If you are going to London for the impending art fairs, you should be in training now. Frieze Art Fair is open to the public Oct. 15–18, and Zoo from the 16th to the 19th, but what takes place in the booths and tents is only a fraction of the cultural activity to be experienced during the week, when the London scene shows what it’s made of. Accept that it’s not possible to see everything worth seeing, and take comfort from knowing that for some, like John Baldessari, just getting to all the events they are directly involved in will be a challenge. Here is a selection to show you the full gamut of activities on offer, which may leave you exhausted.
Saturday, Oct. 10
Getting a head start on the weekend before the fairs is a good plan. British artist Tariq Alvi is talking about his exhibition at East End not-for-profit space Chisenhale at 2 p.m. Saturday, after which there will be time to check out "Pop Life: Art in a Material World" at Tate Modern, a useful barometer of the mood in museums these days. That evening Baldessari’s show opens at Sprüth Magers in the West End, and so starts his marathon: His Tate Modern exhibition "Pure Beauty" opens to the public Tuesday, Oct. 13, and on Friday, Oct. 16, he’s taking part in an unmissable discussion on the West Coast art scene of the 1960s, with fellow Californian Ed Ruscha, at the Royal Academy.
Sunday, Oct. 11
Sundays are normally a quiet day for commercial galleries, but not Hauser & Wirth, which will open its Subodh Gupta exhibition "Common Man" to the public on Oct. 11 and 18. It’s a great day to catch several projects from commissioning agency Artangel: Roger Hiornss installation Seizure, for which he coated the interior of a flat near the Elephant and Castle tube station in blue copper sulfate crystals, earning himself a nomination for this year’s Turner Prize; Karen Mirza and Brad Butlers Museum of Non Participation, a collection of workshops, screenings, discussions, and performances to be found off the Bethnal Green Road out east; and Charles LeDrays labor of love, "Men's Suits," in a former West End fire station.
Monday, Oct. 12
Monday is a manageable day, but there’s still enough to keep you busy. The Barbican hosts the alternative Free Art Fair (Oct. 12–18), which does what it says on the tin, as the Brits like to say; all the art is given away at the end of the fair to randomly selected applicants. While you’re in the famous Barbican, you can also see Polish artist Robert Kusmirowski put the final touches on his installation Bunker, which opens fully on Oct. 15, or catch the final days of “Radical Nature: Art and Architecture for a Changing Planet, 1969–2009” in the Barbican Gallery. In the evening, the auction season kicks off at 7:30 on Oxford Street with a sale at Selfridges department store, where the works in the Pandamonium” exhibition curated by Artwise — “retired” panda collection boxes transformed by artists and designers including Rachel Whiteread, Gavin Turk, and Jim Lambie — will be auctioned for the benefit of the World Wildlife Fund. From there it’s a short cab ride to Haunch of Venison at 6 Burlington Gardens for the private evening view of German painter Jonas Burgerts show "Hitting Every Head."
Tuesday, Oct. 13
Committed art lovers will be up early to visit Anita Zabludowiczs Project Space 176 for a breakfast opening from 9 a.m. on Tuesday; the current show there is “Pete and Repeat,” culled from Zabludowicz’s own impressive collection. Also worth a visit in North London is the nearby Camden Arts Centre, where you can see the exhibition "Head-Wig (Portrait of an Exhibition)," which is curated by artist Paulina Olowska and includes some of her own works. It kicks off the evening at 6:30 at Iniva back east, where top Indian artist N.S. Harsha talks about his ongoing exhibition with curator Tessa Jackson. But don’t dwell in this area too long, as the main action is in the West End, where, among others, Simon Lee Gallery opens with Heimo Zobernig; young gallery Josh Lilley opens the group show “A Broken Fall,” including Conrad Shawcross; Thomas Dane Gallery unveils its Walead Beshty exhibition “Production Stills”; and London grande dame Sadie Coles opens shows by big hitters Ugo Rondinone and John Bock. If art alone is not enough, Patti Smith will be performing at the opening of the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition “A Season in Hell.” And a hot ticket is the party hosted by Haunch of Venison tonight to celebrate 25 years of Parkett magazine.
Wednesday, Oct. 14
If you have a preview ticket to Frieze, that’s where you’ll be on Wednesday. If not, a good alternative is the first day of the Ed Ruscha retrospective exhibition at the Hayward Gallery (for even more Ruscha, see his artist book of Jack Kerouacs On the Road at Gagosians Davies Street space, opening Oct. 12). Don’t make the mistake of going along the Thames to find the Saatchi Gallery — it has long since left County Hall and is currently showing the exhibition “Abstract America: New Painting and Sculpture” on Kings Road in South London. There will be Frieze after-parties and dinners galore, but it could also be time for a tactical early night, as much more is to come.
Thursday, Oct. 15
Thursday is Zoo Art Fair invite-only preview day. In the afternoon, Phillips de Pury will hold two auctions at Howick Place: photographs at 3 p.m. and design at 5 p.m. While you’re there don’t miss the Idris Khan films embedded in the pavement outside 9 Howick Place just around the corner. Back in the West End, Pilar Corrias celebrates one year in her own gallery (having been a director at both Lisson and Haunch of Venison) with Shahzia Sikanders show “I am also not my own enemy.” Gagosian’s Britannia Street gallery opens with an exhibition of Glenn Brown works, as does Anselm Kiefers exhibition at both White Cube sites, Masons Yard and Hoxton Square. While in Hoxton Square, note the absence of Yvon Lambert Gallery: Unlike Corrias, Lambert did not last the year.
Friday, Oct. 16
If you still have money to spare, it is unlikely to last through Friday’s exciting auctions. Sotheby’s has a short sale of 20th-century Italian art starting at 2 p.m., a warm-up for its 223-lot sale of “Contemporary Art, Including Arab and Iranian Art” at 3 p.m. The highlights of the latter include Chris Ofilis Afro Apparition, a large mirror work by Anish Kapoor, and works by Mona Hatoum, Farhad Moshiri, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Take a break at the sumptuous Kapoor solo show at the Royal Academy on Piccadilly before Christie’s much more manageable sale of postwar and contemporary art at 7 p.m. There are only 25 lots, but all are from big names, including Luc Tuymans, Peter Doig, Neo Rauch, Andreas Gursky, and Martin Kippenberger. An off-site Frieze project by Turner Prize–winning Martin Creed is taking place at Sadler’s Wells Theatre this evening and over the weekend: Work No. 1020 will be performed through Sunday. The evening comes to a winning end with the opening of the Kandinsky Prize exhibition, which celebrates Russian contemporary art, at the Louise Blouin Foundation in Holland Park from 6:30 till 11 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 17
There’s no excuse for a lie-in this weekend — the Serpentine Gallerys Poetry Marathon takes place all day Saturday and Sunday, with participants including Vito Acconci, Jimmie Durham, Gilbert & George, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, and Franz West. It also offers a last chance to experience Sanaas Serpentine pavilion as well as Gustav Metzgers solo exhibition in the gallery. In Leicester Square at 10 a.m. David Gryns Artprojx is showing Jeremy Deller and Nick Abrahamss The Posters Came From the Walls, about Depeche Mode fans at the Prince Charles Cinema, with an introduction by the filmmakers. Meanwhile, at Christie’s the postwar and contemporary day sale starts at 11 a.m., with works by Yoshitomo Nara, Dash Snow, Vanessa Beecroft, and Hanne Darboven. Phillips de Pury has two contemporary-art sales: at 3 p.m., including several works by artists such as Nan Goldin and Anselm Kiefer, to benefit the charity Emergency, and at 7 p.m., featuring interesting lots such as a set of washbasins by Elmgreen and Dragset, as shown in the Nordic pavilions in Venice over the summer.
But don’t think the evening is over then — it is just beginning, with Saturday night being the major East End gallery celebration. The newly refurbished Whitechapel Gallery presents its Sophie Calle exhibition alongside other nonprofit spaces: Chisenhale, Iniva, Parasol Unit (with the noteworthy Keith Tyson show “Cloud Choreography and Other Emergent Systems”), and Raven Row (another new kid on the block). The commercial spaces Ancient & Modern, the Approach, Dicksmith, Carl Freedman, Herald St. Hollybush, Hotel, Ibid, Limoncello, Kate MacGarry, Victoria Miro, Maureen Paley, Seventeen, Vilma Gold, Jonathan Viner, White Cube, and Wilkinson are on Frieze’s official list of openings, while many other spaces will open to catch passing visitors.
Sunday, Oct. 18
Sunday is a day for catching what you missed, but leave Frieze itself to the Sunday art lovers. Instead, a good place to finish would be Yinka Shonibares space along Regent’s Canal in the East End. Guest Projects is featuring a group show of artists including Reza Aramesh, Ellen Cantor, Zoe Walker, and Neil Bromwich and Mary Yacoob. Or, if you’re really in need of a stiff drink or the traditional British hangover cure of a fry-up by this point, repair to the nearby Bistrotheque, or indeed return to the Approach, conveniently located above a British pub.