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Frieze Art Fair: London consolidates its leadership on the contemporary art market


Cindy Sherman - courtesy Frieze Art Fair

Intimidating, fast, cosmopolitan: that's how London and the second edition of the Frieze Art Fair struck the visitor. The London fair for contemporary art took place once again in Regent's park, under the tent designed by architect David Adjaye. Those looking for the usual peacefulness of the park would have been disappointed as the fair welcomed more than an estimated 30,000 visitors.

The obsession with antiques and the great masters of painting is now 'passé'. The new UK rich have a healthy and ever-growing appetite for contemporary art. According to the research of the Arts Council of England, its national market is worth more than 500 million GBP. With 150 galleries and more than 2,000 artists on show, there were rich pickings at the Frieze Art Fair for the -mainly foreign- art collectors who came to visit. This year they came from places as far away as Korea, China, Russia and Israel. The main highlights were photography and painting. However, there were also original installations from artists such as 2002 Turner prize winner Keith Tyler with his work A Work That Requires A Different Form Of Investment, a superimposition of multi-coloured cubes decorated with riddles that the viewer had to solve in order to take the sculpture home. Tyler's intention was to make contemporary art accessible to those who have an interest in understanding it, rather than just buying it.

Regardless of the over-crowded corridors (it can't be denied: the space has become too small and feels rather claustrophobic), the quality and creativity of several artworks caught the viewer's eye. This was certainly the case as far as photography was concerned with Andrés Serrano's work at Ivonne Lambert (Paris) and Cindy Shermann's at Metro Pictures (NYC). Do-Ho-Suh presented a monumental sculpture based on metallic badges for dog collars at Lehmann Maupin (NYC) along with video-montages by Hatsushiba. Video work from Pippilotti Rist with Help me to be honest (Luhring Augustine, NYC) and Jesper Just with Bliss in heaven, exhibited by the young galerist Christina Wilson (Copenhagen), was also a definite highlight. The Jablonka Jun gallery, which was at the fair for the first time, exhibited paintings by Kevin Zucker.

If we compare Frieze with Art Forum Berlin - the most recent contemporary art fair in the international calendar- it can help us to understand the market evolution and notice the differences in audience and participants in the two cities. In the nineties, London was what Berlin is today: a nest for emerging artists, where creativity is abundant and money is scarce. The secret of London's success has been its consolidation of the infrastructures necessary for the development to give its results as Paul Hedges of the Hales gallery put it. London has managed to consolidate its role as the second most important capital for contemporary art, second only to New York. Berlin's challenge in the near future is to replace London in this role.

Text: Andrea Rodes
Translation: Micaela Cecchinato / Rebekah Smith

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