Last week it was London’s annual Frieze week. This meant a week of hectic art fever in the capital. Not only did two gigantic white tents – as well as a sculpture garden – take over Regent’s park, but all over London galleries and museums organised events to coincide with Europe’s most exciting commercial art fair and ride the wave of all-round Frieze-mania. Besides openings, artist performances, talks, huge auction sales and ‘art marathons’ (see the Serpentine’s ‘Transformation Marathon’ that occurred past Saturday), there was also the occasional alternative art fair. One such fair is SUNDAY.
Set up as a low-key, low-budget satellite site to Frieze in Regent’s park – a 10 min walk away – SUNDAY has a reputation as the cooler addition to the frenzied art fair week. Staged in Ambika P3’s subterranean space on Marylebone Road, the fair attracts its visitors and evokes their intrigue with a few hundred playful, funky, experimental artworks in a wide range of media as presented by a set of relatively unknown, young, up-and-coming galleries from Europe and North America.
SUNDAY is difficult to compare directly with the big money, big business violence of Frieze, happening just down the road. Upon arrival you were led – instead of past glamorous VIP booths and expensive-ticket queues toward security-manned gates – through a windy outdoor corridor of what felt like an industrial carpark, with unassuming white A4’s pointing the way towards free entry to the fair. The obscurity of this slightly mystifying walk was resolved as the fair’s entrance opened up onto an indoor balcony from which visitors had a direct overview of most of its interior, a set of metalwork stairs leading down into the large, open-plan main room.
Its relaxing realising you can enjoy and explore SUNDAY at ease, since its size is nowhere near as daunting and stress-inducing as that of big daddy Frieze. This means you can take snaps of all the art you love before your phone’s battery juice inevitably seeps away (a common frustration among large-art-fair-goers). Different to Frieze’s regimented segmentation of galleries in Ikea-like booths, SUNDAY’s use of space is also much more relaxed, the displays of different galleries bleeding into one large floor and wall expo. You could wander freely through the space, stumble upon, step over or move underneath the works of art with a beer in hand, giving SUNDAY as a whole a much more chilled, down-to-earth, if not slightly chaotic, vibe. Another difference of course is that the art featured, on average, is of a totally different financial status than that shown at Frieze. SUNDAY is in fact so accessible that there might even be some prints or drawings you’d consider buying, with some works going for prices below 100 pounds.
What is not that different to Frieze, is the sense of excitement and wonder you feel discovering new and intriguing artwork. The buzzing energy of SUNDAY in many ways matches the Frieze vibe, regardless of the fact that the art on display is visibly less polished, less luxuriously presented and, of course, less valuable. Visitors of its opening night still included important art world professionals – among whom Beatrix Ruf, director of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, who obviously realise that an absence of swanky presentation or big-name-fame hardly implies inferior quality. After all, any artist exhibiting at Frieze must once have started out at the sort of gallery SUNDAY shows and allows a piece of the Frieze-week action. And in a city as expensive as London, I’d say SUNDAY is in fact invaluable; it presents an exciting alternative addition to the capital’s most high-profile art week.