Expert Heidi Lee – Frieze Art Fair Breathes New Life into Art Market
By Heidi Lee | November 4, 2009
London was alive and hopping the week of October 11th as thousands of residents emerged from their shells for a week-long celebration of art and design. I spent seven days running to dozens of different gallery openings, exhibition viewings, cocktails and dinners. Unlike any other fair in the world, Frieze just took over the whole city engaging both the commercial and residential sectors. This year was particularly successful due to a higher level of participation and interest from institutional organizations to make up for last year’s free fall in the market. It felt as if the public relations campaigns of every major art institution came to together to form a centralized campaign for the sole purpose of capitalizing on the Frieze Art Fair experience. London knows a good opportunity when they see one and by transforming the city during art week they saw an overwhelming positive response from fair goers, collectors, and residents.
The fair’s gangbuster success this year is a great example of how a city can rally behind a common cause. The museum openings at the Tate Modern and Royal Academy, for example, were timed two days before the Frieze Art Fair opening preview that took place mid-week, and the auctions were wisely timed two days after the fair’s opening. The city was functioning at 100% capacity and the fair experienced consistent and solid sales according to many galleries and dealers. There were signs of life again at the auction houses, too. which experienced £26.3 million worth of postwar and contemporary art sales albeit from slimmer selections and substantially reduced price estimates as compared to last year.
London’s top art collectors like the Malekis, de Wecks, Brakas and Peels, opened their beautiful mansions in what seemed like a well-coordinated effort to ensure that their dates did not conflict. The result was a wonderful series of glamorous art-filled evenings where ideas were exchanged between guests among a plethora of collecting tastes and exquisite art not viewable by the general public. The English sense of hospitality is unique in that one does not hop from party to party as one would in New York. If you are invited to a dinner you come and should expect to stay the whole evening.
The energy was incredible and the precise choreography of art happenings and events was not something I was accustomed to anywhere else where I am usually spending more time prioritizing my itinerary of events then I do attending the actual event. London made it easy for visitors who are still getting used to crossing their streets. As a city that has lived and breathed art throughout history, Brits have the advantage of being cultivated at a young age and can hold their own in a almost any debate. In my opinion, Frieze week is a great example of how a city can successfully maximize an art fair’s potential and appeal to a larger audience. Which city will follow suit?