Over the last month or so I have attented twelve art and antique fairs in London which have left me with plenty to write about and the need for a few days rest. Although the fairs themselves were frought with issues the general mood was positive and the outlook optimistic. Dealers have reported good sales in most cases and seem to be in a very optimistic frame of mind as the market continues to pick up. The biggest fair I attended was the Frieze Art Fair which is one of the most important contemporary art events in the UK if not the world. Although one cannot help but be impressed by the glitz and glamour of the Frieze art fair it was just not an enjoyable experience for me. To start with, the marquee was really hot which made just being at the fair physically unpleasant, but the real problem with Frieze is that it is too much like a supermarket. When visiting a supermarket one tends to only take notice of the brands they are familiar with or the products that are the most visually striking due to the sheer number of different brands and products available. The same goes for Frieze where all but the works of the most recognizable artists and the most flamboyant works of art get lost in the crowd. I came away from the fair with memories of works by artists whose work is instantly recognisable and distinguishable such as Damien Hirst, Yayoi Kusama, Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Richard Serra, Takashi Murakami etc. I also have memories of other works by emerging artists that stood out of the crowd, but am unable to remember who they were because of the number of names and images swirling round in my head. Funnily enough, it was the big, bold works by the emerging artists that are reported to have experienced the highest level of success.
On a more positive note, quality was consistently high and sales are reported to have been considerably higher than last year. However, it is important to remember that a positive spin can be put on anything and that the likelihood of this years fair being any worse than last year was very slim. As far as figures go, sales of works priced at under 100,000 pounds were the most prevalent as one would expect with a show geared towards the work of emerging artists. Sales of works in the five figure range are reported to have been particularly strong which is pretty much the same trend reported by dealers at the 2008 fair. Six figure sales were few and far between, which is to be expected with a fair geared towards emerging artists and seven figure sales were even more scarce. There were, however, at least a few big ticket sales that are worth mentioning such as:
-A Louise Bourgeois sculpture titled The Couple which was sold by Hauser and