Interview with Actor and Art Collector Russell Tovey

Russel Tovey puts Frieze London in Focus

Born and bred in London (November 14, 1981), Russell Tovey, the acclaimed British actor and passionate art collector, is enthusiastically tuning into this year’s Frieze London, which takes place from 4 – 7 October, 2018. “A celebration and an acute adrenalin boost from the moment you walk in”, says Mr. Tovey about the upcoming event that will bring together art connoisseurs from all around the world in the vibrant capital. For the first time during Frieze, he will invite people into his home to see his collection, thus taking a shared joy of collecting to a refreshing human and personal level. In September 2018, Russell Tovey was selected for Apollo’s annual ’40 Under 40′ in the collector category – a list of 40 people below the age of 40 who are making waves around the art world. We had a talk with the wave making Londoner about Frieze London and his plans to soak up the Frieze vibes, equipped with a strong curiosity and an iPhone as his greatest asset in his ongoing discovery of the art world.

Russell Tovey and his art collection
Courtesy of Russell Tovey

The 16th edition of Frieze London takes place from 5 – 7 October, 2018. What is the significance of Frieze London for you as a Londoner, and how do you experience its impact on the city’s cultural landscape?
Firstly, it’s the possibility to experience international art in the flesh in my home town, catch up with friends from around the world who fly in for this week, and simply soak up the atmosphere of the art world buzz and hopefully discover new artists and work during this time.

In 2003, Frieze transferred from a magazine to an art fair with the ambition “to do less of a trade fair and more of a festival, the kind of thing where you walked in and felt uplifted rather than a bit down” according to its co-founder Matthew Slotover. What is your personal experience of the fair and its rapid development into one of the top art fairs in the world?
It’s an event and yes, it’s totally a festival isn’t it? A celebration and an acute adrenalin boost from the moment you walk in, especially if and when you see work that you love. Normally after visiting the fair, I do need a little power nap to chill out before going on to the other events in and around Frieze week.

Inside Russell Tovey's art collection
From left to right: Matt Connors (Flicker (3 to 5 color): Red/grey, 2012), Carmen Herrera (Untitled, 2017), Leon Polk Smith (Untitled, 1948), Jessi Reaves (bucket chair with covers). Courtesy of Russell Tovey

This year, you will present your collection publicly as part of the Frieze VIP program. Why is it important for you to expand the reach of your collection and share it with a broader audience?
Art is about being seen and shared on whatever platforms it’s part of. So many private collections are rarely visited and the best way to see art is in the flesh. I’m proud of where my collection has taken me, and I’m very excited to share that with people in my home and get a conversation going. Maybe I’m hoping I’ll discover something about myself I was unaware of simply through people seeing me in my environment and viewing my collection. It’s going to be an equally exciting, daunting and fascinating experience.

Russell Tovey's art collection: Alvaro Barrington
Alvaro Barrington, 1944-1977, 2018, oil and yarn on burlap paper in custom frame. Courtesy of Russell Tovey

“Through Instagram I’ve met and connected to many fantastic people. It has allowed me a route in; It has also given me an exposure within art circles and shows I’m serious about this; I want to keep learning by self-teaching, and that I’m not just some flash actor who’s made a bit of money and wants to blue-chip his life up”. The above quote is from a recent interview you did with Larry’s List. Which role do art fairs play in your self-teaching, if any?
You’re seeing thousands of artworks in the flesh – good, bad, challenging, and reassuring – by both emerging and established artists, and you can’t not learn and discover more, when you’re totally consumed and surrounded by that. I’ve always felt that after a fair is when most of the art I’ve experienced during the day works its way into my mind, and I can establish what I want to know more about. That’s why a revisit is always fruitful… and why an iPhone camera is your greatest asset!

Magdalena Suarez from Russell Tovey art collection
Magdalena Suarez Frimkess, Minnie, 2018. Courtesy of Russell Tovey

What is a successful art fair in your opinion? On a personal level, what do you consider a rewarding art fair experience?
A successful art fair for me, as a collector is the chance to acquire something really superb and special from one of the galleries, whether it’s a work I’ve already reserved from the PDFs or something totally new and fresh on the day. It’s about connecting with galleries and making those relationships stronger and cementing long-term connections, internationally and local, in person and not just on email. So many times, collecting is about email chains, and when it becomes human and personal to you, it makes a huge difference.

About Frieze London

Frieze London returns to Regent’s Park this October to present the best of international contemporary art by emerging and established artists, alongside a dynamic programme of newly commissioned artworks, films and talks. Frieze Sculpture is also on display until 7 October with 25 significant outdoor works.

2018 Opening Days & Hours
Wednesday Preview 3 October (Invitation only)
Thursday Preview 4 October: 12pm-8pm
Thursday Private View 4 October: 5pm-8pm
Friday 5 – Saturday 6 October: 12pm-7pm
Sunday 7 October: 12pm-6pm

More information here.

About Russell Tovey

Russell George Tovey (born 14 November 1981) is an English actor. He is known for playing the role of werewolf George Sands in the BBC‘s supernatural drama Being Human,[3] Rudge in both the stage and film versions of The History Boys, Steve in the BBC Three sitcom Him & Her, Kevin Matheson in the HBO original series Looking and its subsequent series finale television film Looking: The Movie, and as Henry Knight on BBC TV series Sherlock. He has also starred as Harry Doyle in the dramathriller series Quantico on the ABC network. In addition, he also stars as Ray Terrill/The Ray in the Arrowverse. Source:

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