Frieze Masters 2012: Overwhelming Acclaim and Strong Sales at the Inaugural Edition


At the close of the first edition of Frieze Masters, sponsored by Deutsche Bank, admiration was expressed by galleries, collectors, curators and visitors alike for the overall conception of the fair, its structure and atmosphere. The inaugural fair welcomed in the region of 28,000 international visitors during the six-day event.

Over 90 galleries from 18 countries took part in Frieze’s first fair for historical art, showing work from ancient to modern in a contemporary bespoke structure, designed by Annabelle Selldorf. The fair took place at the same time as the organization’s contemporary fair, Frieze London, this year celebrating its tenth edition. Together the two fairs have made London in October an international meeting point for the widest of art audiences.

Victoria Siddall, Director of Frieze Masters commented: ‘I could not be more pleased by the response to the first edition of Frieze Masters. The quality of work shown by the participating galleries has been of the highest standard and that has meant thrilling sales at every level. At the same time international collectors, curators and visitors have been complimentary on everything from the variety of art to the architecture to the restaurants.’

Significant sales were reported across the board with works sold in all price ranges and periods. There were widespread reports of contemporary collectors’ interest in historical work and vice versa. The market for the modern period was strong with Van de Weghe Fine Art selling Pablo Picasso’s Homme et Femme au Bouquet (1970) for $8.5 million on the first day and Acquavella selling Picasso’s Buste d’Homme (1969) for $9.5 million. Helly Nahmad sold Joan Miro’s The Sorrowful March Guided by the Flamboyant Bird of the Desert (1968), which had an asking price $20 million. Cheim & Read’s Louise Bourgeois’ Avenza Revisited (1968-9) was sold for a price in the region of $1.5 million.

In the first hour on the first day Rupert Wace Ancient Art sold two Mesopotamian stone duck weights from the second millennium B.C. at just under £100,000. Daniel Katz made a number of significant sales including their Vanitas marble with asking price of £350,000. The Old Master market also proved strong with Coll and Cortés selling Jose de Ribera’s, Aristotle for €1.2 million and Koester Gallery sold their Adriaen Coorte, Still Life of Peaches and Apricots on a Stone Ledge for an undisclosed sum.

Spotlight, the section of the fair dedicated to solo presentations of 20th- century artists curated by Adriano Pedrosa was a draw for collectors and curators alike: Franklin Parrasch Gallery, sold their entire stand of John McLaughlin with significant sales up to the closing day of the fair. Sperone Westwater had success with Bruce Nauman’s Parallax Shell (1971) installation and drawing in the $2-3 million range and Espaivisor sold all their Sanja Ivekovic works to institutions.

Gallery Response

Helly Nahmad was rewarded by his ambitious pairing of Miro and Calder: ‘We’ve had an amazing fair. There is a very successful formula happening here with huge potential. The fair itself is beautiful with a fantastic luminosity which has leant itself beautifully to the Calder works we chose to bring. We are delighted with the reaction to our stand and have made two particularly significant sales including Miro’s, The Sorrowful March Guided by the Flamboyant Bird of the Desert, (1968) which had an asking price of $20 million and one of our Calder mobiles, Two Fish Tails (1975) with an asking price of $4 million.’

Stefan Ratibor, Director, Gagosian commented on the combination of both fairs: ‘We’ve had a terrific fair. Both Frieze and Frieze Masters were quite brilliant.’

Fiona Biberstein of Acquavella added, ‘Frieze Masters has been a very good experience and we are very happy to be a part of the first year. This is the first time we’ve shown in London and it’s the right framework given the existing art community in the city and global reach of Frieze. We’ve had success across the board, quality is something people are drawn to.’

Donald Ellis was delighted: ‘Our experience of Frieze Masters has vastly exceeded expectations with significant sales and some exciting dialogues with collectors new to the gallery. We have sold throughout the fair with 20 confirmed sales starting on the opening day. It has been the first time we have opened a dialogue with the European market and we are extremely excited by the response to our specialism in Native American works.’

Marcel Fleiss of Galerie 1900 – 2000 was similarly pleased: ‘Frieze Masters has been a great platform for us and we’ve met many museum people in particular, there’s also a good appetite for less well known artists and a commendable curiosity in visitors. Also it’s the first time in 40 years that I’ve seen a good restaurant in a fair!’

Ben Janssens met new audiences for his gallery: ‘The signature of Frieze Masters has been the introduction of a new audience to our gallery. There has been a generally younger crowd showing genuine interest in our specialism of Oriental Art. We are also delighted that the oldest works in the fair have sold.’

Sam Fogg was another gallery who benefitted from the relationship with art of all ages: ‘The inaugural fair has been a huge success and has certainly brought exciting new clientele to our attention. We are delighted to have been exposed to collectors who have previously only looked at contemporary works no older than ten years old. There has been an overall feeling of fresh air for both the viewer and the exhibitor as they discover each other.’

Anthony Meier, Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco commented: ‘Frieze have done a flawless job. The concept of combining arts through the ages is new and it works. They have managed to maintain a high standard of exhibitors, who have risen to the challenge of offering only the very best on the market. Visitors and dealers alike can tell that the level of quality has been careful controlled through the vetting and application process.’

Konrad Bernheimer of Colnaghi added: ‘Frieze Masters has brought us a new audience, which we have not accessed before. Those with an eye for contemporary art have had their eyes opened to old masters and masters of the 20th century and positive comparisons and dialogues have been made. Sales have been consistent throughout the fair – we’ve sold five paintings to collectors who we have never sold to before and have sold significant historical works even on the final day of the fair.’

Lowell Libson experienced a similar response: ‘Frieze Masters looks to become the fair that London has always needed. We have had consistent interest throughout the fair with collectors who are both known to us and new to us. It has been very gratifying to have people showing an interest who do not normally look at the period we specialize in; it’s a huge success.’

Van de Weghe Fine Art also had positive feedback having sold not only their Picasso painting but also a Fernand Leger for $3 million and reserve on a second Picasso, Paysage de Vallauris (1953). ‘We are extremely satisfied with the clientele we have met at Frieze Maters. We have met collectors new to the gallery and have been astounded by the healthy flow of serious collectors.’

Rupert Wace made some of the earliest sales: ‘We have loved the fair and have sold to a number of collectors who have never bought antiquities before. Our sales include our Egyptian Bust for £200,000; the South Arabian inscription from the 5th Century with an asking price of £50,000 and the Celtic carved granite figure from between the 1st century B.C. and 1st Century A.D. Our two Mesopotamian stone duck weights from the 2nd millennium B.C. sold in the first hour for a price of just under £100,000.’

David Koester remarked: ‘Frieze Masters has been very successful in introducing contemporary collectors to Old Master dealers and we have met wonderful new clients who responded well as we hoped.’

Alison Jacques benefitted from participating in both fairs ‘Frieze Masters was an extremely successful event for us, we made a small retrospective to Dorothea Tanning’s work with work from the 1940s through to the 1980s. We experienced an overwhelming reaction to this and sold to private collections and have a number of museum reserves. I know too that lots of our contemporary clients bought from old master dealers.’

Adam Sheffer of Cheim & Reid was another offering commendation ‘We had an extraordinary experience at Frieze Masters. Frieze have succeeded in creating a fresh and dynamic fair – thoroughly grounded in the gravitas of great works of art created over thousands of years, and presented in a formidable and complementary setting.’


Showing solo presentations of 20th-century artists, Spotlight, curated by Adriano Pedrosa, proved a highlight of the fair with many galleries making important sales and new connections.

Marian Ivan of Ivan Gallery commented: ‘The Spotlight section has been beautifully put together – there is not one gallery of the 22 stands that I do not love. We have been delighted with the reaction to Geta Brătescu’s work and have sold all the tapestries we brought to the fair. It has exposed us to old and new collectors including a significant number of Americans.’

David Leiber of Sperone and Westwater was also complimentary about the section. ‘The Spotlight section of Frieze Masters has been very well conceived, with a conceptual focus on the 1960s and 70s. The atmosphere is refreshing, attracting a lot of museum curators and collectors. For the debut, it has been very successful on many levels. Across the board I am hearing good things. Frieze Masters has the feeling of Maastricht, but is more relaxed and mixed.’

Ozkan Canguven of Rampa added: ‘Frieze Masters was extremely successful for us. We loved the layout and the great selection of galleries. We met very important curators and collectors both new and familiar with the work by Cengiz Çekil.’

Collector Response

Dennis Roach remarked, ‘I found the blend of the old and the new at Frieze Masters refreshing and very educational. It really contextualised many ideas for me. How beautiful were those Cycladic pieces, the Brancusi photographs, Spanish horses and more. A job well done.’

Christian Clive Levett added, ‘I thought that Frieze Masters greatly opened up the contemporary community to the world of antiquities and Old Masters. The juxtaposition of the ancient against the modern demonstrates perfectly that the two opposite periods of art can be displayed together perfectly, in a mutually complimentary fashion.’

Jack Kirkland observed, ‘Frieze Masters provided a great accompaniment and contrast to the contemporary activity. It was a serene environment in which to contemplate some really marvellous objects.’

Sascha Bauer remarked, ‘Frieze Masters was awesome. It had great art with great food in a great tent. The Spotlight section was fantastic! It was a very elegant way to see art and the galleries really brought their best work. The Zwirner booth had incredible Minimal works and Helly Nahmad’s large- scale Calder was breath-taking. There was something for everyone at Frieze Masters and it was a huge success.’

Luiz Augusto Teixeira de Freitas said, ‘Once more Frieze exceeded my expectations. The amazing concentration of galleries with a high-quality of artists is always the main reason to come back every year. Of course also the quality of shows around London during the fair makes it an unmissable event. Besides, the new Frieze Masters, specially the Spotlight section with solo shows of great and not very well known artists was for me one of the highlights of the week.’

Bob Rennie and Carey Fouks noted, ‘Frieze Masters was a very civil experience. Then you walk over to the unbridled energy of Frieze London, this year one plus one did equal three!’

Museum groups visited from: American Patrons of Tate, New York; Amis du Mamco, Genève; Art Club, Vilnius; Art Institute of Chicago; Asia House, London; Berenberg Art Advice GmBH, Düsseldorf; British Friends of the Art Museums Israel; British Museum, London; Bundesankaufskommission, Berlin; Contemporary Art Society, London; Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; Courtauld Institute, London; Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin; Dulwich Picture Gallery,London; Dutch Masters Foundation; Fundação Bienal de São Paulo; Fundación Arte Y Mecenazgo, Barcelona;Fundación Olga Y Rufino Tamayo, Mexico; Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris; Guggenheim, New York; Hayward Gallery, London; Hermitage Foundation UK; ICA Boston; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; La Maison Rouge/Fondation Antoine de Galbert, Paris; LACMA, Los Angeles; MACBA, Barcelona; MAXXI, Rome; MCA Chicago; MOCA LA; MoCA, Miami; MoMA, New York; MoMA, Warsaw; MUAC, Mexico; Museo d’Arte Contemporaneo Roma;Museu de Arte Moderna de Sao Paulo; Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver; New Museum, New York; Outset Israel; Outset London; Parasol Unit, London; Photographers Gallery, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Power Plant, Toronto; Royal Academy, London; SAHA, Istanbul; Serpentine, London; SFMoMA, San Francisco; Tate, London; The Wallace Collection, London; V&A, London; Vancouver Art Gallery; Whitechapel, London; Whitney Museum, New York.

Frieze Masters Talks

Frieze Masters included a programme of talks in which major artists, critics and curators discussed the relationships between contemporary and historical art. Frieze Masters Talks was programmed by Jasper Sharp, (Adjunct Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna).

Cecily Brown appeared with Nicholas Penny (Director, National Gallery, London); Luc Tuymans with Dominique de Font-Réaulx (Senior Curator, Museé de Louvre, Paris); and Glenn Brown with Bice Curiger (Curator, Kunsthaus Zürich and Editor-in-Chief, Parkett).

Tickets to a number of the talks sold out with a total number of talks attendees in the region of 400 people.

Deutsche Bank

Michele Faissola, Member of the Group Executive Committee and Global Head of Asset & Wealth Management at Deutsche Bank, added: ‘By using its connections in the contemporary art world, the organisers of Frieze Masters have helped give us a new view on old art. Deutsche Bank is proud to be associated with constant reassessment of the status quo.’


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