LONDON — Frieze Art fever has swept through London with gallerists undaunted by showing in a country that’s heading out of the European Union, while fashion brands, designers and retailers such as Etro, Christopher Kane, Bally and Moda Operandi took full advantage of the buzzy moment in the British capital.
Under the Frieze tents in Regent’s Park, international gallery owners said it’s important to be present at the fair, which began on Thursday and runs through Sunday. Gallerists said they see the event as an important sales generator and a window to an international clientele.
Astrid Hamm, senior director of the Berlin-based gallery Eigen + Art, said Frieze is one of the few fairs in which the gallery chooses to take part, as it provides a strong platform to build young artists’ reputations and generate sales.
“We’ve been here since the beginning, when it was literally freezing because they hadn’t figured out the heating system yet. It’s an international crowd, with French buyers coming for the weekend as well as international ones. We had a strong start on Thursday, meeting key Chinese and Indian collectors,” said Hamm.
This year the gallery chose to showcase the work of young British artists Tom Anholt and Ross Chisholm, alongside photography by the likes of Rikene Dikstra, whose raw portraits of young women stood out in the space.
Alissa Friedman, director of the New York-based gallery Salon 94, said her Frieze experience had been good so far. “I’m feeling positive about sales. I think this is our 11th year, and for us it’s a very visible venue for the U.K. and Europe. We’ve built up a good collector base.”
She said it’s a way to bring people together, “and to focus on things that are not the natural disasters and political crises that are happening. It’s clearly a place of commerce, but more and more people also treat their art fairs like exhibitions.”
Artists including Marina Adams and Betty Woodman were on show in the space, which resembled a small exhibition.
Although galleries declined to disclose sales figures, a representative at Frieze said the fair was off to a strong start with significant sales already taking place before the official opening.
During the VIP opening on Wednesday, the New York-based gallery Jack Shainman — a new Frieze London participant — sold a new work by Kerry James Marshall to a U.S. private collector for $875,000, while the Korean artist Lee Bull sold three works, all valued above $100,000.
Among the highest-valued items on display is a piece by Jean-Michel Basquiat valued at $8 million.
The energy was already flowing around London on the eve of the fair, with myriad art-related events taking place around town.
On Tuesday night, Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni was signing copies — 150 of them to be exact — of her new book “After Andy: Adventures in Warhol Land” at Loulou’s in Mayfair.
Guests included members of the author’s literary clan — her mother Lady Antonia Fraser and sister Rebecca Fraser, whose next book “The Mayflower Generation” will be released later this month. Jean Pigozzi, who is making a documentary based on Fraser-Cavassoni’s 2004 book “The Life and Times of Sam Spiegel,” was another guest in the basement club.
Moda Operandi’s cofounder Lauren Santo Domingo kept the art party going with an afternoon tea held at the retailer’s private shopping space in Belgravia to launch the second iteration of the homeware collaboration between Moda and Cabana, the interior design publication by Martina Mondadori.
The collection has an oriental flavor, inspired by Moroccan motifs. It puts the focus on rich jewel tones, from saffron to Egyptian red.
Santo Domingo spoke of the lifestyle of the Moda Operandi woman where homeware, art and fashion co-exist.
“Although we have sold fashion in the past, we moved to fine jewelry, ventured into bridal and now also homeware. It’s really an extension of that lifestyle; this is how she lives, all of those are things that she’s really interested in,” she said.
Music producer Kasseem Dean, better known as Swizz Beatz, teamed with Bally to spread the love — of art. Swizz, who has been promoting emerging artists through his platform “No Commission,” which puts sales proceeds straight into artists’ pockets, tapped the Spanish artist Ricardo Cavolo for a 27-piece men’s and women’s accessories and ready-to-wear capsule range that features the artist’s bold graphic prints and features shaman motifs.
“Here’s a young artist out of Spain showing his work in the windows of Bond Street in London,” said Swizz.
Jacopo Etro, a self-confessed fan of the fair and the British capital, continued the tradition of collaborating with artists as part of Frieze. This year, he joined forces with the Welsh artist Dan Rees for an in-store exhibition and a limited-edition scarf featuring patterns created by Rees.
“London is probably one of the most creative worldwide cities, you can go to any part of the city and discover different kinds of artists. It’s also the place that probably draws so many people coming from all over the world, and particularly from all over Europe. Let’s hope that’s going to last; Europeans are very scared,” said Etro.
He said he gave carte blanche to Rees and was intrigued by the resulting artworks, which explored the idea of propaganda, and were displayed at an intimate corner at Etro’s Bond Street flagship.
Christopher Kane hosted an in-store exhibition of his own honoring the late Romanian outsider artist Ionel Talpazan, who is best known for his UFO-inspired art and for having claimed that he had UFO encounters from the age of eight.
“I’ve always been a fan of Ionel, ever since college. For me his sketches are just brilliant, they have a real story to tell, there’s a background, no nonsense, they come from a world not affected by fashion and the art world. It’s just raw emotion. It’s really emotive, spellbound,” said Kane.
To mark the launch of his fall 2017 see-now-buy-now accessories capsule, Kane translated some of Talpazan’s UFO sketches into printed midi dresses on the catwalk.
“It’s always about being respectful, to the artists whether living or dead. I wanted to show my respect and I wanted the clothes to feel wearable and real,” he added.
Alex Eagle took a more intimate approach to party hosting, throwing a dinner for her friend and recent collaborator Adam Lippes, at her home in Soho.
Eagle and Lippes, who share a mutual appreciation of all things design and would finish each others sentences when conversation turned to antique shopping and Pad design fair, celebrated the launch of a much coveted trench coat by the American designer, at Eagle’s boutiques in Berlin, Oxfordshire and Soho.
“I absolutely love that trench coat, I want to wear it every winter, I didn’t want it to be gone after one season. This is how we buy at the store, we don’t think in terms of seasonality or put things on sale,” said Alex Eagle, of the elegant asymmetric khaki trench that has been worn by the likes of Amal Clooney. “Even if we don’t sell out of it and I see it in store after two seasons, I’d never think ‘Oh this old thing’ because it’s such a staple piece. This will never happen though, we’ve already sold half of our stock.”
“This is the new approach to retail, women are overloaded with so many options that they need to be presented with a tight edit,” added the designer.