

Secondly, the fair’s location made sense, since it is located around museums like the British Museum and the Sherlock Holmes Museum and it is also inside the Regent’s Park. We can say that it is placed in a really nice area and especially in one of the cultural areas of London. Additionally, the interior of the building was really well planned. White as the chosen colour, the bright lights and the wide corridors made the building feel more spacious and the corridors relaxing to walk through. (Click this link for a timelapse of my point of view of the fair!) I never felt like it was crowded except the entrance/exit area. Speaking of the crowd, the fair didn’t feel like it was really loud. Even though there was a lot of people I could hear my friends really easily.

(Click this link for an fun timelapse!)

In addition, the fact that the galleries were presented in an open space instead of separate rooms, made the pieces more accessible and easy to see, but also made the place a more sociable environment. If we think of the fair as a networking event, as it was discussed in the article called ‘The Art Fair as a Network’ (Morgner, 2014) in my opinion, people have more space to talk to each other and the open space gallery creates an environment where artists and exhibitors are more reachable.

Thirdly, the fact that the Frieze Art Fair offers facilities like a café, bar, outdoor seating area and a Reading Room makes the fair an environment where people are encouraged to spend time and socialise. Especially the Reading Room, where discussions and interviews take place, between the audience and the ‘Creative Class’ (Kapferer, 2010) which consists of people like the artists, curators and authors, encourages a conversation which would exist in a ‘culture-debating society’. I would assume the author Judith Kapferer would be happy about the Reading Room.

Stefany Chen (2016)

In terms of my overall experience, I have always been appreciative and supportive of artworks but to be honest I sometimes have a hard time understanding the meaning of some of them. This was the case in Frieze Art Fair too. There were many pieces that were interesting and that got my attention but I prefer knowing the motivations behind an art piece rather than looking at it and just thinking that it’s cool. Also, maybe if I had known more about art history, the artists and the art world in general, I would have taken more out of the fair. Anyway,  I really enjoyed my time there, had a great time with friends and it felt like I was part of the art world for a while.






2 thoughts on “Understanding an Art Fair and its Dynamics: Frieze Art Fair London

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