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LONDON — Art imitates life — and sometimes it even goes so far as to imitate fashion and luxury goods.
The gallerists exhibiting at the 10th annual Frieze Art Fair here sounded a lot like purveyors of high-end accessories and jewelry: Sales remain robust, but buyers are taking their time and doing their research before making big-ticket decisions.
This story first appeared in the October 16, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
And just like in fashion and luxury, the most-established artists and brand names are proving to be the most popular.
“I think the days of people buying very quickly are probably over to an extent,” said David Fitzgerald, director of Dublin’s Kerlin Gallery, an exhibitor at the four-day contemporary art fair that wrapped up Sunday in Regent’s Park.
“People are a bit more cautious, and would spend a little bit more time doing homework in advance of the art fair. That’s something that’s changed over the last couple of years, no doubt about that. There’s none of that impulsiveness we may have encountered previously,” he added.
The gallery presented works by three artists: painters Callum Innes and Stephen McKenna, and a piece by the sculptor Siobhan Hapaska.
David Tung of Beijing’s Long March Space, which showed works by artists including Chen Chieh-Jen, Liu Wei and MadeIn Co., echoed Fitzgerald. “There’s definitely more time and consideration about purchases, and also more research and buyers being a little more conservative about what they choose,” said Tung. “Collectors are looking for artists who have a more established background, whom you see in exhibitions, who have stable media such as sculpture and painting.”
Lilly Daniell of Berlin’s Chert gallery also said that collectors’ confidence is often dependent on an artist’s profile.
She said that the Petrit Halilaj sculptures of spindly trees that the gallery is showing at the fair are in demand, “Because he’s got a lot of solo exhibitions coming up, and he’s quite a prominent artist.…I do think that makes a difference. What the artist is doing and how active they are,” said Daniell.
So it should have come as no surprise that the organizers of this year’s event have introduced a satellite fair called Frieze Masters, which showcases art made before the year 2000. Around 90 galleries exhibited at the inaugural Frieze Masters, including Acquavella Galleries in New York, Pace London/New York and Daniel Katz in London, showing works by some of the titans of modern art, including Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro and Alberto Giacometti.
“We felt that Frieze Masters and Frieze New York have kind of added to the dynamic and the strength of the contemporary fair,” said Nadia Gerazouni, director of The Breeder gallery in Athens. “We notice a lot more Americans coming this year because of the positive experience they had in New York. And with Frieze Masters…that’s something extra to keep people returning to both fairs.”
The new Frieze fair ran at the same time as the well-established PAD Art and Design Fair, which takes place each year in Berkeley Square and also specializes in modern art. This year PAD showcased a variety of 20th century works by artists including Roy Lichtenstein, Yayoi Kusama, Jean Dubuffet, Alexander Calder, Diego Giacometti and Andy Warhol.
The works range from paintings and tapestries to furniture, jewelry, photography and tribal art. Luisa Guinness Gallery showcased rare, silver and enamel bracelets by Lucio Fontana and trompe l’oeil rings by Anish Kapoor. Elisabetta Cipriani, who also has a gallery in London, was showing jewelry she commissioned from artists including Jannis Kounellis, Enrico Castellani and Ilya and Emilia Kabakov.
Back at Frieze, Gerazouni noted that the mood was “quite focused. There were a lot of museum groups here and curators, apart from the collectors.”
London’s Tate Collection acquired four pieces at the fair by artists Hideo Fukushima, Nicholas Hlobo, Caragh Thuring and Jack Whitten. The acquisitions were made with 150,000 pounds, or $241,056 at current exchange, made available to the Tate by The Outset/Frieze Art Fair Fund.
“In its 10th year, Frieze continues to be a fair in which we can all make discoveries of emerging and reemerging artists,” said Nicholas Serota, Tate’s director.
On the commercial front, Gerazouni said one of The Breeder gallery’s most notable sales was a piece by the Greek artist Andreas Lolis, a sculpture of cardboard boxes crafted in marble entitled “21st Century Relics, Composition in 9 Parts,” which was shown at Frieze’s sculpture park.
The piece was sold to what Gerazouni described as a “prominent private collection in New York” for 100,000 pounds, or $164,700. Lolis is based in Athens, and Gerazouni said the financial crisis there means there’s been a spike in artists’ production.
“We’re finding that artistic production is very strong. It’s already clear, but over the next years, when we have some distance from the whole situation, it will be even more clear,” she said.
This year’s fair continued to attract the starry element for which it has become famous. Guests at Frieze’s by-invitation preview included Grayson Perry, Tracey Emin, Dasha Zhukova, Norman Foster, Raf Simons, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former BP executive John Browne.
Around London, Chanel took the Frieze week opportunity to open its “Little Black Jacket” exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, while Jimmy Choo feted its collaboration with artist Rob Pruitt at a dinner in Belgravia.
The online fashion retailer Yoox.com used the week to launch Art at Yoox.com, which sells photography, prints, artwork and products by artists online. Exclusive offerings include limited-edition place mats by Perry and two small-scale versions of Damien Hirst’s “The Anatomy of an Angel,” in resin.
The company said visitors can use the area as one-stop shop to check out the latest goings-on in the art world, browse through works from contemporary artists, find out more about the artists and purchase works as and when they like. The selection ranges from $20 to $22,000 for a Peter Blake limited-edition print.
Louis Vuitton, meanwhile, will be keeping the Frieze flame alive until the end of November with a live installation by Elmgreen & Dragset. The artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset have set up a four-poster bed with a gold vulture perched atop one of the bed posts on the first floor of Vuitton’s Bond Street store.
The installation consists of a real person — many of Vuitton’s London employees are taking part — laying still between the sheets, listening to a bedtime story being read to them for an hour or so.
“We are challenging the notions of what you can and cannot do in a public space — like climb into bed and go to sleep,” Dragset said. “The vulture covered in gold leaf gives a dark and twisted feel to the fairy-tale bed, and reminds us of the fate that awaits us all.”
Elmgreen & Dragset are particularly popular in London this fall with a show taking place at the Victoria Miro Gallery, which runs until Nov. 10. Their bronze statue of a boy on a rocking horse is currently sitting atop the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.