Frieze draws American art collectors to New York

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Much has been done over the past 14 months of “pop-up” art galleries in Palm Beach, Florida, Aspen, Colorado, and the Hamptons, New York, with dealers and collectors gushing over sales, attendance and the exposure of the rich provinces. .

Yes, New York galleries are open (and sell art!)

But there has been nothing in the art world to bring people, especially outsiders, back to the city. There was nothing to merge around nothing, say the merchants, to restore energy to a place that remains the world capital of contemporary art.

At least, not until Frieze New York opens this week.

Collectors come from all over the United States. VIP slots are almost full and general admission tickets, which cost up to US $ 265 (RM 1,092), are completely sold out.

“It was strange,” says Gordon VeneKlasen, partner of the Michael Werner gallery, which has a booth at the art fair. “I started talking to American collectors, big collectors, who all said they were coming to town for Frieze.”

“They feel safe”

Frieze, which opens to VIPs on May 5 and everyone else on the afternoon of May 6 and runs through May 9, will be the first major art fair in New York City since the Armory Show in last March, when the dominant response to Covid was “generous amounts of hand sanitizer” and “punches” instead of overhead kisses.

Large gatherings are still a thing of the past. Frieze will take place in a lean form at Shed in Hudson Yards, with just 64 galleries and four nonprofits exhibiting, up from 200 normally. Participation in the fair is by appointment only. Even large collectors need to make reservations; many discover, to their dismay, that the best VIP times are already booked.

“We have had (collectors) expressing their disappointment that they did not register early enough” to secure prime seats on the first two days of the show, says New York dealer Sean Kelly, whose Frieze booth features works by Antony Gormley and Idris. Khan.

Organizers of Frieze say expected attendees include KKR & Co co-founder Henry Kravis, tennis star Serena Williams and Dallas-based collectors Howard and Cindy Rachofsky. Just a few weeks ago, dealers say, this kind of enthusiasm and attendance would have been unthinkable.

“We have clients from all over America coming in,” says Marc Payot, co-chairman of Hauser & Wirth, which has a booth at Frieze and opens exhibitions of Tetsumi Kudo and Frank Bowling in its Chelsea location to coincide with the opening of the fair. daytime.

“I know people from California, several from Atlanta, Chicago. And that means they feel safe. The fact that they want to do this, and finally come back to New York, is fantastic news and sends a message. fantastic message. “

But still no time to party

In the past, art fairs were the occasion for cocktails, sit-down dinners, gallery openings and visits to collectors’ houses, each part of the ecosystem of the art world that makes it possible to differentiate buying art from simple shopping.

This year, most of it is gone. Kelly’s gallery is only a few blocks from The Shed, and he’s opening an exhibition by artist Jose Dávila to coincide with the fair. There was the temptation, he says, to do “appetizers, cocktails, press brunch, etc., and we looked at them, but the general consensus is that people are not. still have spent food on platters.

This is an opinion shared by almost all the galleries present.

“I don’t think anyone feels really comfortable doing a big event at this point,” says Jessie Washburne-Harris, executive director of the Marian Goodman Gallery. “But I would say that with that it actually became a special thing where you can connect with people.

Washburne-Harris plans to have a small dinner with about 10 people, as well as a series of one-on-one meetings. VeneKlasen also says he cooks a dinner for 10 people at his home (“I must have dug up the old chefs that I hadn’t used for a year”). Likewise, Payot says that “the team will organize one or two individual dinners with the clients. , but we’re not doing anything big. We really felt like now was not the time to do it.

Sales strategies

It is time, however, to step up to art and sell it. After nearly a year of sending out JPEGs and PDFs and links to virtual art fair previews, dealers are excited, if not impatient, for the in-person sales. “I never thought I would miss them as much as I do,” says Washburne-Harris.

Payot says the math of what to show at the fair has changed after a year of distance selling art.

“In the digital world, flat-painted pieces, for the most part, are the most successful,” he says. Since Hauser & Wirth has, he continues, “a lot of sculpture in its program”, the gallery’s stand at Frieze will do for the lost time: There will be sculptures by Louise Bourgeois, Jenny Holzer and Simone Leigh, as well. than more two-dimensional dishes, including paintings by George Condo and Ed Clark.

Washburne-Harris, on the other hand, says her booth – a solo presentation by Annette Messager, a French artist whose installations are often dramatic and theatrical – has not changed after a year of selling online. The stand will contain two of Messager’s installations, as well as a series of his drawings. “Our presentation is very specific,” says Washburne-Harris. “We like to do something more experimental at the fair.”

This year’s Frieze, say the dealers, will be as much an opportunity to reintroduce yourself to existing collectors as it will be an opportunity to meet new ones. “I bring serious stuff,” says VeneKlasen. “We have to show who we are again.

He anticipates a constant stream of enthusiastic collectors, but is happy to recognize that “this could all be a fantasy. It could be 20 people showing up and it being a bust. But it looks like a lot of people are coming.”

If only for the rest, “it’s good”, he concludes, “to be in New York in May”. – Bloomberg


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