First night report: Collectors pour in, but the days of ten-minute reserves are over by Georgina Adam, Melanie Gerlis and Lindsay Pollock

I would really like to see the response to the auction market in the coming few weeks. Frieze has bought all the art frenzy on their feet once again with a much improved fair." - Aashu Maheshwari




Works by big names were still selling: Subodh Gupta’s Still Steal Steel #9, 2008, at Hauser & Wirth went to a European collector for €450,000


There were long queues to get into the Frieze Art Fair at 11am yesterday, the ultra-VIP opening, and by 7pm it was barely possible to walk down the aisles. Although major galleries—particularly those in the centre of the fair— reported good sales, many others said that buying was much slower, and that collectors were more measured than in the past three years.
Paris-based collector Dr Wolfgang Titze and his wife were first in the queue. “I’m always the first at the fair,” he said proudly. He said he was definitely intending to buy: “I’ve already reserved some things in advance, and if I see high-quality pieces I will buy them.” An hour later he had completed two purchases, one at Anton Kern Gallery (D11), although he was tightlipped about what exactly he had bought.
In pole position at the entrance to greet the early birds, Hauser & Wirth (C6) had virtually sold out by lunchtime, with Bharti Kher’s bindi-dotted triptych I’m Going that Way, 2008, selling for €300,000 and Paul McCarthy’s Mad House Red- Black, 2008, for $375,000, both to European collectors. Buyers generally gravitated towards the established art and galleries. At Contemporary Fine Arts (C10), Jonathan Meese’s Ich Bombi ist Funzi…, 2008, sold to a German collector for €44,000. At Lisson Gallery (B8), Anish Kapoor’s Untitled, 2008, a concave stainless-steel sculpture, sold for £875,000 to an American collector.
Despite financial storms battering the global economy, Frieze still has its magic touch as a social event with the glam-set. The toast of Moscow’s art scene, Dasha Zhukova was trawling the aisles (without her billionaire boyfriend Roman Abramovich), as were the fashion designer Valentino, and film star Gwyneth Paltrow, who said “I can’t wait to go round.”
Frieze attracted a clutch of power curators from New York: Thelma Golden, director of the Studio Museum Harlem; Lisa Phillips, director of the New Museum; Nancy Spector of the Guggenheim; and Alison Gingeras, chief curator for French megacollector and Christie’s owner, François Pinault. The newly svelte Charles Saatchi was at the fair, as was the ever-urbane collector David Roberts. Both made a beeline for newcomer Simon Lee’s stand (H1). The US TV producer Douglas S. Cramer and Californian collector Frances Bowes were both spotted.
#Despite Frieze’s allure, sales at some booths were slower than in previous years. “We didn’t expect anything,” said Klaus Webelholz of Bärbel Grässlin (D18). “The snap decisions are over,” said Nicole Hackert of Contemporary Fine Arts (C10). Marianne Boesky (F4) agreed, saying she had been offering reserves for several hours. “The ten-minute slots have gone,” she said. For the more experimental art, sales appeared to be nonexistent.
“The pulse is not as vibrant and the market for the galleries on the fringe is really soft,” said New York art adviser Mark Fletcher. Joaquín García Martín of Alvear gallery (H4) described the pace of sales on the outer edges of the fair as “slow, slow, slow, slow, slow,” adding, that “in the past it wasn’t so difficult at these major fairs”.
As global stock markets lost ground yesterday, fuelled by fears of recession, there were fewer inducements to splash out. David Roberts, who is due to open a museum in north London in 2010, said “I didn’t go mad.” His purchases included Kris Martin’s pinboard work Selfportrait (Club Med), 2008, from German gallery Sies + Höke (G23) for €40,000.
“Everyone is holding their breath at the moment,” said Ms Gingeras, who left the fair without buying, noting that it was “a lot more sedate than in previous years”. “We are waiting until the dust settles and to see how the auctions turn out,” explained New York and Palm Beach collector Mickey Beyer. “I don’t feel the need to rush.” British collector Frank Cohen added: “I’m not rushing this year. Two years ago people were fighting for works.”
A more measured fair is not necessarily a bad thing, and many visitors welcomed the dealers’ increased levels of attention. “They are coming out to greet you,” said Boston and Palm Beach collector David Genser, after buying a Laura Owen drawing for about $20,000 from Acme (D16). “Because it’s not so frenetic this year, there’s more time to talk about the art,” agreed Ms Gingeras.
Other visitors noted that the quality of the fair had improved. “This Frieze is the best I’ve ever seen, the dealers have made a real effort,” said New York collector-investor Adam Lindemann—but he left empty-handed, nevertheless.


Source - The Art Newspaper
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