Christie’s Joins Quest to Lure Billionaires at London Art Fairs

Christie's in London. The auction house is planning to hold its first art fair, "Multiplied," at its South Kensington rooms, from Oct. 15-18. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Christie’s International is planning its first fair to be held during Frieze Week, when London becomes the capital of the contemporary-art world.

U.K.-based Christie’s is joining the drive to attract the 60,000 dealers and collectors that are expected by organizers of the Frieze Art Fair, which is devoted to galleries that deal primarily in original contemporary works. Christie’s already holds its own auctions during October, along with its rivals Sotheby’s and Phillips de Pury & Co.

“Multiplied,” an event devoted to contemporary prints, editions and photographs, will take place at Christie’s, South Kensington, from Oct. 15 to 18.

“Editioned works can be shown at Frieze,” Charles Booth-Clibborn, director of the London-based Paragon Press, said in an interview. “They just don’t give booths to people who publish them.”

Paragon, which commissions and publishes prints by artists such as Damien Hirst, Grayson Perry and Anish Kapoor, intends to be one of more than 30 exhibitors at Christie’s fair, Booth-Clibborn said. “It’s a perfect venue, it’s a good time and it’s nice to get another fair in London,” he said.

The model for the event is the annual Editions/Artists’ Book Fair in New York, Richard Lloyd, Christie’s international head of prints, said in an e-mail.

Creating Buzz

“I was inspired to stage something similar in London and help to create a buzz and a platform for the very best in contemporary publishing,” said Lloyd. “Christie’s isn’t taking any percentage of the sales; stands are very competitively priced and entry to the fair is free.”

Christie’s has participated in international art fairs. In March 2007, the company exhibited as King Street Fine Art Ltd. at Tefaf, Maastricht. Christie’s wholly owned subsidiary Haunch of Venison has exhibited at the Netherlands-based fair since 2008, having been excluded from Art Basel, Art Basel Miami Beach and Frieze.

The Moniker International Art Fair will be another newcomer during Frieze Week. The Oct. 14-17 event in the disused warehouse setting of the Village Underground in east London will provide spaces for 12 galleries specializing in urban art.

New Image Art and LeBasse, both from Los Angeles, Circleculture Gallery from Berlin and London-based Black Rat Press are among the exhibitors, said Vanessa Vainio, the fair’s spokeswoman.

Black Rat

“In the U.K. there’s either Frieze or traditional fairs,” Mike Snelle, the director of Black Rat Press, said in an interview. “There’s a gap for galleries that do exciting things with urban art.”

Dealers are waiting for news on the established Frieze Week satellite event, Zoo.

“Zoo Art Enterprises will not be starting an application procedure for an October 2010 event and are therefore not accepting any unsolicited applications for exhibitors at this stage,” the organization said on its website. “We are currently finalizing plans for October’s event and will publish further news shortly.” Calls to the event’s office were not answered.

The New York-based SCOPE Art Show has yet to announce whether it will be holding a fair in London this year, after taking a break in 2009.

“We’re undecided. There’s nothing to confirm for 2010,” said a company spokeswoman, reached by phone, who declined to give her name.

Berkeley Square

The fourth edition of Pavilion of Art & Design London will be held in Berkeley Square from Oct. 13 to Oct. 17. The fair features 50 dealers in modern art, design and decorative arts.

Meanwhile, more than 100 dealers are applying to exhibit at next summer’s Masterpiece fair in London. Last month’s first edition drew encouraging sales, said organizers, with the 18,000 visitors including Rolling Stone Mick Jagger and actor Michael Caine.

Masterpiece was held from June 24 to 29 in a temporary structure in Chelsea with a facade inspired by Christopher Wren’s neighboring Royal Hospital. The event’s 118 dealers aimed to fill the void created by last year’s closure of the Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair. They offered a mix of luxury items including a 1927 Bentley car, a 2.61-carat pink diamond and an 1887 billiard table made for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.

Quality Mix

“They got it spot on,” said the London-based Asian art specialist John Berwald, who listed an 8th-century Tang pottery jar priced at 80,000 pounds among pieces sold at the fair. “The fair looked good and the quality mix was tremendous. Within one year, it’s come right to the top of the London tree and is up there with the Paris Biennale and Tefaf.”

Masterpiece 2011 will be held in the gardens of the Royal Hospital, the venue of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show. Next year’s space will expand by 40 percent, with as many as 60 more exhibitors.

“We’re getting three to four applications every day,” Thomas Woodham-Smith, chairman of the fair, said in an interview. “Not everyone will be coming back, and not everyone will want to come back. We’re determined not to focus on any one discipline. The great thing about Masterpiece was you didn’t know what you were going to see.”

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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