London’s Frieze Week today starts its biggest test of the art market, with more than $1.5 billion of art to lure billionaires.
Russian oligarchs, hedge-fund managers and veteran collectors will be trawling auctions and fairs as the 10-year-old contemporary art event branches out into the ancient and modern.
The inaugural Frieze Masters, a fair in Regent’s Park devoted to range of pre-21st century works, opens to VIP visitors today. The event, featuring more than 90 international galleries, will complement the contemporary art on sale nearby at Frieze London, which previews tomorrow. The debut edition of Frieze New York took place in May.
Frieze now competes with Art Basel in Switzerland and FIAC in Paris as an event combining the cutting-edge with classic modern works and even historical pieces. It was previously known as Europe’s biggest fair specializing in works by living artists. The addition of Masters could push the value of the works on offer at Frieze’s two London fairs to more than $1 billion, according to preliminary estimates by the insurer Hiscox Ltd.
“It will bring in more people,” the London-based contemporary art collector Judith Greer said. “Clients who went to Basel, who thought Frieze too cutting-edge, will now come along. There’s less of a willingness to gamble now, and interior designers are mixing the new with the classic modern.”
Frieze Masters will be situated in a 12,500 square-meter (134,549 square feet) temporary structure in the north of the park designed by the New York-based Selldorf Architects. A short distance from its 22,000 square-meter sister event, it will avoid comparison with a fair such as TEFAF Maastricht by having all works presented against pale backgrounds.
“So far there hasn’t been that much crossover buying,” said the New York dealer Richard Feigen, who will be showing works from a range of periods at Frieze Masters. “There’s a huge gulf in price for good works by contemporary and Old Master artists, and word has got back to collectors. They’ll now have a chance to compare the markets at the two fairs.”
Feigen will show a mid-14th century Florentine gold-ground painting of St. Dominic by Bernardo Daddi, priced at $1.8 million.
At least 40 of the dealers exhibiting at Frieze Masters (several of whom are also at Frieze London) will be showing 20th-century works that mix easily with the latest contemporary art.
New York dealer Edward Tyler Nahem has a selection of portraits by artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Willem de Kooning and Pablo Picasso, ranging in price from $65,000 to $18 million. Fellow Manhattanite Christophe Van de Weghe will be offering Picasso’s 1970 painting “Homme et Femme au bouquet” at $8.5 million.
Frieze London, meanwhile, will feature 175 galleries from 35 countries showing more than 1,000 artists. The 10th anniversary bespoke temporary structure has been designed by the architects Carmody Groarke.
“Frieze is the grand dame of cutting-edge fairs,” London-based art adviser Wendy Goldsmith said in an interview. “Everyone loves the freshness of the contemporary. The big galleries now don’t sell art, they place it, so you have major collectors on waiting lists for works priced at as little as $6,000.”
Contemporary and modern is already a familiar mix at Pavilion of Art and Design London fair in Berkeley Square.
Now in its six year, the 2012 edition of this commercially-situated boutique fair will preview today with U.S.-based newcomers Castelli, L & M Arts, Skarstedt and Paul Kasmin among 60 exhibitors. L & M will be bringing the 1943 Alexander Calder table sculpture, “Constellation with Red Knife,” priced at $3.5 million.
For those in search of the Calders of tomorrow, events like the Sunday Art Fair, at Ambika P3, Marylebone Road, and the Saatchi Gallery & Channel 4’s “New Sensations” and “The Future Can Wait” at Victoria House, Bloomsbury, will be showing works by emerging artists.
Frieze Week also includes auctions of contemporary and Italian art at Phillips de Pury & Co., Christie’s International and Sotheby’s. The various day and evening sales have a combined maximum valuation of 172.5 million pounds ($276.6 million).
Sotheby’s is selling a Gerhard Richter abstract belonging to Eric Clapton, valued at 9 million pounds to 12 million pounds on the evening of Oct. 12. Christie’s has the 1992 Martin Kippenberger self-portrait, “Untitled (from the series Hand-Painted Pictures),” on Oct. 11 and Phillips the 1984 Basquiat painting, “Big Joy” tomorrow. Both are estimated at 2.5 million pounds to 3.5 million pounds.
(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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