Frieze, Frieze Masters, copious hanger-on events and auctions galore make London a great place to visit in October where there was real anticipation of the art market’s reaction to world events. Overall, the fairs went well and the general feeling at all the auction houses was positive – especially considering the following week in Paris at Paris+ (the ‘new’ fair belonging to the Art Basel brigade) which went very well by all accounts.
Frieze Masters was the highlight of the week for me. The calibre of work on view at Hauser and Wirth, Moretti, Nahmad and Skarstedt was all stunning. A few of my favourite pictures on display were Offer Waterman’s stunning and deeply creepy Paula Rego: ‘The Bullfighter’s Godmother’ of 1990-91, Peter Osborne showed a wonderful collage by the great Modern British artist William Scott: ‘Untitled’ of 1958 (and not a cup or a bowl in sight) and a recent studio scene by Frank Auerbach at Hazlitt, Holland & Hibbert was colourful and beautifully composed too.
Of my favourite stands Luxembourg had a great show of the Japanese artist Katsumi Nakai (1927-2013) whose work had been exhibited with Ronchini gallery in the past. An artist that works in colourful, hinged, wooden panels that fold into a square/oblong block: the pieces can be displayed in countless different ways. It is always a pleasure coming across an artist without a strong secondary market being ‘rediscovered’.
Of the big, brash dealers at the front of the fair I though Nahmad’s glorious amalgamation of masterpieces was deeply impressive. One work stood out – a Picasso from 1943 entitled ‘Nature morte a la chaise et aux glaieuls’, it is a work of such glorious simplicity where the light has been manipulated into separate fields within the work – the composition is balanced without being forced. In a year where Picasso is being celebrated (and castigated) in equal measure it makes sense to enjoy his ‘lesser’ compositions as much as his 1932, 120m USD plus, giants!
At the auctions the significant highlight for me was the Josefowitz collection which I recall hanging in the house of Paul Josefowitz for many years whilst carrying out valuations and various highly enjoyable visits. The best work was the Van Dongen ‘La Quietude’ which carried a price tag of over 10.5m GBP when it sold last week. There were, unquestionably, a few gaps in the auction and sadly one or two works failed to sell with another Van Dongen, later and more saccharine, and two Caillebotte works failing to find buyers. This is a market where saleroom estimates cannot be pushed, and New York may throw up some relative bargains this Fall. Keep an eye out for my next post before the NYC sales commencing the week of 6th November.