LONDON — Words of praise continue to roll in as Frieze Masters draws serious visitors, resembling London’s very own miniature version of TEFAF Maastricht, the gold standard of Old Masters fairs which takes place in the Netherlands every March. “If there was ever a fair I was meant for,” said London dealer Stephen Ongpin, “with Old Masters and modern, this is it. It’s precisely what I do.”
Ongpin has so far sold Lucian Freud’s smallish (10¾-by-7-inch) pen-and-black-ink-and-black-wax “The Sleeping Cat” (1944), which had an asking price of £280,000, as well as the darkly luminous Frank Auerbach charcoal, “Study of a Seated Female Nude” (1955), which was offerd for £90,000.
Better yet, the dealer continued, “I’m meeting a lot of new people who regularly come to the Frieze Art Fair but don’t come to Maastricht.”
The mood was also buoyant at New York’s Cheim & Read, where the gallery sold a smallish Joan Mitchell painting, “Untitled” (1961), for around a million dollars to an English collector, as well as a large Louise Bourgeois bronze, “Avenza Revisited,” in silver nitrate and polished patina from 1968-69, for around $1.5 million.
“The Bourgeois sold to a Swiss collector we’ve never done business with before,” said director Adam Sheffer. “This is a pretty grand start to the fair — we’ve only sold the top-end things.”
There were also some big ticket transactions, including Pablo Picasso’s “Homme et Femme au Bouquet” (1970), which sold in the region of $9 million at Wan de Weghe Fine Art. The New York dealer also sold Salvador Dalí’s pencil-on-paper “Andromeda” (1931), which was listed at $250,000. A veteran of art fairs around the world, Wan de Weghe said that he had made contact with “a lot of international people” at Frieze Masters.
New York’s Sperone Westwater also scored among the single-artist curated solo shows, selling Bruce Nauman’s installation, “Parallax Shell” (1971), along with the drawing for it, to a European collector in the $2-3 million range. “People are pleased with the concept, and the crossover effect of seeing the past through a more contemporary lens,” said David Leiber, a Sperone Westwater partner. “The set-up is perfect.”
A veteran of numerous TEFAF fairs, Leiber added, “The atmosphere is a little more relaxed than Maastricht but it has that feeling. Frieze Masters is not segregated like TEFAF,” referring to the latter fair’s strict boundaries between sections, ranging from Dutch Old Masters to contemporary fare.
Gallery co-founder Gianenzo Sperone also raved about the riches of older material at Frieze Masters, admitting he himself bought a 4th-century Greek bronze vase from Rupert Wace, a nearby dealer.
“I did a little shopping,” admitted Sperone, who said he spent £30,000 on the vase. “I couldn’t believe how cheap it was!”
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