With or without Brexit, London is a major focal point for the international art market.
The decision of the British people in June to leave the European community has not had the impact on the art community we might have predicted.
In fact, in same the week as the two Frieze fairs are taking place, no fewer than three separate French galleries launch in London.(1)
Almine Rech, who already owns galleries in Paris, Brussels and London, has opened her second, large space (500m2) in the British capital. ‘Collectors here are more active than in Paris,’ she comments. Her inaugural exhibition is press friendly and expensive as it shows the latest Jeff Koons production featuring ‘gazing balls’ (gleaming blue baubles) placed in the middle of reproductions of famous masterpieces, on sale for between 1 million euros and 8 million euros for the sculptures.
Meanwhile Kamel Mennour, who swore by a national extension to his current trio of galleries on the two sides of the Seine in Paris, ended up inaugurated a mini 80m2 gallery inside the Claridge’s hotel complex.
‘I was already coming to London three to four times a month. The risk is small for the chance to reach a new audience.’ His inaugural exhibition puts the spotlight on young French artist Latifa Echakhch (born in 1974) who has created installations and abstract paintings, starting from 20,000 euros.
As for Olivier Malingue who has worked solidly with his father Daniel Malingue, the famous modern art dealer on avenue Matignon, he’s now establishing an independent set-up on this side of the Channel which is located, like his two French cohorts, in the very chic Mayfair district.
His 170m2 upstairs space has a remit encompassing modern and contemporary art. The inaugural exhibition is dedicated to Cho Yong-Ik (born in 1934) a classic figure in Korean abstract painting whose works sell for between £7,700 and £140,000. ‘The clientele in London is a lot more international than in Paris,’ he confirms.
Someone unlikely to disagree with him is Victoria May-Sidall, the director of the famously hip contemporary art fair Frieze London (160 galleries) and its younger sibling Frieze Masters (133 galleries), devoted to more classical art, both located in marquees in Regent’s Park until Sunday 9 October.
‘American collectors who I saw recently confirmed that they will be coming to London,’ she underlines, alluding to the competition from Fiac Paris which is taking place from 20 to 23 October. ‘The purpose of fairs is to sell art but to make them irreplaceable. You have to offer something exceptional.’
She explains what makes Frieze stand out:
One of the biggest trends in the art market presently is revisiting work by artists from the ‘60s to the ‘90s who have perhaps been overlooked.
True to form, Frieze London has created a section called ‘The ‘90s’ whose curation has been entrusted to the Frenchman Nicolas Trembley.
Here, 11 galleries revisit influential exhibitions that they previously put on in the ‘90s. The 303 Gallery from New York, for example, has an installation of a French garden, accompanied by drawings by the American artist Karen Kilimnik (born 1954). The works on paper start from 32,000 euros. Karen Kilimnik will be the subject of an exhibition at the Chateau de Malmaison from 22 October.
The French gallery Air de Paris ‘reactivates’ performances by artist Pierre Joseph (born 1965).
Viewers are confronted by actual people dressed up as an American policeman or Cinderella and who pose around the stand. The buyer of the performance, for 15,000 euros, can acquire a certificate in the form of a large photo, though he entrusts all power to the fictional character.
With the exception of a few big names like the English star Anish Kapoor, whose new 3.5-metre-tall incurving statue is being offered by the Lisson Gallery of London for £3.5 million, a large number of works presented at the Frieze fair are in the up-and-coming category.
In a way, Frieze London cuts a pale figure when compared with its neighbour Frieze Masters where « serious » works from every era are set off against now-classic contemporary artworks.
Here will you find one of the most iconic works by the surrealist painter Magritte from 1949, ‘L’empire des lumières’, being offered by Dickinson for $25 million.
Hauser&Wirth, joining forces with the dealer Moretti, has enlisted the Parisian architect Luis Laplace to create a sort of apartment that blends old masters and contemporary works, including an immense painting by the American Philip Guston (1913-1980) with a $6.5 million asking price.
Luis Laplace speaks about how he installed this accomplished stand:
And Zwirner of London and New York is exhibiting, among other things, a painting by Sigmar Polke (1941-2010), the major German artist – he’s currently the subject of an exhibition at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice – on sale for $10 million.
The proximity of a billionaires’ fair featuring sumptuous works and an avant-garde fair filled with pieces that may take a knock through the filter of time, does not work in the latter’s favour.
At a time of reigning uncertainty, the most contemporary art, which is by its nature overabundant, is confronted by artworks that have stood the test of time.
London and its Frieze fairs this week show an exceptional and copious selection of work. You might argue it’s a little too copious.
https://frieze.com/fairs/frieze-london. Until 9 October. London. Regent’s Park.
(1) Thaddaeus Ropac from Salzburg and Paris will also open a gallery in London Mayfair next April.