LONDON - The autumn season begins in earnest with a cluster of international fairs that, although they might share some characteristics, are also utterly distinct in character. Frieze, London’s first truly international contemporary art fair, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year with a complete revamp of its layout and public spaces, as well as a number of new participants including Blum & Poe from Los Angeles, Goodman Gallery from Johannesburg and Rodeo Gallery from Istanbul. Frieze also continues to consolidate its reputation as the world’s leading showcase for the newest of the new, with Focus and Frame sections devoted to young galleries and special projects as well as a rolling programme of specially-commissioned artists’s performances.

Last year Frieze blazed a new trail by establishing Frieze Masters, a companion fair specialising in historical artworks dating from pre-history up to the 1980s, which occupies an elegantly minimal architect-designed tent at the opposite end of London’s Regent’s Park. “We are interested in the lineage of art,” says Frieze Masters Director Victoria Siddall. “What makes Frieze a unique experience for both visitors and galleries alike is the idea that between the two fairs you can see the best of art from today back to any period in history.”


Victoria Siddall, Director, Frieze Masters. Portrait by Mark Harrison.

To this end, Frieze Masters aims to build on last year’s success with highlights from 150 participants, including a set of rare Japanese erotic prints at the Sebastian Izzard stand; drawings by Jackson Pollock inspired by Native American masks, alongside the masks themselves on the stand of New York’s Ellis and Washburn galleries; and little known 1960s Neo-Concrete art on São Paulo’s Dan Galeria.

Frieze Masters does not show design or applied art, this is the specialty of PAD (Pavilion of Art and Design), the super-chic fair from Paris that coincides with Frieze and also occupies a stylish tent pitched on London’s Berkeley Square. PAD’s London arm (the fair’s Paris edition takes place in March and next year another launches in San Francisco) is deliberately eclectic, combining contemporary art with classic names from 20th century art, design and decorative arts, as well as including stands devoted to more ancient archeological and non-western artefacts. Here can be found jewellery by Max Ernst and Conrad Shawcross, Cycladic heads and African masks.

Hot on the heels of London’s ‘Frieze week’ comes the venerable FIAC (Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain) in Paris, now in its 40th year. Although many contemporary galleries participating in Frieze London cross the Channel to FIAC, there is still a predominantly French representation among its 183 gallery lineup. The fair permeates the fabric of Paris with contemporary public projects in the Tuileries Gardens, Jardin des Plantes and the Place Vendôme, but what undoubtedly assures the fair’s enduring popularity as the grande dame of art fairs is its spectacular location under the soaring glass canopy of the Grand Palais. So for anyone interested in art of any period this autumn, there is an abundance of choice.

Louisa Buck is a London-based art critic and writer who writes for The Guardian and Art Newspaper.