Lily Stone is no stranger to art world attitude. While this week was full of side eye, cold shoulders, and a general “YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US” sentiment, RedDot founder Lily Stone braved the Frieze spectacle and all it had to offer to find the hidden gems (and the real duds) in London last week.
I remember the first time I came to Frieze. I was 22 and had just started my masters program studying the art market. The only contemporary art I had been exposed to was what I learned in my “Art From 1940” seminar two years prior. And I got a C+, so “what I learned” was limited. It was overwhelming but seemed effortlessly cool. I wanted to know all about it! A decade later, the sheen has worn off and it doesn’t warrant the same excitement as it once did. Furthermore, with a $45 price tag, it remains a party for the art world glitterati. This year, once again, the art world has proven that it really has no interest in enticing new buyers.
It’s now Monday and I’m still resting from a whirlwind week (6 auctions, 7 art fairs, and countless gallery visits) but peep my diary from the past few days below. Key takeaways: there is great art to be had at ALL prices. I don’t want to shame the high end of the market too bad. After all, I have been exposed to art I love (and would buy if I had the funds) at the very institutions that seem to discourage who they consider “small time” collectors. But it’s important to remember that there are still great pieces hiding in the corners of Frieze week at satellite fairs and smaller galleries, even if all you’re hearing about is the record breakers (congratulations, Jenny Saville). Need help finding them? We’re always available to talk all things art collecting at email@example.com.
October 1, 2018
I went to Sotheby’s today to see the exhibition of contemporary art being sold later this week. I always love seeing auction exhibitions, because it feels like a pop-up museum of beautiful art that appears for a week before disappearing into private collections, likely not to be seen again by public eyes for decades. Bustling with wealthy collectors being courted by the Contemporary Art department employees. I got side eye from a lot of them but I’m used to that. Sotheby’s clearly isn’t trying to erase its own Pretty Woman “you work on consignment” vibe: they definitely don’t try to hide the fact that they don’t take me seriously. Maybe because I was wearing jeans and sneakers?
Lily, eyes straight, head straight by Julian Opie (sold for 55,378 USD)
October 2, 2018
Hit up Christie’s for their Contemporary art preview. Swarms of people, all looking the same. Client pointed out the lack of diversity not only in ethnicity but in general vibe. “A lot of ‘likes’”, she said, referring to the cookie cutter mold from which both the visitors and the staff seem to have been cut. More of the same side eye as Sotheby’s. Underwhelming selection, to be honest, and lackluster arrangement. I think we saw one photograph hung using binder clips and thumb tacks (and no, this was not part of the art)
Is this the same Christie’s that sold a DaVinci for $450m last year [scratches head]? Could have fooled me. Nicest person was a security guard who told us to watch our step. Everyone else, I could take or leave… Nicest piece of art? The collection of Lalanne sheep, gazing over the flocks of collectors and buyers milling around the sale room.
October 4, 2018
This morning I visited 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair at Somerset House. It was my first time at this fair, and I was really impressed. The gallery reps were eager to chat and much of the work actually took my breath away. Vivid colors, palpable emotions, and incredible artistic skill. After I headed to PAD, the Art & Design fair in Berkeley Square, usually one of my favorites because instead of white walls, each gallery really shells out for sumptuous wallpaper and wooden floors, to mimic an actual living room, with both artwork and furniture being sold side by side. Then one dealer refused to give me the price of a modest nude drawing. I saw some amazing stools made from what looked like resin and tree trunks…but the gallery rep refused to elaborate when I asked for more information. They both refused! No skin off my back, but is this what we’ve come to? Galleries pay a fortune to be seen at these fairs, but have zero interest in engaging with potential clients? Booooooo.
Checked out The Other Art Fair in the evening, put on by Saatchi Art and got a chance to talk to individual artists, not galleries, about their work. Bought two pieces and the artists seemed legitimately excited to connect with their buyer. This is what we need to get back to.
Dear Diary… October 5, 2018
Moniker Art Fair today. Happened upon a private tour with the fair’s curator, who took time she definitely didn’t have to walk us around. Some really interesting pop art (by both well established galleries and newbies—Moniker’s panel chooses several new galleries to exhibit alongside the veteran galleries) and a survey of urban contemporary art in partnership with the Urban Nation Museum called “Uncensored”. This year the themes of injustice, corporate greed and gender/racial/social inequalities were explored in a massive site specific installation with some really powerful artworks. Further, they were both easy to understand and thoughtful in their portrayal of these themes. Picked up a screenprint (for $26!) commemorating the fifty year anniversary of the Paris riots of May 1968, posters for which are considered the forerunners of today’s street art movement.
October 6, 2018
Cold and rainy but finally made it to Frieze and Frieze Masters today. While I applaud the sculpture park, installed in Regents Park specifically for the event, the majority of the art at these headline fairs was a real snooze. Underwhelming to say the least, and the $84.25 price tag for entry just pissed me off.
There was a general “I don’t really give a sh*t” attitude from all the gallery owners, likely because they had already made their sales in the weeks prior. But I saw none of the vivacity or excitement that was palpable at the 1-54 fair, The Other Art Fair, and Moniker Art Fair. Most visitors made a beeline straight for the most Instagrammable work (see below) but overall it just felt like going through the motions. Not to mention that every year the fair seems to be getting bigger…so the quantity felt overwhelming but definitely not the quality. My only hope is that this will inspire more satellite offshoots to pop up and engage a new generation of buyers and art appreciators.