Appointing himself matchmaker to a series of unlikely “blind dates”, Jasper Sharp, the curator of this year’s Frieze Masters Talks program, paired a handful of artists with the museum directors of their choice—beginning with Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes. As the first act in this week’s programming, Milhazes found herself at 9 a.m., face-to-face with professor and museum director Martin Roth, ready to take a tour of the museum that first inspired her nearly 30 years ago, London’s Victoria and Albert (V&A). “I learned painting without seeing it,” she said of her life growing up in Rio de Janeiro. “It was almost impossible to see a Matisse or any others, like a Mondrian,” she said, explaining that it wasn’t until her first visit to London—and a trip to the V&A—where she first saw the Old Masters she had only seen in books. “When Jasper Sharp invited me to today’s talk, I immediately thought about the V&A. I realized that my relationship with museums went through two big moments: before, and after, I traveled to Europe for the first time.”
After spending the day together at the museum, Milhazes and Roth shared a stage at Frieze Masters to enact their perspectives—Milhazes’ VIP tour of the museum she missed growing up in Brazil and Roth’s experience in a place he sees every day, through the eyes of an artist. “It was great for me yesterday to follow Beatriz in the museum, just walking behind her,” Roth said. “You need something like a GPS tracker to find her.” As he followed her through the V&A, Milhazes selected 12 items she identified with her practice—a fig leaf circa 1857, made to clothe Michelangelo’s David; a carved wooden cravat for the use of pattern and “obsessive repetition,” a stack of 17th-century ceramic dishes that exploded within the kiln and fused together; pearls; a brass box from 17th-century Holland and a 19th century gold bangle; a Mick Jagger bodysuit—among others—all introduced by Roth as he skipped the slides. “To see it with your eyes yesterday—the French call it le regard croisé—it’s just a different way to see the objects,” he said. “You need someone who tells you the truth, and I think that was my experience yesterday.”
Up next: John Currin with the National Gallery’s Letizia Treves; Catherine Opie with the LACMA’s Michael Govan; Richard Wright with Jasper Sharp, programmer of the Talks and Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.