There was plenty to see last week as the international art collecting masses made their way to London for the main event of the month – Frieze London and Frieze Masters. Although the Frieze London fair was a roaring success it seemed that the sister fair ‘Masters’, struggled to live up to the high quality of 2018. This might have been Brexit nerves but more likely it was galleries trying to spread their stock too thin in light of the many simultaneous Art Fairs around the world.
Having said that, there were plenty of highlights. I thought that the stands that showed best were those that ran a theme or a specific artist about which one could really engage. Prices were high but, in most cases, understandably so. The value of top art fairs to buyers it that the best works come out, albeit at the highest prices.
The Henry Moore (1898-1986) ‘Helmet’, 1950, with Peter Osbourne was a sensational work – a unique lead piece. The idea of the Helmet series was derived from Moore’s experience of the Great War. The German’s helmets showed two large vent holes which are synonymous with Moore’s helmets from 1939 onwards.
The vast, white Alberto Burri (1915-1995) on Dickinson’s stand was a masterpiece too. The stand was full of ‘Art Informel’ ranging from Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) to my current favourite Manolo Millares (1926-1972). I think the Spanish post-war movement is one of the most undervalued and impressive sectors of the market and it is well worth keeping an eye out for quality examples of this era. The prices fetched for Italian artists of the same period are eye-watering in comparison. Those crackerjack painters and sculptors such as Saura, Tapies, Canogar and Millares seriously need market revision.
Acquavella’s stand is always a fabulous affair and the mixed group of 2019 was a gem. Amazing Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894), Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1864-1901), Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920) and Joan Miro (1893-1983) were evident. The quality of the stand ensured that the very first picture to greet visitors was a multi-million-dollar Joan Miro painting from 1933. With the best positioned booths come the best pictures and the biggest prices.
I hugely enjoyed the Louise Nevelson (1899-1988) exhibition at Galleria Gio Cardani which brought to light one of the most influential female artists of her generation. The vast black shelf piece may have been the most impressive, and most missed, work of art at the fair.
Overall it was a wonderful week of visits and despite there being a Richard Mille stand (selling expensive watches) the fair looked as good as ever. Credit to the organisers for keeping the outstanding gallery list for another year.
Remember, use an advisor when buying significant works of art – art prices are always negotiable, but returns are often not.