What Sold at Frieze London
Installation view of Tiwani Contemporary's booth at Frieze London, 2019. Photo by Linda Nylind. Courtesy of Linda Nylind / Frieze. Courtesy of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London.
The Frieze London art fair was a resounding success, despite much hand-wringing about the possible cooling effects of Britain’s imminent exit from the European Union. Exhibitors at the London expo and its sister fair Frieze Masters, both of which closed on Sunday, reported strong sales across multiple sectors. The consensus among dealers and buyers was that even though many are worried about how Brexit will impact the art market, it hasn’t happened yet—and perhaps it never will. So why fret? In other words: Keep calm and carry on.
“Before the fair opened, nobody was sure if and how Brexit would impact the fair, and I’m pleased to say it hasn’t really,” Victoria Siddall, the director of the Frieze Fairs, said in an interview on Saturday. “It’s a testament to the strength of London, the strength of the market, and the global community that makes up the art world.”
Robert Longo, Untitled (First Elephant), 2019. © Robert Longo / ARS New York, 201.9.
Siddall said this year’s fair had been the most international in Frieze history, with galleries from 35 countries participating. Frieze London and Frieze Masters drew an exceptionally international range of collectors, too, some of whom may have been emboldened by the weakened British pound—a silver lining on the looming Brexit cloud. Dealers I spoke to noted a significant presence of buyers from the U.S. and Asia turning up for the preview, in addition to London-based collectors and, as one gallerist put it, “all the big fish who are at every fair.” The collectors who descended on Regent’s Park last week came ready to buy.
“People are a little more focused here than at other fairs,” said Alejandro Jassan, a director at the New York gallery Alexander Gray Associates. The booth was anchored by a luminous new painting by Frank Bowling, whose first major retrospective closed at Tate Britain in August. “We closed a lot of deals on the first day because people were coming to us knowing all the context—they know the work is fresh from the studio, and they’re here to make a decision.”
George Baselitz, Nicht, nicht verloren, 2019. © George Baselitz. Courtesy of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London.
Collectors made big decisions early and often, with some of the world’s largest galleries closing major sales throughout the fair. The biggest sales at Frieze London included:
- Hauser & Wirth reported sales of $20 million at the fair. Those included the Philip Guston painting Arm (1979), in the range of $5 million, and the new Mark Bradford painting A Molded Pool of Stories for $3.4 million. The gallery also sold John Chamberlain’s 1991 sculpture COULDYOUWOULDYOU for $900,000.
- David Zwirner, whose booth faced one of the main entrances to the fair, sold a new Kerry James Marshall painting, Car Girl 2 (2019), to a museum in the U.S. for $3.8 million on Wednesday, the first day of the fair preview. Zwirner also sold a new large painting by the German artist Neo Rauch for $1.5 million.
- Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, which operates a space in the Mayfair section of London as well as spaces in Paris and Salzburg, reported more than two dozen works sold by Wednesday. These included the large Georg Baselitz painting Nicht, nicht verloren (2019) for €1.2 million ($1.3 million), the enormous Robert Longo drawing Untitled (First Elephant) (2019) to a U.S. collector’s foundation for $650,000, and an Elizabeth Peyton painting Kiss (2019) for $575,000.
- Goodman Gallery, the South African gallery that inaugurated its London outpost during Frieze Week, sold four bronze sculptures by William Kentridge to a European collection for $1.2 million. The gallery also sold all the works it was showing by the Zimbabwean painter Misheck Masamvu, which were priced between $15,000 and $40,000.
- Almine Rech, which has a space in London’s Mayfair district as well as locales in Paris, Brussels, New York, and Shanghai, sold a large trapezoidal painting by Kenneth Noland in the range of $350,000 to $400,000. It also sold the large Claire Tabouret painting Reception Hall (2019) for $150,000, and a work by the Arte Povera artist Jannis Kounellis in the range of $250,000 to $300,000.
- Lisson Gallery devoted its booth to a joint presentation of new works by abstract painter Stanley Whitney and a survey of pieces by the recently deceased and beloved New York artist Joyce Pensato. The entire booth was sold out within two hours of the fair’s opening, with Whitney’s works selling for figures between $350,000 and $450,000 to two institutions in the Middle East, a museum in Norway, and a private collector.
Globe-spanning blue-chip galleries were not the only ones racking up sales at Frieze London; the fair’s mid-size and smaller galleries also fared well. Many of the standout booths were in the Focus section—featuring thematic or solo presentations by younger galleries—and the Woven section devoted to textile art, which was curated by Cosmin Costinas.
Siddall said: “What we find really validating are the sales happening across the board. I was talking to dealers from a smaller gallery showing paintings priced at £10,000 apiece, and they sold all 15 paintings they’d brought. That’s fantastic. That affects their business going forward in a really meaningful way.”
Sales at mid-size and smaller galleries at Frieze London included:
- Grimm, which has spaces in New York and Amsterdam, reported more than a dozen sales, including two large-scale photographs by Dana Lixenberg in the range of €15,000 to €20,000 ($16,000 to $22,000), and a Caroline Walker painting that went to a prominent Asian collection for £30,000 ($37,000). The gallery also sold a $75,000 painting by rising market star Loie Hollowell, who will have a solo show at its Amsterdam space in November.
- Timothy Taylor sold six large works from its solo booth devoted to the American painter Jonathan Lasker, ranging in price from $65,000 to $200,000, as well as three smaller paintings priced at $12,000 each.
- The Cape Town–based gallery Blank Projects found success with its booth in the fair’s Focus section, drawing visitors in with a dramatic, large-scale fabric piece by Igshaan Adams. The gallery sold that work, priced at €30,000 ($33,000), as well as a sculpture by Bronwyn Katz for €10,000 ($11,000) and a sculptural installation by James Webb for €20,000 ($22,000).
- The New Delhi–based gallery Nature Morte was a popular destination in the fair’s Woven sector, with its solo presentation of works by the late Indian sculptor Mrinalini Mukherjee, who was the subject of a critically acclaimed Metropolitan Museum retrospective that closed a week ago. Three bronze pieces on view were priced between $60,000 and $170,000. One of them sold before the fair even opened, and another was on reserve to an institution as of Friday afternoon.
- Tiwani Contemporary, whose gallery space is just a 15-minute walk from the Frieze tent, sold out its booth in the Focus sector, which featured a solo presentation of works by Joy Labinjo, a painter of British-Nigerian heritage. Within two hours of the preview’s opening, all the works—priced at £10,000 ($12,000) apiece—had been snapped up by collectors and institutions.
In one of the far corners of the fair, the booth of London-based gallery Emalin drew collectors to its solo presentation of works by the American filmmaker and performance artist Kembra Pfahler, which she christened in her trademark way before the fair opened. Asked on Friday afternoon whether concerns over Brexit had affected activity at the fair, Emalin co-director Angelina Volk was unequivocal, noting that the gallery had already sold several pieces from its display of Pfahler’s photographs, paintings, and collages.
A short stroll across Regent’s Park, Frieze Masters saw a similarly broad range of sales. Dealers moved an eclectic assortment of artifacts, from canvases and sculptures by canonical modernist artists to Old Master paintings, Greek Neolithic idols, and a 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite.
“That range embodies the premise of it, that you can collect across sectors, and it’s all united by quality,” Siddall said. “The whole fair is extremely diverse in terms of the types of work you can see, from 19th-century photography to ancient sculpture to medieval manuscripts to 20th-century painting. Frieze Masters should act as a platform for discovery.”
Buyers discovered things they couldn’t live without, with works selling at many different price points throughout the fair. Notable sales at Frieze Masters included:
- Hauser & Wirth, which shared a booth facing the fair’s main entrance with London- and Monaco-based Moretti Fine Art, sold a Cy Twombly painting for $6.5 million on the fair’s opening day. The mega-gallery also sold two décollage works by the Italian artist Mimmo Rotella for €140,000 ($154,000) and €465,000 ($510,000), and a 1961 painting by the Italian postmodernist Mario Schifano for €900,000 ($988,000).
Mimmo Rotella, Senza titolo (Untitled), 1961. Photo by Todd-White. © DACS 2019. Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth.
- London- and New York–based gallery Skarstedt sold a Keith Haring vase that had been tagged with an asking price of $1.3 million, as well as two drawings by Pablo Picasso and another by Georg Baselitz for undisclosed prices.
- Galleria Continua, which operates spaces in Italy, France, China, and Cuba, sold a work by Michelangelo Pistoletto, Tavolo con tovaglia bianca (1982), for €600,000 ($658,000).
- David Zwirner sold pieces by Bridget Riley and Ruth Asawa for undisclosed prices. It also sold six works by Raoul De Keyser for prices ranging between $45,000 and $400,000.
- London-based dealer Sam Fogg sold a pietà from the late 14th century to a European collector who typically gravitates to contemporary art for a price around £200,000 ($247,000).
- Surrey-based Old Master dealer Johnny van Haeften sold a 1604 work by the Late Renaissance Flemish painter Abel Grimmer to a European collector for a price in excess of £1 million ($1.2 million), and Dutch landscape painter Jan van Goyen’s The Ferry (1625) to a U.S. collector for £300,000 ($370,000).
- London’s ArtAncient sold two axes from the lower paleolithic era for a combined price of £50,000 ($62,000) to contemporary art collectors from Europe.
- New York’s Kasmin gallery sold several charcoal-on-paper works by Lee Krasner that were priced at $125,000 apiece.
- Richard Saltoun Gallery, headquartered nearby in Mayfair, sold out its solo booth of works by the 89-year-old Croatian textile artist Jagoda Buić. The buying frenzy was spurred in part by one of the works being acquired by the Tate through the Frieze Tate Fund, which is supported by Frieze’s principal owner, Endeavor. Buić’s works were priced between £55,000 ($68,000) and £120,000 ($148,000).
The auctions that took place during Frieze Week at Phillips, Sotheby’s, and Christie’s produced muted results—Banksy excepted—which some attributed to collectors’ reluctance to consign during a time of global uncertainty. But there was no such shortage of top-shelf stock at the week’s marquee fairs.
“Despite the unsettling and unsettled political situation we all find ourselves in, Frieze proved again the power of art and artists to bring people together,” said Marc Glimcher, the president and CEO of Pace Gallery, which notched plenty of sales of its own, including works by Adam Pendleton, Loie Hollowell, Song Dong, and one of the newest additions to the mega-gallery’s roster, Nina Katchadourian. “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 at your own!”
Installation View of Almine Rech's booth at Frieze London, 2019. Photo by Melissa Castro Duarte.
The art world’s attention now shifts to Paris, which will host its own set of auctions and fairs, anchored by FIAC, starting next week. Some have speculated that the fallout from Brexit could give Paris an edge over London on the global art circuit, and mega-galleries including David Zwirner, Pace, and White Cube are moving in. For the time being, the British capital’s status at the center of the European art market seems secure.
“Assuming we do leave the EU at the end of the month, it will give [Frieze] almost an entire year to prepare,” Siddall said. “As an extremely international event, we’re shielded from its effects somewhat, but we are are terribly concerned for the galleries and artists here in the U.K.”