Peering into the art market's parallel universe

Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:21am EDT
 
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Walk into the giant marquee in Regent's Park, London, venue of this year's Frieze Art Fair, and enter a parallel universe.

Impeccably dressed men and women, and a healthy smattering of Bohemian types in garish trousers and expensive, thick-rimmed glasses, saunter down the aisles and between the stands of more than 170 exhibiting galleries.

There the "new aristocracy" browses the cutting edge of contemporary art, from a grotesque Madonna and Child by the Chapman Brothers to a golf bag full of cement and a section of wooden fence hanging on a wall.

Elle Macpherson and designer Valentino joined commercial gallery A-listers like Jay Jopling in assessing what was hot and what was not at a VIP preview this week.

The fair opens to the public on Thursday and runs until Sunday.

Prices range widely, but generally works on show go for between five and seven figures, the sort of money most people spend on their house, often by way of a 25-year mortgage.

Not so at Frieze, which has become a magnet for the world's biggest contemporary art collectors who think little of writing a check for a few hundred thousand dollars or more.

The disconnect with the world outside, where markets are jittery and volatile, people fret over their jobs and countries are weighed down by crippling debt, is striking.   Continued...

 
<p>Paul Chaves, a visitor to the Frieze Art Fair, takes a picture of himself in front of Gerhard Richter's "Strip" in Regents Park, central London October 12, 2011. REUTERS/Andrew Winning</p>