Frieze Art Fair, Un-Friezed!
For the first time in 2013, Frieze Projects includes a site-specific commission for the Family Space, conceived by Greek artist Angelo Plessas, entitled ‘The Temple of Play’
LONDON — Minutes after the Frieze Art Fair opened here Wednesday morning for V.I.P. collectors, Mark Fisch, a New York real estate developer, paused in front of a table at the booth of a Berlin gallery called Contemporary Fine Arts. On display were 10 carefully arranged replicas of Greek and Roman objects — urns, vases and animals — each copied from works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where Mr. Fisch happens to be on the board. Fashioned from Play-Doh, they were made this year by the Bruce High Quality Foundation, a Brooklyn artist collective, and were included in a recent retrospective of the collective’s work at the Brooklyn Museum. Now the faux antiquities are priced at $6,500 to $38,000 each.
“Hey, why buy the real stuff?” Mr. Fisch joked.
Until recently “the real stuff” was for another audience altogether — at other fairs. But over the last two years the Frieze brand has reached back across the centuries for artworks, and mushroomed into two simultaneous fairs held in giant white tents on the grounds of Regent’s Park. In addition to the original 10-year-old Frieze, devoted to new art like the Play-Doh collection, there is Frieze Masters, a separate show in its second year that showcases art and objects made before 2000, from an ancient sculpture for about $100,000 to a $25 million Picasso. (There is also Frieze New York, which started in 2012, held in May on Randalls Island.)
Amanda Sharp, co-director of the Frieze fairs, said she got the idea for Masters after spending an evening listening to contemporary artists talk about 17th-century varnishes. “That really said something to me,” she said. “Each show speaks to the other.”
She had a ready-made audience. Over the years, the original fair has become the catalyst for what the London art world calls Frieze Week, a frenetic flurry of gallery openings, museum exhibitions and auctions that attract collectors, dealers and museum curators. By the time the fairs close on Sunday evening, more than 75,000 visitors are expected to have visited both.
‘Groovy Spiral’, by Dan Graham, 2013, at the Lisson Gallery stand at Frieze Art Fair 2013.
While a younger, hipper crowd lined up in the pouring rain here on Wednesday morning to be first in the door at Frieze, a more staid audience attended the opening of Frieze Masters, just across the park, on Tuesday night. Collectors like Mr. Fisch; Jennifer Stockman, president of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; Valentino, the fashion designer; and Laurence Graff, the London jeweler, were sighted perusing booths that evening. Also spotted were Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate and such art-world personalities as David Dawson, Lucian Freud’s assistant and a frequent model. There was Oceanic art, Navajo blankets, even a booth filled with nothing but paintings by Gutai, the postwar Japanese collective.
While it’s hard to tell who’s doing business and who’s not, reports of early purchases at the fairs included a $9.6 million snowy landscape by the 17th-century Flemish artist Pieter Breughel the Younger; a $2 million aluminum sculpture by Carl Andre and two abstract canvases by Oscar Murillo, the rising Colombian-born painter, each with $150,000 price tags. (Two years ago, those paintings might have fetched around $3,000 each.)
For those who made it to both fairs, many remarked that works made yesterday at the original Frieze suddenly felt old, while some of the paintings, drawings and sculptures made centuries ago at Frieze Masters had an unexpected freshness. After rave reviews of the inaugural Frieze Masters, requests from dealers began pouring in, Ms. Sharp said. It is 30 percent bigger than last year’s, with 130 dealers, while the decade-old Frieze has been trimmed to 152 dealers from 170 last year.
The original Frieze seems to have mellowed, with dealers bringing a selection of more conservative works by artists with a proven track record. Many of those dealers obviously drew inspiration from the past. “There’s a definite feeling of looking back,” said Angela Westwater, a New York dealer who is showing a group of works by Mr. Andre at the nearby Frieze Masters. “It’s the antithesis of the anonymous hand of inkjet production,” she added, referring to the recent trend of computer-generated art.
Galerie Perrotin presented a trio of new works by Elmgreen & Dragset. Pictured from left: ‘The Equation’; ‘He’; and ‘Second chance’.
At Frieze, the London dealer Sadie Coles positioned “Rosebush,” a colorful still-life canvas by John Currin priced at $800,000, near a $450,000 sculpture of purple swirling lines by the Swiss-born artist Urs Fischer, because of the way the sculpture frames the painting, as she put it. Below the swirls she placed a sculpture of a fried egg by Mr. Fischer, priced at $95,000, that recalls seminal works by Claes Oldenburg. “Artists have always looked at the work of other artists,” Ms. Coles noted.
By far, the most elegant booth here was an installation of five sculptures by Jeff Koons at the Gagosian Gallery. Priced from $5 million to more than $20 million, they include “Sacred Heart (Blue/Magenta),” a polished stainless steel sculpture from the artist’s “Celebration” series. While none of the works had sold as of Wednesday afternoon, officials at Gagosian said there was “serious interest.”
Like some other big galleries, Gagosian is showing at both fairs. David Zwirner, a dealer with spaces in London and New York, had paintings by Mr. Murillo at the original Frieze, while at Frieze Masters he showed classic Minimalist artists like Donald Judd and Ad Reinhart.
It was presentation more than content at Frieze Masters that got people talking. Comparisons were made with the European Fine Art Fair in the Netherlands, which is organized by category — old masters in one area, modern art in another — while Frieze Masters is a mash-up of art and objects, with antiquities side by side with modern art and Navajo blankets near Picassos.
“That’s what this fair is all about,” said Rupert Wace, a London antiquities dealer who said he had met modern-art collectors there who had not looked seriously at antiquities before. He was exhibiting a Roman marble figure of Aphrodite from the second century priced at around $220,000. It faced Gagosian’s “Untitled (Plum and Dark Brown),” a 1964 abstract canvas by Mark Rothko, with a price of about $15 million.
Asked what he thought of the pairing, with Aphrodite staring at the Rothko, Mr. Wace replied, “I think Rothko would have liked it.”
By Carol Vogel, New York Times