Art fairs are exhausting. There’s no avoiding the fact that gathering that much art in one place is never going to lead to an especially relaxed viewing experience. But then that’s also what makes art fairs a great chance to see a lot of art in a short space of time. So, in an optimistic frame of mind and my most sensible shoes I headed to Frieze Art Fair in Regent’s Park. As if one art fair wasn’t enough, this year Frieze has grown a second space and a new entity, Frieze Masters, for art made before the year 2,000. In the interests of keeping art overload to reasonable levels I find I need to take things a day, and a fair, at a time, so Frieze Masters will have to wait. As it happens, so will the sculpture garden. Somehow, despite good intentions, once I get in the tent that houses Frieze, I seem unable to leave until required to do so at the end of the day. Having seen more art in a day than I normally would in a month – and by any standards, I see a lot of art – still I leave with the feeling that I have barely scratched the surface.
In these early days of the year, I want to think back to work I’ve seen in the last year to see what’s stayed with me. A good starting point for that is to think about the big stuff: the days when art overload is a significant threat. Days like Frieze Art Fair. I don’t always get to Frieze; some years I just can’t face it. The scale of the thing puts me off somewhat and I’m really not a fan of the art world en masse. It’s possible I’m just slightly allergic to art fairs. Art needs time and at Frieze the pressure to see everything can be overwhelming so last year I decided to browse in a really unsystematic way and just spend time with the things I chanced upon that interested me most. Perhaps inevitably that means that what I remember most clearly are some of the things that were tucked away in corners, works that could be seen in isolation rather than against the backdrop of the fair.