Frieze Art Fair Opens With Bang But No Fizz

frieze art fair 2011

Price Freeze As Confidence Steadies In Contemporary Art Market

As the Frieze Art Fair 2011 throws open its doors to VIPs today, the artworld holds its breath: in such turbulent economic times, will the art market remain buoyant? Or, with the current euro crisis, will we have a repeat of 2008, when the collapse of Lehman Brothers saw a dramatic drop in art sales.

While the current crisis cannot yet be compared to 2008, the slowing of growth in China (the country that has done the most for ensuring the overall stability of the art market) could see art sales stalling. All eyes are now on Frieze as the litmus test for future.Follow here for the latest Frieze Art Fair Information

Established in 2003, Frieze Art Fair has today become the most important art event in the UK, and one of the most important in the world, with a colossal traffic of international art buyers, collectors and VIPS hitting the capital this week. This year, 175 exhibitors will be peddling their wares, with first-time participants including Berlin’s Johnen Galerie, Paris’s Yvon Lambert, and New York’s Pace Gallery. And there is (in theory) plenty to excite punters, there being an abundance of stimulating work on display, from established names to the international emerging.

But one report from Monday (brought to us by ArtTactic) suggests a 55% fall in confidence since the summer, and, for the first time since 2009, a negative outlook for the European and American contemporary art markets. This shift can be seen in more concrete terms, with Art insurers Hiscox estimating that the value of art on offer at Frieze was approximately £225 million – that is, down about £16 million on last year. Of course, perhaps this is good news, indicating that the stratospheric price rises we have seen in recent years may have begun to stabilise.

The uncertain situation in China has a wider significance to the international art market due to the high investment recently undertaken there by Western galleries. With a seemingly ever-growing class of Chinese big spenders, White Cube and Gagosian have, respectively, intimated and acted upon plans to open galleries in Hong Kong. Similarly, this May’s Art HK fair included the likes of Sprüth Magers and Victoria Miro.

So what does the art market future hold? Good or bad, Frieze – as ‘the first bellwether of the season’ (Frieze co-director Matthew Slotover) – will be our best intimation as to whether there is light at the end of this economic tunnel.

View from the Field:

“Today’s VIP opening was staggered, as per norm, with the MIP (Most Important People) in the morning for a special pre-preview. Press were let in at 1:00 pm so as not to infringe on the Elles and Gwyneths, if they were in fact there at all this year. The buzz was indeed apparent, the tent vibrating with heat and noise; but the question of red dots (or imaginary clear ones, as seems to be the fashion) was the elephant in the corner. In order to extract this sort of information from dealers, it would be necessary to remove false fingernails with a pair of pliers. One thing noticeably lacking was a drinks sponsor. It seems that this year, to celebrate the double dip recession, there is to be no free bubbly – or wine/beer for that matter! Pommery, the so called sponsor, placed two bottles on each stand which was about the right amount for the dealers to celebrate amongst themselves, or to drown their sorrows, as the case may be. When I asked the organizers about this obvious missing element – a factor known to lubricate the visitor into a buying mood – I was told that drinks were available in the VIP rooms, or at the pay bar at £11 per glass. That certainly put me in my place!”

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Words Thomas Keane Photo: © ArtLyst 2011


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