Like the exhibitions organised in London, Frieze – a fair drawing international collectors – reaped contrasting reuslts in 2016, though sales were overall positive. A few chosen morsels.
At Acquavella, works by artists Franz Kline and Brice Marden found buyers at their asking prices, respectively $9.5 million and $5 million. Hauser & Wirth, which created the fictitious workshop of an imaginary artist, won visitors over with several pieces over the million-dollar mark, signed by Louise Bourgeois, Cy Twombly, Alexander Calder, Francis Picabia… The Pace Gallery is enthusiastic about its many sales, namely in the context of Frieze Masters, even if the public, until now, has come out of curiosity rather than to buy. In this way, on the fair’s opening day, over half a dozen pastels by Lucas Samaras, were snatched up at between $20,000 and $30,000, while at Frieze, Leo Villareal lit up the public with LED light work for $100,000, and works by Prabhavathi Meppayil and Kohei Nawa, sold at between $230,000 and $380,000 for the latter. The gallery, like its counterparts, didn’t seem to be suffering from the Brexit. “There’s even a rather positive effect for the non-British, as we observed with Americans and Asians in particular. At Frieze and Frieze Masters, we obviously meet our usual collectors, who we generally inform before the start of the fair, but this year, we discovered a multitude of new ones!” The gallery Thaddaeus Ropac, which is preparing the opening of an impressive space in London next spring, also met Chinese, Indian and Russian art lovers who never come to Paris, even for fairs, or to Pantin, according to director Xaver von Mentzingen. At this edition, collectors focused on sure names, and acquired works by Robert Rauschenberg, Georg Baselitz, Tony Cragg, Sigmar Polke and Robert Longo. The fair also allowed for sales of works by James Rosenquist, placed on sale between $85,000 and $800,000, with art lovers sometimes competing with British institutions that were present in force. This point was also noted by Malborough Fine Art, which sold, on the Professional Day, paintings by Paula Rego for over one million pounds, with clients including the National Gallery in London. Institutions also paid attention to very young galleries and emerging artists. In this way, at Clearing, which dedicated its stand to a solo show by Marguerite Humeau, born in 1986, the Tate Modern acquired one of four sculptures sold between $45,000 and $65,000. One of the directors, Harry Scrymgeour, rejoices at the good positive energy and the support of international collectors.
But while everyone noted the quality of the public, not all galleries did equally well, despite their fine efforts. In this way, the three galleries Marianne Boesky, Dominique Levy and Sprueth Magers which teamed up to honour Frank Stella, namely his 1958 paintings, did not manage to seduce the public despite their historic quality. Other big galleries murmured that the fair was not doing great, but could not proclaim it high and loud on a market that is heavily based on the confidence inspired by names that need to keep up the popularity of their artists. And while the Brexit effect didn’t seem to cause problems, other factors slowed down buyers, as remarks Fabio Pink from the Peter Kilchmann Gallery. “We made sales of over £300,000, and met new collectors, but the recent problems of Deutsche Bank, one of the fair’s main sponsors, added to the low level of the pound, meant that the atmosphere was slower than in previous years.” Indeed, in the week preceding the fair, the pound was devalued, resulting in, recalls François Ghebaly whose gallery is in Los Angeles, “works 20 % dearer for the buyer in pounds, in the space of a weekend…”. His stand dedicated to Channa Horwith gleaned much attention, possibly due to her works joining the MoMA collections or else her recent exhibition at Raven Row, a highly respected London venue. “We were expecting more sales,” he continues, “but only worked with Americans looking out for new pieces.” The quality of his show was appreciable, as was also the case of his neighbours’ stands or the exhibitors in the Focus zone, devoted to younger brands – unlike certain dealers in the main section who reminded visitors just how much they were… at a “fair”. We can also bear in mind that some galleries participating in such events – reserving their works for Art Basel in Basel, Miami or Hong Kong, or possibly for the FIAC in Paris – cannot show masterpieces everywhere… Finally, one of the most fascinating experiences was offered by the gallery Seventeen, with a stand devoted to virtual reality designed by Jon Rafman, which provided the spectacle of headphoned visitors moving their heads to follow forms that only they could see.
In the rest of London, many dealers decided to present painting, reputed as being easier to sell. These included very prestigious spaces in Mayfair, namely David Korty at Sadie Coles, or Celia Paul at Victoria Miro in the emerging East London, or else the latest darling, Allison Katz, featured on the cover of the Frieze magazine, at The Approach. Mention can also be made of the interesting work of Jutta Koether at Campoli Presti, or Maureen Gallace at Maureen Paley. So much to see that we’re close to indigestion… Thankfully, other gems emerged as a result of some true (re)discoveries. In this way, at the ICA, the impressive show by James Richards offered a response to “The Infinite Mix” exhibition, showing videos in an abandoned space, the presentation in every room immaculate. Not to mention the abstract expressionist exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, or the homage to Caravaggio at the National Gallery. It’s still a must to go to London for Frieze, for the pleasure of wandering through the city’s other events.
Frieze and Frieze Masters, from 6 to 9 October, Regent’s Park, London.