"A magnet for the world's biggest contemporary art collectors"
The Press on the Frieze Art Fair 2011
173 galleries from 33 countries, over 1,000 artists and once again more than 60,000 visitors-the ninth run of the London Frieze Art Fair, which Deutsche Bank has been the main sponsor of in its eighth continuous year, boasts impressive numbers. And the fair's plans to grow were also the subject for much discussion, of course. Most press reports agree: the mood at this year's Frieze was optimistic, despite the economic uncertainty of the times.
"Sponsors you can bank on." This is the heading of the preliminary report in the Financial Times on the Frieze Art Fair, which it calls the "world's most famous art fair." Deutsche Bank "… has supported Frieze from the start, and its presence is a strong one: beautifully curated displays selected from the bank's enormous and ever-growing collection of drawings and works on paper fill a lavish marquee on the Frieze site, with regular client and VIP tours." The FT also writes about the fair's expansion, of course. For some time, rumors of a New York branch had been making their way through the art scene, but then Frieze announced "an even bolder move": not one, but two new fairs will be initiated in 2012. Art Newspaper reported: "Deutsche Bank will be the main sponsor of both Frieze New York and Frieze Masters in 2012." The Guardian dedicated an entire article to the expansion plans in which Frieze co-director Amanda Sharp is highly optimistic: "We had extraordinarily strong applications for the New York fair (…) it's going to be as big and as strong and as good-quality a fair as London Frieze."
"A magnet for the world's biggest contemporary art collectors" is what Reuters calls Frieze. "One of the world's foremost contemporary art fairs and a good barometer of the market" is CNN's description. In its preliminary report, Spiegel writes that "Deutsche Bank, main sponsor of Frieze, will announce-at the fair, naturally-the name of the Artist of the Year who will later receive a solo show at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin." Following Wangechi Mutu and Yto Barrada, this year's choice was the Slovakian conceptual artist Roman Ondak. Monopol quotes Pierre de Weck, member of Deutsche Bank group management and chairman of the jury: Ondak is "one of the most important contemporary Eastern European artists." "The jury was top-class and so is the artist", the Tagesspiegel reports. "The decision was made by the Director of the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, Udo Kittelmann, and the renowned curators Nancy Spector and Okwui Enwezor, who just took over the Haus der Kunst in Munich." Vernissage TV conducted an extensive interview with Roman Ondak. And Women's Wear Daily quotes Friedhelm Hütte, Global Head of Art, Deutsche Bank, on the "Artist of the Year" program: "These artists are putting forward the right questions. There are so many answers out there. But they are asking questions, relevant questions, about life today."
Frieze marks the beginning of the fall season for art fairs and auctions. This is why it's considered to be "the litmus test for the art market," according to ArtLyst, the London Art Network. In view of the recession and the Euro crisis, a certain nervousness was palpable at the start of the "major event" (Spiegel). "At first, a fearful tension could be felt. But as soon as it became clear that business was up and running, you could hear a collective sigh of relief," writes the FAZ. "Economic gloom or not, the big tent in Regent's Park was teeming with collectors" says Art Info and reports sales of works by Neo Rauch and Thomas Houseago. The Financial Times talks of a "play-it-safe year": "Inside the gallery stands, the tone is notably more sober and classical than in previous years, reflecting market uncertainty." Monopol arrives at a similar conclusion: "Many galleries stick to what sells and serve up the big names while they leave the more difficult conceptual goods in storage." Artnet detects a positive side to this strategy: "This year, many galleries succeeded in animating their artists to create the best works they are capable of-and so an amazing amount of new work could be discovered, even by well-known names." And Art reports: "Despite the financial crisis, art sales continue happily as before."
The work of art everyone is talking about is by Christian Jankowski. His contribution to Frieze Projects is a Riva luxury yacht-which can be had for 65 million purely as a boat, and for 75 million as a certified work of art. "It looks like the kind of super yacht that oligarchs use to show politicians who's boss" says the Huffington Post. "Duchamp and champagne-here, things merge that belong together by virtue of their common word root," writes the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, while Artnet calls the work Jankowski's "greatest coup to date." On the other hand, Adrian Searle regards the Readymade of the high seas as a "witless and trivial" gag. But he's excited by another contribution to Frieze Projects-Pierre Huyghe's aquarium with a hermit crab carrying around a copy of a Brancusi bronze as its shell: "odd and extremely beautiful" is the Guardian star critic's verdict. And Tagesspiegel writes that "Frieze Projects can once again explain with insight how the art establishment works."
For Elle, Frieze is "London's preeminent art event." For the Handelsblatt, however, the "cocksure is lacking"-while Wallpaper writes that everything seems "a little more conservative" than usual at this year's fair. But even still: "fat-walleted, fashioned-up collectors queued in droves to get in." In the tents, there was "no shortage of eye-catching works" awaiting them, writes Art Desk, which particularly recommends visiting the young section Frame, the "most exciting and rewarding part of Frieze." "The mood was upbeat" is how the Telegraph sums up its impressions, and ArtLyst comes to the similar conclusion that there's "no need for such doom and gloom: (…) the artistic dimension of Frieze is remarkably stable-its quality very much un-depleted, its character unchanged."