BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors

Jo Stella-Sawicka

Artistic Director at Frieze

Jo Stella Sawicka. Photo: Linda Nylind
Jo Stella Sawicka. Photo: Linda Nylind

Tell us a little bit about the history of the fair

Having founded the now renowned frieze magazine in 1992, Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp launched Frieze Art Fair in 2003, responding to the thriving gallery scene in London as well as the city's status as a global capital. Galleries were asking for an international art fair and Frieze offered that and so much more, with immersive installations, artist projects and pop-up restaurants, all in a miraculous architectural structure at the heart of Regent’s Park. With the launch of Frieze Masters in 2012 – Frieze’s first fair for historical art – “Frieze Week” has evolved into an extraordinary festival of art and culture, with museums, galleries and studios opening up across the city and welcoming visitors and collectors from all over the world.

How do you, as artistic director, ensure that the event stays contemporary and current in the fast-paced world that is the art market?

Frieze originally launched as a magazine and its critical and international approach also informs every facet of the fair. Since the beginning, we’ve collaborated with independent curators on sections and programmes; from Raphael Gygax’s artist Projects which this year are defined by performance, gender identity and global politics to Alison M. Gingeras’s new section, showcasing radical feminist artists from the 1970s and ‘80s. Our galleries make the fair and we work very closely with them to create an environment for discovery and quality, which also means constant innovation. This includes supporting young galleries from across the world, to show ambitious presentations of emerging artists in sections such as Focus; and pop-up themed sections such as “The Nineties” last year and “Sex Work” coming up.

Is there something in this year’s program that you are particularly looking forward to?

I’m very proud that Frieze is a place where young artists present ambitious work. In this way, it’s fantastic to be building on the fair’s programme this year, with the premiere of Olivia Erlanger’s project for BMW Open Work. The curated sections are always a highlight and I’ve worked closely with the amazing Alison M. Gingeras on “Sex Work”, and cannot wait to see nine solo presentations by some of the most provocative and thought-provoking feminist artists in recent history.

What do the artworks being presented at this year's fair reveal about the current trends and market?

I’m thrilled that female artists might be finally getting the recognition they deserve, with Alison’s section at Frieze London featuring older female artists marginalised by art history, as well as solos across the fair, including Mary Reid Kelly – whose survey at Tate Liverpool opens soon, and a new installation by the younger Berlin-based artist Alicia Kwade, whose presentation at the Venice Biennale has garnered much critical acclaim.

What advice do you have for the collectors that will be attending the fair this year?

Pick up a map as soon as you arrive and follow @friezeartfair on Instagram for the inside look at gallery highlights and artworks. Definitely make time for the “Focus” section, to discover emerging galleries from across the world, as well as the established galleries across the fair. We also have some fantastic new restaurants this year, including Moro and Jason Atherton’s Social Wine and Tapas, perfect places to take a break. Finally, don’t forget “Frieze Sculpture” just outside the fair, which is looking absolutely amazing this year and closes at the end of the week.

In addition to Frieze Art Fair, what exhibition or event is on your “must-see” list?

The survey of Seth Price's film and video works at the ICA is a definite must see as it presents a lesser-known aspect of this essential artists's oeuvre, concurrently with his major shows taking place across Europe this season.

More Information on Frieze

Insiders (68)


Exhibition venue with the theme ‚Living with Art‘

Wilhelmina Jewell Strong - Sparks

Founder of BiTHOUSE Projects - BAAR Art Journey


Collector behind the ARNDT Collection

Sandra Guimarães

Director of Museum of Contemporary Art Helga de Alvear

Grazyna Kulczyk

Founder of Muzeum Susch


Interview with Georgie Pope and Eleonora Sutter, Co-founders

Kamiar Maleki

Director at VOLTA

Gallery Weekend Berlin 2022

Tokini Peterside

Founder and Director, ART X Lagos


Founding Director of the Athens Biennale

Boris Ondreička

Artistic Director of viennacontemporary

Maribel Lopez

Director of ARCO

David Gryn

Founder and Director of Daata

Fondation Beyeler Audiovisual Broadcast

Fondation Beyeler and Nordstern Basel present Dixon x Transmoderna

Gary Yeh

Founder of ArtDrunk and Young Collector

WATCH: The Best of the BMW Art Guide

Where will you travel next to explore art?

Maike Cruse

2020 Gallery Weekend Berlin

Touria El Glaoui

Founding Director of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair

Johann König

Messe in St. Agnes

PArt - Producers Art Platform

A crisis initiative to help artists directly affected by the pandemic

Barbara Moore

CEO of Biennale of Sydney

Unique Collector’s Item

by Independent Collectors

Alix Dana

Fair Director at Independent

When Collectors are Able to Commission

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Juliet Kothe and Julia Rust

Initiators of Collection Night, Berlin

Marie-Anne McQuay

Curator of Wales in Venice, 58th Venice Biennale 2019

Dorothy and Herb Vogel

Two extraordinary art collectors

Heather Hubbs

Director at NADA

Every Art Collection Needs Space

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Collecting Art with François Pinault

Rudolf Stingel at Palazzo Grassi

A Common Ground

by Silvia Anna Barrilà

Caroline Vos

Director at Amsterdam Art Weekend

Hidden Collections

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Nicole Berry

Executive Director of The Armory Show

Daniel Hug

Fair Director at Art Cologne

The Role of the Art Fair

by Silvia Anna Barrilà

Peter Bläuer

Director at LISTE

A Brush Against Nature

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Ilaria Bonacossa

Director of Artissima

Excessiveness, the Latent Danger of Collecting Art

by Independent Collectors

Florence Bourgeois

Director at Paris Photo

Where Artists Can Work More Playfully

by Christiane Meixner

Specifically Commissioned

by Silvia Anna Barrilà

Manuela Mozo

Executive Director of UNTITLED, ART Miami and San Francisco

Important Museums and Private Collections

by Christiane Meixner

Susanna Corchia

Director of the Barcelona Gallery Weekend

Emilia van Lynden

Artistic Director at Unseen, Amsterdam

Carlos Urroz

Director at ARCOmadrid

Shoe Smudges Streaked Across the White Walls

by Christiane Meixner

Amanda Coulson

Director at VOLTA Basel

Douwe Cramer

Director at Singapore Contemporary

Art and Architecture – Attractive Allies

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Jo Baring

Curator of Sculpture Series, Masterpiece London

Bidders and Buyers

by Christiane Meixner

Anne Vierstraete

Managing Director at Art Brussels

Nanna Hjortenberg

Director at CHART

The Crucial Role of the New

by Independent Collectors

Makers and Believers

On Art History’s Most Famous Patrons

The Past is Back

And collectors are buying it up

Are Artists the Better Curators?

On the diminishing boundary between professions in the art world

The Digital Museum

On the importance of the museum’s web presence

The Man in the Middle

On the curator’s private and public engagements

A Private Matter?

On the importance of physical space for the value of art

Off the Wall

How museums contribute to the worth of artworks

Where to Go Next?

The fragmentation of Manhattan’s gallery scene

To Buy or Not to Buy

Collectors on their experiences of letting an artwork slip away

How to Pass On a Passion

On long-term challenges for new private museums