LONDON — It was a tough week for the Brits with the clock ticking on Brexit and still no clarity on when, how or if the country will leave the European Union, and a fresh raft of U.S. tariffs on high-end goods from a long-running battle over aviation subsidies.
That didn’t sour the mood here — with the Frieze Art Fair buoyant and a series of related fashion, fine jewelry, design and interiors events taking place across town. The fair opened on Thursday and runs until Oct. 6.
“Frieze this year has been a good moment for us. Along with the visit of 15 Chinese collectors during the period, we also had a Charles Sandison solo show which attracted many key collectors,” said Hadrien de Montferrand, owner of HdM Gallery.
Brexit uncertainty, he added, has not yet impacted business, “even if some of our clients might take a little more time to make their decisions. Uncertainty is never a good thing.”
By contrast, he said the U.S.-China trade war has affected business Stateside. “We normally do the Chicago Art Fair. It is a really successful fair for us. This year we decided to cancel our participation because of a fear of tariffs.”
Designer and artist Anthony Symonds, who staged Frieze Art’s first fashion show on Thursday night, said showing at the fair opened his label Symonds Pearmain to a new audience.
“There’s a particular energy here and it’s a way of reaching and starting a broader conversation with new voices,” said Symonds. “The art customer has a different attitude, and they are curious as they might be about an artwork, and will ask you all these different things,” he said.
The show was hosted in collaboration with Matchesfashion.com, which also invited creatives — including fashion editors, set designers and stylists — to take over the retailer’s account and present the art fair through their eyes.
U.S. Ambassador Robert Wood “Woody” Johnson captured the upbeat mood, arguing that artists and creatives generate prosperity.
“These smart people are thinking and challenging our current understanding of the way the world works — and that makes it better,” Johnson told guests from the worlds of art, fashion and luxury during a party at Winfield House, the ambassador’s residence in Regent’s Park.
Michael Ward, managing director of Harrods and chief executive officer of Walpole, Britain’s luxury lobby, said “fashion and the arts are so intertwined now” and each year they work together to boost Frieze.
Frieze definitely draws a more diverse crowd — and a wider age demographic — than London Fashion Week. It allows for more cross-pollination of ideas and for fashion types to flash another side of themselves.
During the week, Victoria Beckham worked with Sotheby’s on a show of Andy Warhol’s works at her Dover Street store and, during a party to mark the exhibition, hobnobbed with artists Takashi Murakami and Kaws. Kim Jones and Nikolai von Bismarck hosted a book signing for the The Dior Sessions, a collection of striking black-and-white portraits, shot in film, by von Bismarck.
On Thursday night, designer Bella Freud honored her late father, hosting a launch party for “Lucian Freud: A Life,” a visual biography of the artist (who loathed being photographed) at her store in Marylebone.
Freud filled the walls and tabletops with previously unpublished, intimate family photos and hosted a flood of friends and family, including her sister, the novelist Rose Boyt, Alexa Chung, Laura Bailey and David Dawson, the artist and Lucian Freud’s former assistant, who compiled the lush book with editor Mark Holborn.
Jewelry designer Solange Azagury-Partridge had family on her mind, too, showcasing her latest collection, Sentimentals, at home. The collection, packed with gold, colored gemstones and nods to the Victorian era, features a ruby double heart ring, lockets, other rings with boxy houses balanced on top or little portraits of happy families, and dangly earrings designed to be fitted with children’s baby teeth.
“That’s all I care about now — my family, my home and my friends, and I want what I do to be holistic and meaningful,” said the designer, adding that the Victorian era — and its obsession with family and embrace of death — was a big inspiration, too. Hence the lockets, teeth, heart rings and “jewelry imbued with significance.”
Fellow jeweler Jessica McCormack presented five works by the Japanese-born sculptor and installation artist Keita Miyazaki at her town house at 7 Carlos Place. Miyazaki’s sculptures combine found elements of scrap metal from cars and intricate paper forms that he hand-makes with a Japanese honeycomb technique. They were a bright, sculptural foil to McCormack’s delicate diamond jewelry with an antique twist.
McCormack’s neighbor Christopher Kane showcased a series of watercolors by his pal Lena Dunham at his shop on Mount Street. The watercolors show Dunham’s closest female friends during seemingly mundane, but intimate, moments.
“Capturing women in moments of transition when their true self is revealed, Lena’s watercolors are candid, playful and provocative —
I really love them,” said Kane.
There was a strong, but subtle, sustainability angle to the week, too, with creators thinking more about materials and process.
The Symonds Pearmain show, which took place at Frieze in partnership with Matchesfashion.com, fused art, fashion, democracy — and sustainability.
Even Frieze attendees who didn’t have tickets caught a glimpse of the show as the models entered from the hallway outside Frieze’s library room where the show took place.
Furniture was pushed to the middle of the room, covered with plastic and taped with branded Symonds Pearmain tape, which was also used on models’ shoes.
“We’ve used those shoes before, and it’s great because if we don’t have the sizes we can just tape them on (to the models’ feet). It’s a way of saying creativity is about attitude and making it fun and exciting and just using what is there. Design should absolutely be at the forefront of taking responsibility to address these problems,” said Symonds, who designs the line with Max Pearmain.
PAD London Art and Design Fair also took place during Frieze, with exhibitors including Italy’s Dimore Gallery, Taffin, and Pinto Paris.
For the 10-year anniversary of her brand, Davina Pinto of Pinto Paris, which creates furniture, tableware and accessories collections, showcased works from her first collection as well as from her latest collection.
Pinto works with raw materials such as coconut shell, oak wood and straw and recently began introducing sustainable elements such as recycled LCD screens, which are turned into resin.
According to Pinto, the interiors industry has been slow in adopting sustainable practices.
“It’s brand new for my generation, it’s not something we have in mind as we weren’t raised like this. I think in 20 years we will see a real change in this industry, but for the moment I don’t see that. When I work with craftsmen they just buy a lot of material without thinking if they can use it all,” she said.
Pinto said her biggest concern right now is the dying skill of furniture making, which results in sustainable creations because they are meant to last and can be repaired. “It’s like this sofa we’re sitting on: It was part of my first collection and it has held up for this long, both in design and structure,” she said.