Collectors Seek Bargains as Frieze Buying Stampede Ebbs

By Katya Kazakina and Scott Reyburn
Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- The annual frenzied sales at London's Frieze Art Fair evaporated this year as collectors felt no pressure to make expensive purchases instantly, dealers said.
People are shell-shocked by the world economy,'' said New York gallerist Marianne Boesky, who had a booth at the five-day fair, which ended yesterday. ``People are buying but they're taking it slowly and not rushing into things.''

Boesky sold a small painting by Barnaby Furnas for $50,000 and a sculpture-and-photo installation by emerging artist William J. O'Brien for $12,500. Her more expensive works -- a $400,000 painting by Lisa Yuskavage and $1.8 million painting by Takashi Murakami -- had a harder time finding buyers.

Now in its sixth year, Frieze is considered one of the world's three most important contemporary-art fairs, along with Art Basel in Switzerland in June and Art Basel Miami Beach in December.

Even visits from Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, his partner Dasha Zhukova, actress Gwyneth Paltrow, singer George Michael, New York collectors Susan and Michael Hort and art advisers to hedge-fund managers Sandy Heller and Todd Levin, didn't spur much excitement.
Slower Is Better

``Sometimes slower is better,'' said Jill Silverman, director at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in Paris and Salzburg. ``I didn't like the stampede approach. I've been through three of these recessions. If you keep prices reasonable, you'll be OK.''

At Ropac's booth, an American collector paid 220,000 pounds ($380,182) for Antony Gormley's steel sculpture ``Stand II.'' Two private collectors and one European museum foundation lined up for Ilya & Emilia Kabakov's 9-foot-high 2007 painting, ``Canon #1,'' for $550,000.
An American buyer paid 875,000 pounds for a stainless steel mirror by Anish Kapoor at London's Lisson Gallery, said director of sales Michelle d'Souza. London and Zurich dealers Hauser & Wirth sold both editions of Subodh Gupta's 8-foot-high stainless steel skull sculpture, ``Mind Shut Down,'' for just over 1 million euros ($1.34 million) each.

The contemporary-art market has enjoyed a bull run for the past five years, with prices for artists including Andy Warhol, Murakami and Richard Prince more than quadrupling.
Some collectors wondered when art prices will adjust to reflect the global economic meltdown.
``The art world is totally disconnected from the financial world,'' said London collector Amir Shariat, an adviser to hedge funds and private-equity firms at Auctor Capital Partners Ltd.
Too Costly

Unlike last year, Shariat didn't buy anything at Frieze because prices were too high.
``I can buy companies for the price of art,'' he said.

Moscow-based collectors Sardor and Lida Mirzazhanov, who attended Frieze for the second year, looked at an ornate, $180,000 steel work by Teresita Fernandez at Lehmann Maupin gallery but passed on it.

``Whatever we liked cost more than what we considered adequate, especially given the current economic situation,'' said Lida Mirzazhanov.

Some dealers appeared to have lowered prices. At London's White Cube, a richly enameled painting by Anglo-Indian star Raqib Shaw was on hold at 575,000 pounds. In June at Art Basel, a similar-sized work by Shaw sold for 750,000 pounds.

``This is not a good time for expensive things,'' said Cologne-based dealer Alex Lachmann. ``Works priced reasonably between 100,000 pounds and 500,000 pounds can do OK.''
Young Artists Sell

Younger artists showing at Frieze attracted buyers. Victoria Miro sold five etchings by Turner Prize-winning Grayson Perry and an edition of six images by a U.K. photographer Idris Khan, all priced at 16,000 pounds each.

Critically acclaimed young Los Angeles artist Sterling Ruby had two large sculptures at Frieze: New York's Metro Pictures sold his plywood circle dripping with polyurethane paint for $150,000 while his 16-foot-high obelisk at Spruth Magers gallery went for $135,000.
Striking color photographs depicting bear skins and a giant bronze boot by Ukrainian artist Sergey Bratkov cost 1,200 euros to 10,000 euros at Regina Gallery from Moscow. Several pieces sold, but collectors were asking for discounts.

``They wanted prices to be in dollars, not in euros,'' said the gallery owner Vladimir Ovcharenko. ``That's a 35 percent discount.''

At the Zoo Art Fair, a satellite show that features emerging artists and galleries that have been in business for less than six years, works below 50,000 pounds were popular sellers. The fair attracted curators from the Museum of Modern Art in New York, London's Tate Modern and the Whitechapel Art Gallery.
Elvis Portrait

London's Riflemaker gallery sold Gavin Turk's ``Faded Glory,'' a Warhol-style yellow silkscreen portrait of the young Elvis Presley, for 34,000 pounds. Bose Pacia of New York sold 9 collage and mixed media pieces by Indian artist Radhika Khimji for prices between 850 pounds and 2,000 pounds.
At the small Kounter Kulture fair in an old brewery in East London, 37-year-old artist Dave White was on hand to discuss his work with customers. His Pop Art-like paintings and watercolors of planes and tanks inspired by vintage war comics sold briskly for prices that ranged from 1,762 pounds to 45,000 pounds.
``In this financial climate, if a client is taking the time to invest in my work, I want to meet them and invest in them,'' White said.
(Katya Kazakina and Scott Reyburn are reporters for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)
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