After being canceled for the first time in seventeen years since its inception due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the London Frieze week took place both online and off “to show the best of the best during these times.” Farah Nayeri of The New York Times reported that the Frieze Week 2020 had been a “predominantly local affair,” but that hadn’t stopped the world’s “leading galleries” like Hauser & Wirth from participating. According to co-founder and president of the gallery, Iwan Wirth, American artist Rashid Johnson’s exhibition Waves was showcased during the week because it was “the only option” they had “during these times.”
While there were no Frieze Tents this year, Frieze London and Frieze Masters went online with 250 galleries paid to get on the fair’s digital viewing platform, explained Victoria Siddall, the global director of Frieze Fairs. However, Nayeri reported that only two parts of the program could be experienced in person— A sculpture show in Regent’s Park, a series of live-streamed performances staged in the Mayfair space.
Lanre Bakare of The Guardian reported that the only “major fair” of the London Frieze Week took place at Somerset House called the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair. 1-54’s founding director, Touria El Glaoui, said that she had seen a ‘growing demand for tickets to the 1-54’ because there was “strong enthusiasm” in people to go and see art in person. 1-54 took visitors at appointed time slots and followed a “strict one-way system around the building,” reported Bakare. While earlier the fair had been in the “periphery” of Frieze Week, this year, it was brought “front-and-center” to offer people a way to see new art in person alongside showcasing black artists.
Melissa Gronlund of The National News reported that the event this year was called “Almost Frieze.” While organizers were initially worried about “online viewing room fatigue” and how the event will yield results for the market, the feedback was positive. Hauser & Wirth sold a Mark Bradford painting for €2.9 million ($3.5 million); New York-based Lehmann Maupin sold a painting by Mandy El- Sayegh in the price range of £20,000-50,000 ($23,670-$59,175); and London based Lisson sold four diptychs by Laure Prouvost at €35,000 each ($41,300).
However, according to Nayeri of The New York Times, “everyone has taken a hit” in financial terms. Wirth further explained that the ‘logistical complexities’ of shipping art during the Coronavirus had had “an enormous impact on sales.”
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