Frieze Masters will thankfully be the gallery’s first large scale art fair since TEFAF Maastricht in March 2020. TEFAF was cut short for now obvious reasons. And probably should not have opened its doors to visitors in the first place. Yet in hindsight we are always smarter. Plus, the sales during the somewhat relieved and escapist atmosphere of the opening days in Maastricht kept the gallery running way past the first wave.
Fast forward to a year and a half later: after many online exhibitions while the gallery was closed for a whopping 9 months. After surprisingly lively virtual commerce while constantly manoeuvring in the fog about when to reopen the gallery again and how. After many duly discovered walks and internalised introspections while trying to keep a sense of normal in our lives.
A period of suspended time and action, during which the desire for a new normal, or even the old one, exponentially grew, a craving for being out there and active again.
In some professions the past year and a half were the busiest in their lives; think of nurses, doctors and scientists. The amazing jobs they did, the scope and intensity are hard to fathom. For others, the home office was a pleasant discovery at first, then became increasingly monotonous and draining. For artists it was a highly challenging period. Some had the time of their life, finally quiet and creative in the studio, the calendar wiped clean. Other artists did not create one good work, feeling the constant tension and instability that engulfed us all. Performing arts came to a complete halt.
In the gallery sector the pandemic period was in most cases at first calm, then too calm, and in the end right out boring. Being online threw our sector a lifeline, a platform to communicate ideas and projects, and, above all, an opportunity to generate some transactions. However, at least for our gallery, the virtual blessings were no compensation whatsoever for what we love to do: curating and hanging exhibitions, meeting clients and artists, discussing art eye to eye, and eyes on art. And they were no enjoyable alternative for events and fairs, which ultimately generate a significant share of our contacts and business.
Fairs, in many ways, have always been a mixed blessing, particularly for smaller galleries. The costs are enormous, the visitors hunting for big names and status objects rush right past your booth. The art on display has to be relatively fast to grasp and easy enough to digest.
They are much too often a roller coaster rather than plain sailing. All the same - we always loved doing fairs! The intimacy between a visitor and an artwork that can evolve over a relatively short time span, or even become a coup de foudre, is the utmost pleasure to experience. Thus, Frieze Masters is less fashion and market(ing) driven, concentrating rather on the quality of the art, which is why we are glad to be part of it and why we went for a challenging mix of artists.
For our booth at Frieze Masters we decided to present the works from the 1980s and 1990s of three gallery artists: David Connearn, Minjung Kim and Susan Schwalb.
Entitled Still Masters, the presentation introduces the works of these artists as oeuvres of great inner tranquillity and equilibrium, even if to some extent as a result of their artistic journeys. The grouping is also united by the mastery of their idiosyncratic techniques: line drawing, Asian calligraphy and metalpoint.
To illustrate the evolution of these artists in more depth, the presentation at Frieze Masters will be paired with a gallery exhibition displaying recent works by all three artists. The gallery exhibition reinforces the title-giving idea as to why these artists have become or rather remained Still Masters. The combined presentations, spanning from the 1980s to nowadays, will hopefully underline that, in their respective fields, David Connearn, Minjung Kim and Susan Schwalb are simply put ‘still masters’.