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Just wait until the fog lifts - The press on the Frieze Art Fair 2008
Too Much Good Stuff - Reviews of the 2008 California Biennial


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"Just wait until the fog lifts"
The press on the Frieze Art Fair 2008

The sixth year of the Frieze Art Fair stood under the sign of the international financial crisis. Yet the London fair, which Deutsche Bank has sponsored for the fifth time running, has managed to maintain its number of visitors at 70,000 in spite of all the turbulence. In the weeks leading up to the fair, the prognoses wavered between profound skepticism and cautious hope. In the end, the optimists turned out to be right: gallery sales exceeded all expectations. The ramifications of the financial crisis on the fair were also a major subject in the press reviews of the fair. But instead of a mood of catastrophe and hysteria, journalists discovered a new emphasis on quality.

The Frieze Art Fair is "the youngest, coolest art fair on the calendar," proclaims the Independent. Wallpaper speaks of "a hugely successful art fair that has put London back on the map as an art capital," while the Dutch paper Volkskrant describes a familiar image: "At the entrance stands a long row of VIPs, collectors, hip art-lovers, and journalists; every type can be clearly identified by their appearance. Everything looks perfect at the Frieze Art Fair in London, one of the greatest fairs for contemporary art. Indeed, the crisis of the outside world seems far away." The British Telegraph, however, observes that "many well-known collectors were absent from the throng of buyers that normally queue for entry on the first day," and that "business was quieter than usual."

"It's printed discreetly in the lower right-hand corner of the admission tickets and posters – a bar inside a square extending from the lower left-hand corner to the upper right-hand corner: It is the logo of Deutsche Bank. A bank as the main sponsor, now that’s quite something." Thus begins a report in the German edition of Vanity Fair on this year’s Frieze, which – according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung – took place "in the midst of the worst bank crash in decades. … Ever since one bank after the next started collapsing, the nervousness on the art market has grown. The question everyone is asking is: when is our bubble going to burst?" Yet the collapse of the market as has so often been predicted didn't happen this time, either. The galleries interviewed by the Süddeutsche were able to derive something positive from the tense situation: "Now is the time when the wheat is separated from the chaff," as Antonia Josten of the gallery Arndt & Partner remarked. The taz speaks of a "crisis on the highest level," but seems cautiously optimistic: The initially "timid mood was relaxed by the way the core pulled together in the crisis. Many art lovers came, even if they looked more and bought with more hesitation. Artists came to talk and to autograph. Deutsche Bank held up the flag as the main sponsor of the Frieze Art Fair, in addition to which they supported an unusual exhibition at the Royal Institute of British Architects with models by Anish Kapoor." The FAZ complained that many exhibitors stuck with "risk-free names" in response to the difficult conditions. "One real flaw is the repetition: Jonathan Monk at Janda, Jonathan Monk at Casey Kaplan, Jonathan Monk at Yvon Lambert, at Lisson, Meyer Riegger, and Nicolai Wallner from Copenhagen." On how to deal with the financial crisis, the FAZ advises readers to "just wait until the fog lifts." For Die Welt, "this year, a sense of modesty and a new awareness of quality prevail." What's missing this time is the "whipped up hunting mood" of past years, as art phrases it. "Collectors take their time now, they think longer about their acquisitions and the galleries find time for extensive discussion, even in the hustle and bustle of the fair," as the Berliner Zeitung puts it.

The fair showed its strength again this year with its accompanying programs, such as the Frieze Projects: "London's premier art fair goes far beyond its primary purpose of selling and uses a wide curated programme to establish itself as a rounded cultural event. Frieze has an excellent record in this," writes the Financial Times, while the Sunday Telegraph remarks: "Through their 12 annual 'projects,' Slotover and Sharp are often cocking a subversive snook at the market system, in the very same space where galleries are doing their biggest business of the year. Now that takes some stature, naughtiness, and nerve." But their international selection of galleries was also found to be convincing: "With first-time exhibitors from China, Turkey, India and Argentina ... Frieze still managed to provide a random snapshot of an increasingly global and youthful art world in transition," wrote Roberta Smith from the New York Times. The Viennese Presse arrives at the soothing conclusion that "collectors, artists, and galleries today come from all parts of the world-in London, even now, one can far more see the beginnings of a global art than a crisis." And the Guardian summed up the situation thus: "Capitalism might be quaking, but the fair goes on."

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