A performer from James Lee Byers’ “Ten in a Hat”, wearing a replica of the original 1968 version, is pictured at the Frieze Art Fair in London, October 14, 2014. A performer from James Lee Byers’ “Ten in a Hat”, wearing a replica of the original 1968 version, is pictured at the Frieze Art Fair in London, October 14, 2014. © Luke MacGregor/Reuters

Frieze London: the highlights

As the week comes to a close, we look at some of the highlights of the FRIEZE London art week.

by 20 October 2014

Come Dine With Me

The first days of Frieze were witness to a whirlwind of competing social events; a party to celebrate the much-hyped inauguration of Phillips new auction house in Mayfair, and a dinner by Sotheby's at China Tang. Fashion labels Moncler and Christian Dior also held celebrity-packed dinners, the latter included a presentation by host Bianca Jagger on war crimes and abuse against women (a bold and commendable move for a fashion brand). While this may seem out of sync with FRIEZE, the event was a charity auction, with artworks donated by major artists to the cause.

The Glitter-Arti and VIPs Were in Full Force...

Jay-Z and Beyoncé were on tour again - they attended London's Frieze Masters before heading out to private viewings of artist studios, including Anish Kapoor. Members of the general public hoping to score glimpses of the shining social gods and goddesses during the opening day would be disappointed to learn that the actual opening day was not Wednesday, but Tuesday. VIP previews are common at art fairs - indeed, much of the bigger and more important deals are sealed before the doors even open, to ensure that artists works end up in "the right hands" or, in other words, ensuring the most prestigious collectors and museums get first access, and the prices continue to climb.

Aspiring social climbers will be disappointed to learn that the art world is an exclusive club, limited to the rich, the very rich, and a few celebrities - even those holding VIP passes have limited access to the best dinners and private parties. In Basel or Miami, where there are relatively few venues, one can still enjoy the thrill of the event, occasionally rubbing shoulders with the glitter-arti. In London however, lack of connections can be fatal. For the art fair organisers, that's just fine. It keeps the event about the art.

...but its About the Art. Really.

FRIEZE is one of the worlds largest events dedicated to the sale and promotion of contemporary artists. This year, with 162 galleries from 25 countries the event continued to expand, and this year included "Live", a segment dedicated to performance.

The first day at FRIEZE this year started not so much with a bang, but a whimper. Wandering through the corridors, there seemed to be much less of a palpable "buzz" than previous years. Some speculate that the competing events, all with the same opening times detracted from the excitement and frisson of the opening of any one fair. But the lack of crowds or palpable excitement is misleading when it comes to sales. The art market is attractive because it is anti-cyclical; there will always be a demand for beauty and prestige.

Because I can't have you I want you

Sales this year for artworks by top artists are moving briskly. Damien Hirst's elegant wall of taxidermied fish sold for £4 million. Aptly entitled, Because I cant have you I want you, Hirst once again touches on the sensitive pulse of his market, which can seemingly never get enough of his work. Less new, but noteworthy, was the sale of an Andy Warhol work from 1984, based on Edvard Munch's The Scream, which sold for $5 million. Comparatively, work of established living artists like Erwin Wurm were purchased for a reported 250,000 each, a relative bargain.

However, the big news of the week was last night's auction at Christies, where an untitled Joe Bradley painting from 2011 sold for £986,500, nearly doubling its £500,000 high estimate. Bradley epitomises the rise in art world prices, as the man featured in a Bloomberg story headlined, "How Joe Bradley's Prices Surged 1,100% in Five Years: Hot Art." For those with slimmer wallets, Christies is also host to "Multiplied", where one can purchase limited edition of artists works for as little as £120.00.

A Round-Up

Admittedly, we preferred Frieze Masters to FRIEZE. At Frieze Masters, the number of galleries with coloured walls and installations which made the otherwise "blank slate" art surfaces come alive and the quality of work at Frieze Masters, by more established artists, was higher. In some cases - such as Sadie Cole's vividly splattered red and orange walls - the statement was intended to reduce the overall use of hanging space, but create a carefully curated installation. We were particularly impressed by Helly Nahmad's imaginary collector's space - replete with art masterpieces in a 1960's setting.

A mere glance at Picassos Desmoiselles D'Avignon will show the long-standing relationship between modernism and African sculptures. What surprised us this year was the number of galleries dedicated to the work from countries and nations across the African continent which -not coincidentally - complimented the artwork well.

Sculpture Park

Speaking of Sculptures, we loved the installations in Regents Park and highly recommend a weekend tour. Download the Frieze Sculpture Guide app for a guided tour.

PAD - All About Interiors.

PAD is London's leading fair for 20th Century art, design and decorative arts. Because of its emphasis on interiors, and location in the heart of Mayfair's leafy Berkeley Square, this fair ranks amongst the cities' most popular. Recommended.


Gerhard Richter at the new Marian Goodman Gallery

It's hard to know what to cover first: Gerhard Richter's lengthy history as one of the world greatest living modern artists, whose 60-year career span (he is now 82) has seen an impressive production across abstract photography and paintings - or Marianne Goodman, his long-standing gallerist, was one of the first female gallerists to usher in modernism and reigns as one of the great matriarchs of the movement. Ms. Goodman (82) has been working with Richter for years so it is only fitting that the opening of her new London gallery - an expansive warehouse space designed by global Archistar, David Adjaye - should be adorned with works from her old friend. An elegant show; recommended.

Edwin Smith: Royal Academy of British Architecture

A little-known but important name in the world of photography, Edwin Smith was one of Britain's most elegant of his generation, capturing the world of London in the early 20th century and its inhabitants. Crisp composition, atmospheric London and some architectural shots of the cityscape. (until 6th December, Royal Institute of British Architecture).