Frieze Art Fair All’s Well That Ends Well

ArtLyst assesses last week’s Frieze madness

So Frieze week has come and gone, and the artworld is reeling from exhaustion. The ninth edition of Frieze Art Fair hosted 173 of the world’s leading contemporary art galleries, representing 33 countries, and presenting work by over 1000 artists – and that’s not to mention the dozen satellite fairs also peddling their wares: from the highbrow Pavilion of Art & Design to the cool SUNDAY Fair; from Moniker for street art, to Moving Image for video works.

But, all the while, the artworld held its breath: with the renewed euro crisis, would the art market remain buoyant? Or would there be a repeat of 2008, when the collapse of Lehman Brothers saw a dramatic drop in art sales. In other words, Frieze week – and Frieze Art Fair especially –, kicking off the autumn season, was to provide the litmus test for the art market future. All eyes were firmly on Frieze directors Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover to see if they could come up with the goods once again.

So, what happened? Frieze Art organizers were expected by some to release official attendance and sales figures yesterday, but these have yet to materialise. It is, furthermore, unlikely that they ever will, as Sharp and Slotover notoriously regard such results as misleading and inaccurate, and have declined to provide them since 2006.

But reports from the exhibiting galleries suggest good news: rather economic meltdown, Frieze exhibitors have revealed vigorous sales. We hear, for example, of how, on the first day, Thaddaeus Ropac was already on his second hanging, selling works by ‘Baselitz, Gormley and Kiefer faster than I expected’, for prices ranging from 400,000 to 500,000 euros. Similarly, by the Friday, Meyer Kainer was doing ‘better than last year’.

Indeed, by Friday, some booths had already relinquished their entire stock, especially amongst those who opted for the more saleable 2D media such as drawing or painting. The Art Newspaper reported, for instance, that Javier Peres had sold everything by Friday, including two abstracts by Leo Gabin at €7,500 each, along with an Eddie Martinez that went to Charles Saatchi for $40,000. But equally, Max Wrigham proved that it was not only those playing safe that cashed in, as work by Danish artist Fos, consisting of real-live mynah birds housed in gold cages, sold for around £20,000.

And there was further good new elsewhere: the New York gallery David Zwirner, for instance, sold a $350,000 Daniel Richter painting to the Indonesian-Chinese collector Budi Tek, while London and Berlin dealers Sprueth Magers sold the 2006 George Condo painting ‘Interception’, tagged at $450,000, to an American client.

Even Michael Landy’s 2011 kinetic sculpture ‘Credit Card Destroying Machine’ (a piece that produced a drawing for anyone prepared to permanently part with their plastic, and priced at £ 120,000), was a confirmed sale to a European collector on the concluding day of the fair.

It seems that the art market still has the power to retain its aloofness from international belt tightening. As VeneKlasen explained, ‘We don’t get the feeling that people are wary of buying art right now. It’s something they want to collect’. In the truism of gallery owner Ropac; ‘art holds its value’.

While Greece careers towards bankruptcy, the UK is being predicted zero growth for next year, and the phrase ‘recession’ overtakes ‘postmodernism’ as #1 media buzz word, the artworld can now breathe a microcosmic sigh of relief.

The most recent resource for Frieze Art Fair can be found here.

Words/ Photo Thomas Keane © 2011 ArtLyst

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