An Insider’s Guide to Frieze Week in London

An Insider’s Guide to Frieze Week in London

Hannah O'Leary, Head of Modern and Contemporary African Art, Sotheby's.

A s the international art world descends on London for Frieze London and Frieze Masters, I wanted to share some insider tips on the very best the city has to offer. I moved to London in early 2006 and remember I had no intention of staying more than one year – but it is impossible to get bored of this city. There are always new places to go out, world class arts and entertainment, and it is a great base from which to explore the rest of Europe. But my favourite thing about London is how culturally diverse it is – it is a truly international city.

With major exhibitions opening at the major galleries and museums, there is plenty to keep collectors, creatives and new visitors stimulated and entertained the length and breadth of London. The week is highlighted by the Contemporary Evening and Day Auctions and the Now Evening Auction at Sotheby's on New Bond Street, and career spanning retrospectives of Marina Abramović at the Royal Academy and Philip Guston at Tate Modern. Further afield, South London Gallery plays host to Lagos, Peckham, Repeat: Pilgrimage to the Lakes, so there really is something for every cultural taste.

Below, I share my favourite places to eat, shop, read and stay, all tried and tested over almost twenty years living and working in the city. You can also browse the catalogues, explore the exhibitions in our galleries and register to bid for Sotheby's marquee sales at the bottom of the page. Enjoy planning your week!

"My favourite thing about London is how culturally diverse it is – it is a truly international city..."

Installation: El Anatsui Turbine Hall Commission 

El Anatsui is one of the most exciting and peerless artists working today. Having lectured at the University of Nigeria for 40 years, his artworks have only increased in scale in his ‘retirement’. This Turbine Hall commission takes his bottlecap sculpture to new heights – literally – and must be his most ambitious work to date. I was lucky enough to visit him in the studio earlier this year and so had a sneak peak, and I cannot wait to see it fully installed.

Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG.

Aida Muluneh Water Life Series, Star Shine, Moon Glow 2018 commissioned by WaterAid and supported by the H&M Foundation © Aida Muluneh.

Museum Show: A World in Common: Contemporary African Photography at Tate Modern

This ambitious show attempts to unite the vast African continent through the work of 36 contemporary photographers, and offers an introduction to the variety and complexity of art and contemporary life across the continent. For many of the artists, this is their first inclusion in a major museum exhibition in the UK, but of course names such as Leonce Raphael Agbodjélou, Edson Chagas, Kudzanai Chiurai, Hassan Hajjaj, Mário Macilau, Santu Mofokeng, and Aida Muluneh will already be familiar to followers of our Contemporary African Art auctions.

Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG.

Francis Bacon, Study for a Portrait, 1979. Estimate £3,500,000-4,500,000.

Auction: The London Sales (and Contemporary African Art)

Frieze Week is always my favourite auction season as so many collectors and curators from around the world pass through our galleries. My personal highlights this October include one of my favourite works by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Six Birds in the Bush, as seen in her major survey exhibition at Tate, and a very special bottlecap sculpture by El Anatsui, last seen at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 2021. Dexterity is highly unusual in the artist’s oeuvre as he has incorporated an Adinkra symbol in his usually abstract design.

Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum, whose work featured in this year’s Sharjah Biennial and is currently showing at the Liverpool Biennial, makes her long-awaited international auction debut in our Day sale on Friday 13 October. Then on Saturday our Modern & Contemporary African Art exhibition opens, including over 100 works from across the African continent and spanning a century of African art history. This sale includes fresh-to-market works by African Modernists like Ben Enwonwu, Gerard Sekoto and Bertina Lopes, as well as major contemporary artists Portia Zvavahera, Ouattara Watts, Nicholas Hlobo, Pascale Marthine Tayou and many, many more. Not to be missed!

Sotheby's, 34-35 New Bond Street, London W1A 2AA.

"Frieze Week is my favourite auction season as so many collectors and curators from around the world pass through our galleries."

L-R: Hatchards on Piccadilly and Maltby Street Market in Bermondsey.

Market: Maltby Street Market

It’s an easy walk from my house to Maltby Street in Bermondsey, a small street near Tower Bridge which runs alongside railway arches occupied by various cool bars and cafes, and at weekends becomes absolutely crammed full of street food vendors. There are so many dishes and stalls to choose from, but I usually seek out Amen Ethiopian Cuisine because you can have a bit of everything all soaked up by delicious injera bread. If you have any space for dessert then head to St. JOHN Bakery for their famous doughnuts, and then it’s a 5 minute walk/roll to White Cube to see the latest Julie Mehretu exhibition.

 Arch 46, Ropewalk, Maltby St, London SE1 3PA

Bookshop: Hatchards (and Thomas Heneage Art Books)

You cannot beat Hatchards on Piccadilly for variety, and they always have lots of new releases signed by the authors, which are perfect for gifts! And just around the corner there is the tardis that is Thomas Heneage Art Books on Duke Street – it is rare that they cannot source an out-of-print art book or an auction catalogue from several decades ago. I spent far too much time and money there as a poor art history student! It is an absolute treasure trove.

Hatchards, 187 Piccadilly, St. James's, London W1J 9LE.

Noble Rot, Lambs Conduit Street. Photograph Juan Trujillo Andrades.

Restaurant: Noble Rot (and afternoon tea at Sketch...)

Yinka Shonibare's design for the Gallery at Sketch, Conduit Street.

Noble Rot has a super cosy atmosphere and their wine list is unbelievably good, without any of the pretension you might expect to go alongside. The original can be found on Lamb's Conduit Street near the British Museum, and more recently they opened a branch in Mayfair, which is slightly dangerous - a lunch meeting there can easily turn into an all day affair!

And if you are looking for a traditional afternoon tea with a twist then I would definitely recommend Gallery at Sketch - the iconic dining room was redesigned last year with artworks by British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare CBE and Senegalese fabrics produced by my favourite textile designer Aissa Dione.

Noble Rot, 51 Lamb’s Conduit Street, London WC1N 3NB

Sketch, 9 Conduit St, London W1S 2XG.

Hotel: Shoreditch House

All the Soho House hotels boast art collections, curated by the amazing Kate Bryan, who always has her finger on the pulse. They are so good at balancing well-known names with up-and-coming talent. I love Shoreditch House in particular as they display works by some of my favourite young artists - Joy Labinjo, Sola Olulode and Miranda Forrester. Oh and beautiful décor and heated rooftop pool also help!

Shoreditch House, Ebor St, London E1 6AW.

Zak Ové, Installation view, The Mothership Connection, 2023, Mixed Media. Courtesy of Zak Ové and Gallery 1957.

Outdoor Space: Frieze Sculpture Park

I always love Frieze Sculpture as it engages with the public beyond the art world, and we get to enjoy it for so much longer than the fair! Fatoş Üstek has done a remarkable job curating it for the first time, with a fantastically diverse roster of artists including Ghada Amer, Leilah Babirye, Sanford Biggers, Temitayo Ogunbiyi, and Yinka Shonibare. But my favourite has to be The Mothership Connection by British-Trinidadian artist Zak Ové, a monumental Afro-futurist totem featuring visual references to traditional African culture. In consultation with light artist Frankie Boyle, Ové has created a phenomenal artwork loaded with meaning, which also lights up and is a joy to behold – best experienced after the sun sets for maximum impact.

Thomas Dane Gallery, Frieze London, 2022. Courtesy Frieze.

Immediately outside the main fair, you can walk through the sculpture park to get from Frieze London to Frieze Masters. Frieze London marks the 20th anniversary of the fair this year, with special projects, performances and prizes alongside the usual program of talks, films and spin-off fairs in East London and the West End.

Frieze Scultpure, Regent's Park.  

Frieze London, Regent's Park, Park Sq West + Frieze Masters, Regent's Park, Gloucester Green.

Hassan Hajjaj in the Larache Shop, Shoreditch. Photograph Ana Cuba for The New York Times.

Hidden Gem: Larache Shop in Shoreditch 

Larache is Moroccan-British artist Hassan Hajjaj’s shop on Calvert Avenue, named after his birthplace on the coast south of Tangiers. The souk-like offering includes clothing, lanterns, tableware, tea caddies, stationery and more alongside displays of his own artwork. It offers a little slice of Moroccan sunshine and colour in grey London.

Larache by Hassan Hajjaj, 30 Calvert Ave, London E2 7JP.

Browse the auction catalogues below

Contemporary Art

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