Chill of recession hits London Frieze art bonanza

Wed Oct 14, 2009 7:44am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - The Frieze Art Fair is feeling the chill of recession this year, with market turmoil still fresh in the minds of ultra-wealthy collectors and investors who descend on London each year for the contemporary art showcase.

The fair, held in a giant marquee in Regent's Park, has quickly become a magnet for the art world's most important players, lured also by a series of spin-off events, glamorous parties, exhibitions and high-profile auctions.

Tens of millions of pounds' worth of art change hands, although 2009 looks like suffering a similar fate to 2008 -- sales volumes down sharply on earlier editions, reflecting a cautious approach to the once booming contemporary art sector.

"Compared to a year ago we are in a totally different world," said Anders Petterson, founder of ArtTactic, which analyses art market confidence. "If you look at some of the sales, they are down 70, 80 percent in terms of overall value.

"But the art world is far from dead. A lot of people are interested and there is just not the craziness we have seen in the past. Everything has reverted to more of a sane level."

Frieze, on from Thursday to Sunday, features 165 galleries, although 28 of last year's exhibitors withdrew.

Directors Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover are expecting around 60,000 visitors to the event, which started in 2003 to highlight cutting edge art and quickly became an unmissable date on the art market calendar.

Coinciding with the main event is the Zoo Art Fair, which has moved from upmarket central London to the less grand East End. Some other satellite events have closed.   Continued...

<p>An installation entitled 'The boyfriend' by Not Vital is displayed at the Frieze Art Fair in central London October 15, 2008. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico</p>