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Frieze Masters is a welcome new addition to London’s Frieze week and surprise exhibitor. The Museum of Everything is VELOUR online critic’s pick.

The art world has once again descended on London for Frieze, four days of curated talks, artists’ commissions, film projects, collector dinners and gallery bashes. Now in its 10th year, the fair welcomes 175 of the world’s leading contemporary art galleries, drawn from 35 countries, showing the work of more than 1,000 exciting artists to 60,000 visitors.
This year, attention is particularly focused on the art fair’s new sibling, Frieze Masters. Running in parallel to Frieze, it’s a fair designed to show the relationship between old and new, taking visitors on a journey from past to present and back again.

“Frieze Masters will create fresh perspectives on historical art and interesting dialogues between periods, but most importantly will offer a world-class forum in London to leading international galleries showing pre-21st-century art”, says director of Frieze Masters, Victoria Siddall.

“It will attract the world’s most adventurous and imaginative art collectors to London. The fair is designed to revolutionise the relationship between ancient and modern.”

While many of the commercial galleries are showcasing established artists, one London-based gallery has opted for two artists that, though critically acclaimed, are little known in the UK.

The Gallery of Everything, a commercial venture set up by British institution and outsider art champions The Museum of Everything to support its non-profit activities, is showing the work of artists William Edmondson and Carlo Zinelli. In amongst Picasso, Degas and Turner, it’s a bold choice. This is the first time either artist has been presented commercially in Britain. The ethos of bringing to light untrained, unintentional and undiscovered artists, is, however, particularly powerful in this setting.

Described as ‘a collectors’ forum for masterworks from the alternative history of 19th, 20th and 21st Century art’ The Gallery of Everything aims to exhibit the works in a commercial context but also to encourage museums, curators and collectors to discover the artists it represents.

The stories behind each artist are as fascinating as the work on show. Zinelli, we learn, is a shell-shocked veteran of the Spanish Civil War whose experiences profoundly influenced and affected his creative production. Returning from war unable to speak or recount in any way the horrors that he had experienced, Zinelli was hospitalized and turned to art as a means of expressing notions of conflict. His impressionistic recreations of the landscapes and characters of his youth are set against the backdrop of war in a distinctive double-sided format.

The son of emancipated slaves, Edmondson grew up in the rural ghetto of Davidson County, Tennessee. In the 1930s Edmondson joined the United Primitive Baptist Church, where a divine calling instructed him to commence a sculptural practice. Edmondson’s conversion was immediate. Within weeks he had created an open-air studio in the church cemetery and, using a hammer and railroad spike, began to carve tombstones from off-cuts of locally mined limestone.

Although he had received no formal artistic training and was barely able to read
or write, Edmondson opened his first solo show at the Museum of Modern Art in
1937. Widely acknowledged as the first and most important African American sculptor of the 20th century, his monumental biblical and African American icons and modernist portrayals of the animal kingdom are a highlight of this year’s Frieze Masters.
Words by Olivia Greene.