London Is Buzzing In the Fall: Frieze Art Fair, Bonfire Night and More

by Claire Oldman

Skate at Somerset House (slimmer_jimmer)

As autumn draws in, the cultural goings-on of London start to head inside and ratchet the pressure up a few notches: bigger, heavier hitting fairs and events are scattered throughout the season. October brings out the big guns of Frieze Art Fair and the BFI London Film Festival. There are major, in-depth art shows, classic ballets and of course, fireworks lighting up the sky on Bonfire Night.


Bonfire Night (*_barbd_*)

Royal Academy: Bronze 15 Sept – 9 Dec
The Royal Academy calls it “a celebration of bronze on a scale never attempted before.” This means works in bronze spanning the last 5000 years from every continent. Arranged thematically in groups, the exhibition includes Ancient Greek, Roman and Etruscan bronzes, rare Medieval examples, the Renaissance (Ghiberti, Donatello, Cellini), all the way through to the present day via works by Rodin, Boccioni, Picasso, Jasper Johns, Moore, Beuys and Bourgeois.

Frieze Art Fair (Frieze London)

Frieze Art Fair: 11 – 14 Oct
The week of Frieze Art Fair always carries a huge buzz in London. This year, the new fair Frieze Masters will run concurrently nearby in another part of Regent’s Park, focusing on ancient works and old masters. With the heavy hitting contemporary action happening in parallel at the 10th Frieze London as well, the buzz is set to grow even louder. There is a combined ticket available and I would highly recommend attending one of the first two days of the fair, when all the deals are being done and the people watching is as exciting as the art.

BFI London Film Festival (Alex Abian)

BFI London Film Festival: 10 – 21 Oct
As autumn draws further in, The 56th BFI London Film Festival provides a perfect opportunity to sit in a warm, dark cinema and be transported. In fact this year, thirty-four British films are represented. As much as this event is about and for the film industry, it’s also something the public can be involved in. Priority and public tickets are already on sale and tend to sell out fast – but it’s sometimes possible to get a ticket at a venue box office 30 minutes before a performance starts. One of the most fun tickets is to the surprise film (this year showing on October 20) – a closely guarded secret, it could be any of the films at the festival and invites much speculation. The year I went to it, it was the world premiere of Brighton Rock, which would have been a gala screening and impossible to get into otherwise.

Swan Lake (thisisbossi)

Swan Lake: 8 Oct – 24 Nov
What a great chance to see the quintessential romantic ballet, performed by the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Antony Dowell’s production is true to the original choreography and the costumes are inspired by the opulence of 1890s Russia. The most recognizable and well loved of the classic ballets.


Frieze Art Fair (Frieze London)

Bonfire Night: Nov 5 (Most displays will be held on Saturday 3 November.)
On Bonfire Night (also called Guy Fawkes Night or Fireworks Night) everyone except (hopefully) small domestic pets heads out to see the fireworks. In parks across London, boroughs compete to put on the most spectacular display. These will mostly be held on Saturday 3 November, as 5 November falls on a Monday this year. See here for a full list of official displays across the city. Expect to hear loud bangs and see the sky lit up around the city from about Friday to Tuesday though, as people attempt their own firework displays at home. If you’ve always wondered what Bonfire Night is all about, there’s an explanation here.

Frieze Art Fair & Jack White (Frieze London & aurelien)

Jack White at Alexandra Palace: Nov 2 and 3
Jack White rocks up to Ally Pally with his guitar. Say no more.

Curiously, there is usually a firework display at Alexandra Palace on Bonfire Night, but it’s been cancelled this year and this gig is on the night normally devoted to it. I wonder if Jack White just might have some pyrotechnics up his sleeve, or at least something like a burning effigy to add to his show. This is total speculation, but White has previously shown interest in strange British traditions, such as when he visited and played for the Chelsea Pensioners and White Stripes played a secret gig at the historic Rivoli Ballroom. Whatever happens, it’s sure to be an um, explosive gig.

Skating at Somerset House & The exhibition by Maurizio Cattelan (chakchouka & Massimo ankor)

Skate at Somerset House: 16 Nov – 6 Jan
The yearly ice rink returns to Somerset House, setting things up nicely for the festive season in this magical location. There is something for everyone, from club nights with big name DJs to the Penguin Club kids skate school. Booking early is strongly advised and prices vary.

While you’re at Somerset House, don’t forget to go inside and get in a bit of après-skate art viewing. There are some wonderful exhibitions coming up in the galleries this autumn, such as Valentino: Master of Couture (from 29 Nov) and Henri Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour (from 8 Nov). See the visual arts listings at Somerset House here.


The Maurizio Cattelan exhibition (H A P P Y F A M O U S A R T I S T S)

Maurizio Cattelan – Whitechapel Gallery Until Dec 2
What’s more tragicomic than a squirrel that has committed suicide at a miniature kitchen table? It’s one of Maurizio Cattelan’s earliest pieces, on display at this solo show to mark his return to contemporary art. He uses provocative, witty, sometimes shock tactics to ruffle the art world. Personally, I love it. (Free entry.)

Written by Claire Oldman for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.

Written By

Claire Oldman

Claire Oldman is a travel, fashion and lifestyle writer who was born and raised in London, but she'd usually rather be in Paris. She founded the blog Lola is Beauty on a whim in 2005, to cover her favourite subjects of clothes, Paris, places that are not Paris and cats. Living like a local, not a tourist is always her aim when traveling. She was a fashion stylist for a decade, and now writes press releases and web copy for fashion brands, but only ones she loves, like Toujours Toi-Family Affairs. Claire is currently a contributing editor at Fathom: the travel website re-invented, and she has written on Paris and London for publications including Bust magazine and the Guardian. She was the London correspondent for online urban travel guide Gridskipper in its glory days and was given an award by The Paris Tourism Board for an article on what her perfect day in Paris would be. Happily, the prize was a trip to Paris. View Claire Oldman's Website

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