The relief from exhibitors to be back at a physical event was palpable across the giant tent in the north of London’s Regent’s Park.
“It was a very special feeling to be able to show our pieces in public again. We’d almost forgotten what it felt like!” said Oscar Graf, French specialist in 19th decorative art.
Frieze Masters focuses on “20th-century art and historical art and objects” alongside Frieze London, a 15-minute walk away through the park, which concentrates on Contemporary art.
Both had limited capacity because of coronavirus restrictions and visitors were encouraged to wear masks and asked to show evidence of vaccines or negative tests.
Despite restrictions in place for some tourists, dealers reported visitors had made the effort to attend across the fair’s run from October 13-17. A total of 80,000 visitors to the combined 290 galleries across the two tents was recorded.
Peter Osborne at Osborne Samuel said: “People have travelled far and wide to see Frieze, Frieze Masters and our show. We have had an amazing response from around the world.”
He said the gallery had “really done all it can” to promote the stand and its exhibition (Henry Moore: Space & Form, running until November 17 in its London gallery) including “videos and promotions for those who can’t come to visit in person”. Osborne added: “We make a real show at Frieze Masters. Although the numbers may be down due to restrictions, it has still been a very good fair.”
The gallery reported six sales from the Moore exhibition at the fair to buyers from India, UK, Germany and the US with prices ranging from £100,000 to seven-figure-sums.
Oscar Graf was also happy with the sales he made. As well as the works pictured above he also sold a c.1896, 20in (50.5cm) high brass Arthur Dixon table lamp made by the Birmingham Guild of Handicraft which went to an American museum, with details yet to be disclosed.
Graf was part of Frieze Stand Out which was curated by Luke Syson, director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge – a promotion of a selection of exhibitions across the fair. Others featuring in this section were sculpture specialists Tomasso and Stuart Lochhead.
Lochhead, whose exhibition PLASTER! celebrated the overlooked (and misunderstood) medium of plaster, said: “I could say that it was thrilling to be back seeing clients and colleagues in real life and the atmosphere was really upbeat.
“I could see people were excited to be seeing art in the flesh and we had conversations and exchanges of ideas that we have so missed over the last 18 months.”
Lochhead acknowledged that while it was certainly great for connections, some sales may take longer to come for some exhibitors, as many buyers were reticent to rush in and commit.
Not all fair-goers may have balked at the prices for refreshments (£7 coffees and £20 cocktails) but some took to social media to express their shock.
These prices did not, however, dent the appetite of all visitors, and across Frieze and Frieze Masters multiple multi-million-pound sales of Contemporary art were reported.
High-profile sales at Frieze Masters included Robilant + Voena selling a Pablo Picasso drawing with a price of £400,000.
Dr Jörn Günther Rare Books sold a selection of books at prices between £500,000-1.5m. See picture caption on facing page for two sale highlights.
Another regular at Frieze Masters, Emanuel von Baeyer, reported strong sales including works that were part of its Walter Sickert (1860-1942) and his circle exhibition on the stand.
Among the sales was a painting by Thérèse Lessore (1884-1945) of Walter Sickert drawing in front of a mirror (pictured above left). It went for £5500 in the first few days of the fair to a UK buyer.
Fine art dealership Didier Aaron sold several works by Danish painter and transgender woman Einar Wegener (1882-1931).
The artist was successful under her birth name but later changed it to Lili Ilse Elvenes and was also known as Lili Elbe. She was among the early recipients of sex reassignment surgery and was the subject of the 2015 film The Danish Girl starring Eddie Redmayne.
Gallery director Marc Fecker confirmed that the gallery “saw interest and further sales throughout the fair from UK-based, as well as international collectors” but declined to give details and prices.
Big-ticket sales may have been slower for some, but the relief to be back making connections to potential new clients made the cost of exhibiting at this international fair worth the outlay – even with the high-priced beverages.
Sixteenth century vintage
Among the sales on the stand of Dr Jörn Günther Rare Books was an illuminated Book of Hours for the use of Rome. The manuscript in Latin and in French on vellum is illuminated by the Master of Spencer 6. It was made in Bourges, France, c.1500-10, and sold to a private collector from Europe for €1.5m (£1.3m).
The dealer also offered books with illustrations by Albrecht Dürer. A first-edition Nuremberg book – three works in one volume, Sammelband: Underweysung der Messung… by German woodblock cutter Hieronymus Andreae (1525, 1527, 1529) sold at €280,000 (£235,000), also to a private European collector.