"The Fog is Lifting"
The Press on the 2009 Frieze Art Fair
A breath of relief in Regent's Park: despite the aftereffects of the financial crisis, the Frieze Art Fair has once again succeeded in securing its position as the most ambitious art fair worldwide. 165 galleries from 30 countries came to London this year to show works by around 1,000 artists. Many young participants were shown in the new section Frame, while the subversive works of the Frieze Projects provided ample material for discussion. The press was unanimous: Frieze's seventh run, which has been sponsored once again this year by Deutsche Bank, has kindled a mood of renewed optimism.
Already on the day before the opening of the Frieze Art Fair, London outdid itself with attractions for the international art scene. The parties for art stars like Damien Hirst, Ed Ruscha, and Anish Kapoor were, however, outshone by the Patti Smith concert at Alison Jacques. The legendary singer performed in honor of her longtime friend Robert Mapplethorpe, whom the gallery has dedicated an exhibition to. Hundreds of Smith's fans crowded in and outside the gallery, causing traffic chaos on Berners Street. Frieze Week once again proved to be "the most exciting week all year in the art calendar," according to the Telegraph, while the Independent celebrates London as "art's hottest city" worldwide. Quite rightly: John Baldessari and Miroslaw Balka at the Tate Modern, Kapoor in the Royal Academy, Sophie Calle at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, Ruscha at the Hayward Gallery, Anselm Kiefer at White Cube-and these are not, by far, all the shining highlights the British capital has to offer.
But the center of everyone's attention was the fair itself, of course. "Frieze opened in its Regents Park tent as if the recession had never happened. The energy emanating from within was noticeable even before I got through the door," reports Artforum correspondent Linda Yablonsky. "Even before I entered the fair, I could feel its energy." Even if on Preview Day celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Stella McCartney, and Turner prize winner Grayson Perry (wearing a blue and white dirndl) stole the public's attention, according to Yablonsky "it was art itself that carried the day. And it was flying off the walls. Every single dealer I saw was beaming." The New York Times detects a "hunger to buy, but at the right price," while the FAZ reports that last year's "doomsday mood" is now finally over: "The fog has lifted. (…) It is a fair worth seeing, almost without exception." "The air is alive with deals being done," observes Adrian Searle from the Guardian, and Spiegel online quotes Eigen+Art dealer Harry Lybke: "Business is good" and sums it up thus: "The mood is not nearly as depressed as it was at the beginning of the year. Some of the gallery dealers didn't even have time for an interview because they were too busy selling." Art also came to the conclusion that "in the final analysis, most of the galleries were doing good business." Artnet correspondent Stefan Kobel was not, however, completely convinced by the 7th Frieze. "The subtle signs that the market is recovering gave people the good feeling that they can survive the recession. In the lounge of the main sponsor Deutsche Bank, for example, there was a buoyant, bustling mood as opposed to the subdued mood of perseverance of 2008." While Kobel also noticed "thaw in Regent's Park," and emphasizes the "extensive theoretical structure in the form of discussions," he nonetheless concludes that "anyone who had hoped for impulses and inspiration from the fair's directors in a difficult time went away disappointed."
The new section Frame, where 29 young international galleries introduced individual artists, was praised unanimously. It was like a vitamin cure for Frieze, according to Matthias Thibaut of Berlin's Tagesspiegel. "With its almost museum-like curated presentations, it belongs to the fair's best features this year." This is where visitors could best see the "return of art to something less slick and more hand-made." In contrast, "Damien Hirst's stainless steel vitrines with surgical instruments titled 'Night of the Long Knives,' which was priced at five million dollars at White Cube, seemed like a relic from a bygone era." For Thibaut, it was especially the large works in the Frame section and the Frieze Projects with their subversive commentaries on the fair and the market that were most interesting: "The critical discourse on the art establishment is as indispensible a part of Frieze as the VIP Lounge of Deutsche Bank. The fair owes this to itself as the product of an art magazine known for a rigorous concentration on interpretation and not for the dance around the Golden Calf. For this reason, too, it's logical that in the Year Zero after the financial crash, Frieze turns out to be the place where we rediscover that enjoyment of art doesn't only have to do with money and profit."