The 2010 Frieze Art Fair

Traffic Friezes but the art market mobilises in London

Wol Balston does the rounds and gauges the market temperature during the busiest week of the UK art calendar

London seems to be packed to the point of paralysis at the moment. I don’t know whether it is because the capital’s utility companies are coming to the end of their financial year, and, in a hideous bid to spend their full quotas to ensure similar government handouts next year, are rolling out the roadworks, spreading like a miserable reddy-orange and white-striped rash across our streets, bringing traffic to a clogged up and irritating stand still.

Or perhaps it is because this week is Frieze Art Fair week, and hoards of art aficionados have descended upon Regent’s Park and the wider capital. It is the eighth edition of the UK, if not the world’s, leading international contemporary art fair. 173 contemporary galleries, representing 29 countries are presenting work by over 1,000 of the world’s most innovative artists (as the press release would have us believe).

The mood at Frieze during the private view on Wednesday was almost frantically buoyant, and it is fairly safe to say that, as far as the contemporary art world is concerned, the recession is surely receding, with healthy sales reported on all fronts.

Down the road in Bruton Place Flint client Nick Jeffery enjoyed an astonishing evening of sales at the Sladmore Contemporary – his stunning butterfly works selling like hotcakes under the auspices of gallery owner Gerry Farrell and Nick’s consultant Georgie Grandy of Grandy Art. That Nick, a young emerging British artist, was exhibiting on such a platform on the opening night of Frieze, of all nights, can be attributed in part to his position as artist-in-residence at the InterContinental Park Lane Hotel (see FT article, 15.10.10). The exposure, events and sales this alliance affords is typical of the interesting and productive sort of synergy that a recession could only encourage, and now as a result is contributing to a welcome market resurgence.

The excitement of Frieze and the general uplift in both sales and mood could be seen and felt across London echoed in a whole host of satellite events, launches, openings, exhibitions and parties.

After Frieze meetings on the Thursday with another Flint client Regina Gallery and Tate Etc, between gulps of Champagne Pommery (a useful Frieze sponsor), snatches of performance art and a veritable fever pitch of general networking, I gratefully left the Regent’s Park enclosure to head for the ‘Deco Affair’ in South Kensington. This was shortly followed by a trip to the Art & Design Fair in Berkley Square, where the mood was equally jubilant. Moving swiftly but resolutely on I joined the Tate Etc. and CultureShock Media crew for the opening of the new Hauser & Wirth gallery on Savile Row. Any art here on display was drowned from sight by a sea of people and champagne, with only a vast Louise Bourgeois spider visible above the scrum. So we headed on to White Cube for more of the same, and then the Dover Street Arts Club for a Fine Art Society launch.

There were of course many other events to attend, but the general impression was clear – the art market is back on track  and the cashier’s tills are ringing with the jingling sound of relief.

Wol Balston is co-founder and publisher of Renaissance Online, and Director of the Arts and Culture PR agency Flint Public Relations. Working with clients such The Arts Club, Lisson Gallery, Time Out and The University of the Arts London, Flint PR enjoys working with a wide range of artists, writers, publishers and galleries.