Frieze 2022 was a throbbing hum of industry on the opening day, and I was lucky enough to be showing some great friends around the fairs over the course of a very long opening day of Frieze London (FL) and Frieze Masters (FM). Without question the latter was the superior event with lesser crowding and some truly delightful work on display. The noted absences were Acquavella and Dickinson – two major galleries that had obviously felt the fair was too much of a gamble given the extraordinary events happening in London at this time. A government paralysed by poor decision making has meant for a very weak pound and (they feared) a very weak art-buying UK public too.

The highlights were far more apparent at FM than FL and I was amazed by a couple of stands – most notably the ‘megatron’ gallery Helly Nehmad which showed a magnificent display of the very best Joan Miro paintings by a commercial gallery I can ever recall. From a 1940s Constellation period work on paper through to a late 50s oil of stunning composition each piece was a delight. Miro’s oeuvre has had its market peaks and market troughs in recent years but I think he is back in favour and so long as the auctions do not get flooded with his awful late works on paper he could be a great artist to follow for the future. Importantly he was a lovely man by all accounts, and unlike Picasso/Schiele/ et al may not suffer the same rigorous attention being paid to misogynist behaviour – something, in this day and age, worth serious consideration.

I loved Waddington Custot’s stand with its fabulous exhibition of Hartung, Riopelle and Poliakoff. The post-war French aesthetic is a real magnet for me, and I particularly love the Borduas group from that period. Post-war Parisian art compares so very favourably with the US Ab-ex movement and only in recent years are they garnering the prices that they deserve. A superb Riopelle from the late 1940s was up for 2.2m GBP and I reckon it would have been a steal at anything around the 1.5m GBP mark.

What I love about the FM fair is the layout, which almost forces advisors (like your time-poor correspondent) into examining works that we would not otherwise pursue. There was a gorgeous show of design on the same stand as Richard Nagy (whose eye might be the best in the business for German Expressionism). Design fairs fill me with dread and PAD was not my idea of fun, but Richard’s stand was so, so elegant with Mid 20thCentury European furniture of real, useable(!), beauty. Definitely worth mentioning the NYC-period Grosz at Nagy’s which was superb: a worker in a manhole with two rich passers-by behind. Poking fun at the wealthy is not new subject matter, but Grosz does it so very well.

Yet despite the occasional stunner the works on view all seemed very British, rather provincial and circling around the same Post-War London style. There were heaps of Auerbach, heaps of minor-name British sculpture and I would be keen to know the exact number of Chadwick sculptures up for sale last week as there seemed to be hundreds!

Overall sales seemed strong but not record-breaking. I was amazed by the level of attendance, given the strange economic climate, but for great pictures there is still an appetite. Indeed, with the Allen sales coming up in NYC we may well see a bumper sale series in NYC next month – more on that to follow in early November.

Excuse the brief paragraph on Frieze London but it was an absolute bunfight. I always find it best to give myself a maximum three-hour window and, solo if possible, march with purpose across the tent as quickly as possible to the big galleries first. It is so easy to get waylaid but the highlights that grabbed my attention were the Andrew Grassie paintings in egg tempera on Schipper’s stand, the Paula Regos (RIP) throughout the fair, the amazing large Tracey Emin (950k GBP list) which was sold immediately with Xavier Hufkens and the Alex Hubbards with Simon Lee. Otherwise, I was struggling to get too excited amongst the hullabaloo. This year I felt it was all about the Masters across the other side of Regent’s Park!