Actually, there are only three shades of grey allowed at Frieze Masters for the walls of your stand – that or white.
Normally, I would rebel against such constraint, but the effect is rather relaxing. It means the fair looks coherent, controlled and sophisticated. The greys recall domestic interiors, presumably allowing potential buyers to envisage their potential purchases in-situ. The white shouts out ‘I’m contemporary – come look!’ And the muted backdrop means the focus can only be on the objects.
In this smoky-coloured interior lighting becomes vital. Those who light their stands effectively – Tomasso for example – have objects shining out of the darkness like beacons. Others create a welcoming, varied space. The less clever can look bland.
But is it all just too relaxing? Frieze Masters has created a wonderful brand for itself, but is it at the expense of the galleries’ own brands, which must take second place? Well, yes to some extent – it’s inevitable – but I saw a few good examples of galleries making the space their own.
Koetser used very upmarket packing cases as suspended frames; Coll & Cortés had distinctive steel and bolt plinths – a dramatic juxtaposition with its medieval items and Ben Janssens Oriental Art used colonnades to frame and highlight objects beautifully.
The most distinctive and talked about stand at the fair belonged to Helly Nahmad. Called The Collector, the space is transformed into a collector’s cramped apartment, magazines littering the floor, the kitchen sink overflowing and so many pictures and taped-up posters on the walls you couldn’t even see what colour they were.