The Frieze Fair Normally Provokes a Lot of Excitement;
But This Year It Takes Place in the Midst of a Panic
The art world seems to be holding its breath to see what happens this weekend. As the VIPs make their way through the fair, we bring you a round up of all the Frieze-related press, including a look at what’s on offer from the ArtInfo slide show. And The Master, Judd Tully’s Overvalued/Undervalued list.
“I know very little about contemporary art but have £1,000 to invest. Any advice?” When Charles Saatchi was asked this in an interview in ‘The Independent’, he responded: “Premium bonds. Art is no investment unless you get very, very lucky, and can beat the professionals at their game. Buy something you really like that will give you a thousand pounds’ worth of pleasure over the years. And take your time looking for something special, because looking is half the fun.”
This is how Alice Jones answers How to Buy Art in the Independent. Among their other tidbits is How to Survive Frieze (as an Artist) and How to Survive Frieze (as a Gallerist).
The Independent’s introduction to their Frieze package, All the Fun of the Fairs, encourages you to abandon your anxiety about the banking meltdown and see the fair as a “golden opportunity for talent-spotting.” To that end, they offer this list of 20 Up-and-comers. Or just play anthropologist: “All human life can be found trooping through the narrow white corridors of the marquee [ . . . ], a truly democratic, if hideously cramped space, where art students with directional hair rub shoulders with their dishevelled artistic heroes, who in turn trawl the stands behind their besuited patrons and subtly designer-clad and nervous dealers. Last year the fair attracted some 68,000 visitors [ . . . ]”
If that’s not enough, try How to Behave at a Private View, which includes this warning “hold back on grooming: a blow-dry and fake tan are about as edgy as Jack Vettriano.”
Elsewhere, we have Frieze-relates stories in the Financial Times which was predicting a strong turnout just a week ago. Their fun fact is about gallery ads: “Matthew Slotover, codirector of the Frieze art fair, said advertising for Frieze’s monthly magazine was up by 15 per cent from last October, although he added that the “frenzy” in the art market had calmed down.” Separately, introducing a discussion of fellowships to be announced at the fair, the Financial Times raises a good question about the art world’s current dilemma: failure will confirm all of the talk of bubbles and irrationality; but success runs the danger of projecting an art world out-of-touch with reality. Or, as Peter Aspden rightly says, “The danger is that it will all feel a little, well, decadent. We are used to the idea that art should say something important and weighty about the world in which it is produced. But what do the pranksters and posers of today’s jet-fuelled scene tell us about the credit crunch and its grim implications?”
The chances of that happening seem slim. The Telegraph quotes Charles Dupplin on the state of the art market: “There are about 200 people in the world who can and will always be able to afford trophy art. But the real market, works valued up to around £1 million, is already dead.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Kelly Crow quotes Rachel Lehmann on this defensive strategy: “she asked her artists, including Ashley Bickerton, to create large-scale works she can shop to museum curators or private art foundations who may need to spend the remainder of their art acquisition budgets by year’s end. She’s also planning to offer longer payment plans and accept less money upfront, as little as 20%, from well-known buyers. “We’re aiming for institutions,” she says.”
And if the end of the art market is truly at hand, Soraya Rodriquez, who runs the Zoo art fair “says she’s starting to feel strangely sanguine about the fate of fair week: “Maybe we’ll just go back to drinking in pubs and discussing Duchamp, which wouldn’t be bad.”
Finally, Bloomberg’s Scott Reyburn warns that the Russians everyone is looking toward for salvation just won’t show for either the fair or the auctions: `Frieze will be quiet,” said Moscow-based dealer Vladimir Ovcharenko [ . . . . ] The ultra-rich Russian collectors “lost billions in stocks last months. Nobody wants to think about art now.”
That seems to please some gallerists who can’t help sticking it to the auction houses. “Nobody knows what’s going to happen next week,” said Jill Silverman, a director at the Paris and Salzburg dealers Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, who will be exhibiting at Frieze. “For us, the primary market is still good. Our clients continue to buy works by living artists with price structures that have been established over years. This is different from the secondary market of auctions where values have been created by speculation.”