By  on October 19, 2006

LONDON — This city is emerging from deep Frieze, with thousands of contemporary art works sold, gallons of Champagne consumed — Ruinart was a favorite with party hosts — and some very happy dealers.

Since the annual Frieze Art Fair debuted in 2003, it has not only exploded in popularity, with hundreds of galleries from around the world fighting to get on the roster of 150 exhibitors, it has spawned countless events and openings across the British capital.

"The energy in London now is just incredible, and Frieze has been a major factor behind that," said Simon de Pury, who last Saturday night lifted the veil on the new European headquarters of his auction house Philips de Pury & Co., housed in a former post office near Victoria Station.

"London has always been fertile ground for contemporary art, and England is a very pro-business country right now," said de Pury, whose auction featuring works by artists including Richard Prince, Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas generated sales of $16 million.

Indeed, if this year's Frieze week needed a symbol, it was no doubt the giant, blinking gold dollar sign by Tim Noble and Sue Webster that was hanging on the wall near de Pury's auctioneers' podium. The piece, titled "$," sold for $348,192.

Frieze, which ran from Oct. 12 to 15 under a big tent in Regent's Park, drew gallery owners, museum directors, auction houses, consultants, collectors, and the curious alike. Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota, Zaha Hadid, Nadja Swarovski, Alannah Weston, Charles Saatchi, Nigella Lawson, Hedi Slimane, Kate Moss, Elle Macpherson, and Jamie Oliver were all spotted wandering the maze of 152 galleries showing the work of 1,000 artists at the fair.

The fair drew roughly 63,000 visitors this year, and sales were expected to easily top last year's $60 million. More than half the galleries showing were from continental Europe, Great Britain and Ireland, with the remainder from the U.S., the Middle East and Brazil.

"It has become the prominent European fair, after Basel," said Matthew Carey-Williams, associate director at Haunch of Venison London, which was selling works by Bill Viola, Ian Monroe, Anton Henning and Keith Tyson.

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