Frieze London and Art Basel Are Pulling Out All the Stops to Lure Collectors Back to Fairs This Fall. Here’s What They Have in Store

The fairs will not have a vaccine mandate, though they will require a negative test or proof of vaccination.

Art Basel. Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images.

The Delta variant may be surging, but art fairs are still moving ahead with their 2021 editions, with both Frieze London and Switzerland’s Art Basel releasing new details about their fall outings today.

Neither fair will require vaccination for entry, although guests will be required to provide either a negative test or their vaccination record, and wear face masks. Frieze will be doing timed entry to allow for better social distancing, and Art Basel will cap capacity at 20 percent less than in the past.

In the U.K., Frieze London will welcome 159 exhibitors and Frieze Masters will feature 132, for a total of 276 galleries (some of which have booths at both fairs), around the same number as in 2019. Participants hail from 39 countries and include Karma, David Zwirner, Matthew Marks, Kukje Gallery, and Perrotin. In a shift from Frieze New York in May, where 22 international dealers ended up dropping out of the physical fair and participating online instead, all the exhibitors are currently slated to show work in person.

“We are hugely looking forward to this year’s Frieze London… and to reunite with colleagues,” Eva Langret, the fair’s new artistic director, said in a statement. “This year’s fair also sees a new generation of curators whose programming will prompt important conversations that not only reflect this moment of change and transformation but also look forward to what the future of the art world can be.”

A total of 272 galleries are currently on deck to appear in Switzerland. The fair—already postponed once this year—said that all participants would have a physical presence (participation in the online viewing room is optional). Back for Basel is the option of a ghost booth manned not by gallery staff, but an Art Basel-appointed assistant, as introduced at May’s Art Basel Hong Kong.

Frieze Art Fair 2019, London, UK. Photo by Linda Nylind.

Frieze Art Fair 2019, London, UK. Photo by Linda Nylind.

Both fairs have experienced staff departures ahead of their latest editions. Rebecca Ann Siegel, Frieze’s director of Americas and content, and Noah Horowitz, Art Basel’s director of Americas, announced their departures in July. Although the executives are not directly involved in the European events, they represent a broader changing of the guard at the world’s top art fairs at a time when these events are looking to make themselves indispensable to travel-wary galleries and collectors alike.

New to Frieze this year is “Unworlding,” which will see works scattered throughout the fair considering the timely theme of undoing of the world as we know it. Curated by Cédric Fauq, curator of Paris’s Palais de Tokyo and soon-to-be chief curator of CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux, “Unworlding” will feature work by artists including Nora Turato (Galerie Gregor Staiger, Zurich), Ndayé Kouagou (Nir Altman, New York), and Natacha Donzé (Parliament, Paris). There’s also a new Editions section dedicated to editioned works and multiples.

Frieze Masters, meanwhile, is adding a section called “Stand Out” that looks to showcase great design pieces, regardless of the materials involved or the date it was made. Luke Syson, director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, will curate.

At Art Basel, Giovanni Carmine, director of the Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen in Gallen, Switzerland, is organizing the 62 large-scale projects in the fair’s fan-favorite Unlimited section.

Highlights include Urs Fischer’s installation Untitled (Bread House), from New York and Los Angeles gallery Jeffrey Deitch; the debut of David Hockney’s trompe-lʼoeil painting Pictures at an Exhibition (2018/2021) from Chicago’s Gray gallery; and Entrare nel linguaggio (2019–21), a textile installation by 92-year-old Romanian artist Marion Baruch made specially for the fair.

There will also be 20 site-specific installations and performances throughout the city of Basel for Parcours, including Bunny Rogers’s Neopets sculpture presented by Berlin’s Société and Pedro Wirz sculptures at the Kunsthalle Basel presented by Germany’s Galerie Nagel Draxler.

The documentaries Beyond the Visible – Hilma af Klint, directed by Halina Dryschka, and Bill Traylor: Chaising Ghosts, directed by Jeffrey Wolf, will headline the fair’s film program.


Art Basel will be on view at Messe Basel, Messeplatz 10, Basel, September 21–26, 2021. 

Frieze London and Frieze Masters will be on view at the Regents Park, London, October 13–17, 2021. 

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