I Thought I’d Renounced Frieze Forever

Sunday 6th October 2019

Tuesday 9 dined for my birthday and the boiler fused the electrics again. But that’s another story. By Wednesday afternoon I’d more or less de-greased when Royston announced that we weren’t taking a PV at the National Portrait Gallery that evening but Frieze Art Fayre VIP View at 5pm. Mad dash to get ready. Terrible battle to get in. I thought I’d renounced Frieze Art Fayre forever, from the days of the Multis, now over.  Contradictory ideas on the door about the admittance of my bag. ‘They won’t let me in because I’m black, ‘ Royston said, ‘even with a VIP pass.’ General atmosphere of violent unwelcome. Royston told me what they pay for the site. He’s involved, of course. ‘He who meets the most people he knows buys the first drink,’ Royston announced. He had a big list of those expected – Tristram, Sir Nicholas, Lord E, Lord B…

Actually we started at Frieze Masters. There were hordes of VIPs. We saw a Botticelli for sale in a special chamber, astonished to be admitted by an international blond attendant and not asked to leave. The Botti was a bit grim. Didn’t dare ask how much. Royston saw one other black person. ‘Do you know him?’ I enquired. Well, it wasn’t Trevor Phillips, so no. There was the question of hospitality drinks also. Waiters began to swarm, of particular brutality and arse, faces set for war. Some wielded actual bottles of Ruinart. ‘You ask,’ Royston said. ‘They’ll just tell me where the drivers are supposed to wait.’ Eventually I was about to ask but another got there first. ‘We’re not serving yet,’ the brute snapped. I said to Royston: ‘I think you should put their rental fee up if they don’t get better manners.’ Suddenly we saw A.N.Wilson, both of us at once saw A.N.Wilson. But we’d already been there 40 minutes. A.N.Wilson was the first person we saw. Everybody else was international and either wearing bizarre outfits that didn’t suit them or exceptional eyewear.

The range of wares on offer was incredible. You could get almost the  whole of art, from Ancient Egypt, through Rome and Greece and Medieval to 20th Century. A lot of 20th century which isn’t Masters in my view. Very few masters in fact. We bantered with the man selling Samurai masks. He said he was sold out already and hadn’t got any more. First human we met. Royston took an interest in a pictorial map of London from about 1670; subjected the seller to ferocious grilling re: other maps and map-makers of the period. The man stood up well. ‘How much?’ Royston enquired. ‘£250,000.’ ‘Where did you get it?’ ‘In public auction actually.’

At last the drinks were available. Or rather staff careered out of a door with a trayful and didn’t stop for anyone who might want one. You had virtually to assault them to get. For our second drink we barricaded a black woman server whom Royston addressed as ‘M’am’. Still nobody was there. I was getting the hang of the women more. Not housewives. When you’re v. rich you get the ‘house’ bit lopped off. You’re a wife. You carry a handbag, have difficult heels, restrained make-up and perhaps a good orange jacket and trousers. Your face is either blank or quietly desperate.

The best thing at Frieze Masters was the the black 60s photographer Gordon Parks (I wonder if related to the Parks who sat on a bus she wasn’t supposed to). Royston got into a row with a German man who’d never heard of To Kill a Mocking Bird. ‘What evidence? You can’t just say things, you know.’ The German kept insisting the photo of the black children looking through a fence at white people only having a party had been coloured in later. Royston thought he was being racist. Himself the German was terribly blotchy, although young, that German look of yellow-pink with red blotches and sort of fattened up oven-ready face .

We left Frieze Masters. ‘Look there’s William Shawcross!’ said Royston in triumph. Only the second person we saw, the first being A.N.Wilson.  I had to buy the first drink.  Otherwise, the VIPs at Frieze Masters were the International Rich, you see. Deeply anonymous. And paranoid. Absolutely minimal contact with outside world or the tax authorities.

We tried main Frieze but my bag this time proved the fatal flaw. It was nearly closing anyway. Odd to have a VIP evening with not enough time to see both parts of the Fayre. But that was the general timbre – invite but don’t be nice. So we went to an ordinary pub in Great Portland Street where there was a photo over the mantle, blue and yellow with age, of HM in youth wearing the Girls of Great Britain tiara. Walking up the street towards Great Portland Street metro, there was another pub with Lord Arrowby leaned up against it with a gang. Screams of excitement! Had also been at Frieze VIP. By that time I’d had four drinks plus given a dinner for 9 the day before. Delirious. Lord Arrowby in the public street, with a glass. His coat was utter heaven. P of W check, floor length. Early motoring coat. Two of the people in his gang didn’t know who he was. Lord A and Royston set to at once of course. Between them they ruled London – as good as.

The Botticelli for Sale: A bit Grim

The Botticelli for Sale: A bit Grim

Lovely Rug for Sale at the Indian Stand: Royston didn't Approve Though of Maharajahs Spending Money on European Items. This is Not a European Item but Others Were

Lovely Rug for Sale at the Indian Stand: Royston didn’t Approve Though of Maharajahs Spending Money on European Items. This is Not a European Item but Others Were

Strange Characteristic Outer Wear

Strange Characteristic Outer Wear

More Freize-Wear

More Freize-Wear

A Classic International Frieze Figure

A Classic International Frieze Figure

Frieze Check Suit

Frieze Check Suit

Suggestive Artwork

Suggestive Artwork

At Last a Real Old Master. Nice Dutch Picture. No Price Mentioned

At Last a Real Old Master. Nice Dutch Picture. No Price Mentioned

Gordon Parks: On the Outside Looking In. Mobile Alabama 1950s

Gordon Parks: On the Outside Looking In. Mobile, Alabama 1950s

 

Posted Sunday, October 6, 2019 under Adrian Edge day by day.

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2 comments

  1. I do hope you’ve read Sir A.N.’s new life of Prince Albert, which contains the startling suggestion that the Greatest Royal and Queen V were actually lesbians and their latter years together closely resembled that great classic, Who Killed Sister George.

  2. Am just reading it now. Can’t wait for that bit.

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