For those who were looking for comfort amid 2019’s unstable climate, this year’s edition of Frieze Fair proved to be a safe haven for a number of collectors, museum groups and curators travelling to London to visit. The impending Brexit did not seem to worry the many VIPs who bought, at the tune of several million pieces by the 160 international exhibitors (i.e the most international since the birth of the fair in 2003).
Maybe it is the reassuring power of traditional mediums or the weakened British pound - a silver lining of the looming Brexit cloud - but Frieze 2019 appeared as a great success! Far from the video mania of the previous editions, this year the attendees were guided through a colorful path lauding painting textile and performances. “When a recession looms, everyone goes back to painting. It is the equivalent of gold in art terms,” said the artist Shezad Dawood, who is presenting a Frieze Live project at the fair called University of NonDualism. Convelio was there and this is our takes from the journey at Frieze London 2019.
1- Paintings & masterpieces
Galleries chose to bet on painting and colors: Sterling Ruby irradiated Gagosian’s booth with a suite of orange paintings named “Helios” (2 were sold for $350k each), from the sun to the sea, we melted for the oceanic canvas of Donna Huncan on Simon Lee’s booth. To complete our chromatic journey, we were astonished by Philip Guston’s powerful red oils on canvas. “Hand” realized in 1979 by the artist sold for the record price of $5M on Hauser & Wirth’s booth since the first morning. The swiss gallery completed this success with the sale of a Mark Bradford for $3.5M and a Mario Schifano for $988k.
The first day, David Kordansky’s Gallery sold several paintings of Ivan Morley from the series “Fadango” for prices ranging between $40k and $85k. The artist presented an amazing work inspired by Mexican murals and Californian cities lauding painting and craftmanship within art. As we navigated around the fair, we were struck by Lisson’s booth who honored with brio the recently departed Joyce Pensato. Marrying her dark pop art with the colored blocky abstract paintings of Stanley Whitney, Lisson managed to sell out their booth to private collectors and Middle East and Norwegian institutions. The focus on paintings is paying off for everybody: Thaddeus Ropac sold a work of Georges Baselitz for $1.2M and one of Elizabeth Peyton for $575k. On their side, David Zwirner sold a huge abstract painting called Manifestation (2018-19) by Oscar Murillo for $400k, a work by Kerry James Marshall (Car Girl 2, 2019) for $3.8m and a figurative piece from Neo Rauch (Die Wandlung, 2019) for $1.5M.
Globe-spanning blue-chip galleries were not the only ones winding up great deals at Frieze London; emerging artists sold well, and smaller galleries thrived. There were many standing booths were in the Focus section. For instance, the London based Tiwani Contemporary gallery sold out its booth which featured a solo presentation of works by the 25 years old British Nigerian Joy Labinjo- priced at $12k the piece. Timothy Taylor sold six large works from its solo booth devoted to the American painter Jonathan Lasker- priced from $65,000 to $200,000, as well as three smaller paintings priced at $12,000 each. Grimm (Amsterdam, London, NYC) reported more than a dozen sales, including two large-scale photographs by Dana Lixenberg priced between $16k to $22k, and a painting from Caroline Walker that went to an eminent Asian collection for $37k. Eventually, the gallery sold a painting by the rising market star Loie Hollowell for $75k.
From the new themed section “Woven” curated by Cosmin Costinas which explored indigenous traditions and colonial legacies. In this theme, the New Delhi based gallery Nature Morte stunned with its solo presentation of works by the Indian sculptor Mrinalini Mukherjee, subject of a Metropolitan Museum retrospective this year. The more politically charged works presented by Silverlens Galleries from Manila included the trapunto (1990) realized by the Filipino artist Pacita Abad (1946-2004) who drew on her experience leaving her hometown for San Francisco, and her research into the history of US immigration.
3- Frieze LIVE
The Frieze section dedicated to LIVE and performance explored with brio the expanded field of dance and choreography. Various artists from Argentina to Cambodia highlighted narratives of control present in their cultures through movement. Among the 8 galleries participating in the project, Gagosian opened the section by showing William Forsythe’s radical innovations within choreography and dance. Thaddeus Ropac honored the Bauhaus centenary by hosting a series of Oskar Schlemmer Dance performances. Last but not least, Jhaveri Contemporary (Mumbai) and Timothy Taylor (London) presented Shezad Dawood’s performance: a choreography exploring the relationship between tapestry and architecture, as well as the ‘futuristic geometry’ of Islam’s drawings.
As the President and CEO of Pace Gallery Marc Glimcher said, despite the numerous social and political crises around the world, “the Frieze 2019 proved again the power of art and artists to bring people together”. He added that, “As always, the dealers brought great work. The toughest thing about Frieze is resisting the urge to go shopping at other booths when you should be working on your own!”.
London’s status as the European capital of art seems secure. We are looking forward to comparing it with the FIAC’s results and seeing whether or not the predictions of Paris taking the lead on the art market are accurate.