A First Look at Frieze Masters's Star-Studded Program of Talks Pairing Leading Artists and Curators

A First Look at Frieze Masters's Star-Studded Program of Talks Pairing Leading Artists and Curators
Frieze Talks, 2011
(Courtesy of Polly Braden/ Frieze)

Ever wondered what Luc Tuymans thinks of the Louvre? At Frieze Masters, you’ll find out. The highly-anticipated Frieze London spinoff gave ARTINFO an exclusive peek at its talks program, and the roster is power-packed. Artist Cecily Brown will talk with National Gallery of Art director Nicholas Penny about how she uses traditional imagery and subject matter in her art, while Glenn Brown will discuss his appropriation of historical artwork with Kunsthaus Zurich curator Bice Curiger. Tuymans will offer insight into his decision-making process when painting iconic historical moments in a conversation with Louvre Museum senior curator Dominique de Font-Réaulx.

These events get at the heart of the inaugural Frieze Masters, which plans to mix Old Master treasures with modern masterpieces in an effort to lure collectors out of their comfort zones. According to the program’s curator, Jasper Sharp, the talks also hint at a growing trend in the art world. “I do think people are feeling a lot more athletic about jumping between different artistic generations,” he told ARTINFO.

As examples, he pointed to Curiger’s inclusion of Tintoretto in the 2010 Venice Biennale, Jeff Koons’s current exhibition at Frankfurt’s Liebiengaus, a museum devoted to Old Master sculpture, and this year’s Documenta display, which included dozens of non-contemporary works ranging from ancient stone figures to paintings of vessels by Giorgio Morandi. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art has also hinted at plans to use the Whitney Museum’s Marcel Breuer building to showcase its entire collection, not simply contemporary art in isolation.) “Let’s not forget, this has been going on forever,” Sharp noted, recalling that Canova was displayed alongside classicist collections in the 18th century, despite the fact that nearly a millennium existed between them. “But there are many museums around the world that have been doing this [mixing artwork from different eras] recently.”

The Frieze Masters talks program aims to capture how this mixing plays out in the work of some of the world’s most prominent contemporary artists. In advance of the Frieze conversations, Sharp asked each artist to select a historical museum of interest. He then introduced the artist to that museum’s chief curator, and sent the pairs on a long walk through the institutions’ galleries. “It’s an encounter of the unexpected from both sides — the artist presents a completely unexpected and original perspective on a certain work, and the curator can help the artist digest what they struggle with or never understood,” Sharp said.

That the artists and curators occupy very different corners of the art world will lead to more candid conversations both in the museum and the Frieze Masters auditorium, said Sharp. “Some of these senior curators in historical museums have never heard of these artists. It takes away any deference that so many people in the contemporary art world have.”

The inaugural Frieze Masters takes place from October 11-14 in Regent’s Park, London. Cecily Brown’s conversation with Nicholas Penny begins at 3pm on October 11; Luc Tuymans’s conversation with Dominique de Font-Réaulx is at 3pm on October 12; Glenn Brown’s conversation with Bice Curiger is at 3pm on October 13. Seats can be individually booked from 12pm on the day outside the auditorium.