50 Acclaimed Artists Give Away their Works for Free in the Last Ever Free Art Fair

September 18, 2009 § Leave a comment

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The Free Art Fair was established in 2007 by contemporary artist Jasper Joffe, with the participation of 25 artists, all giving their art away for free.

This year, instead of being staged in Marylebone again, The Free Art Fair (returning for the final time during Frieze week) will be held at the Barbican Centre in a much bigger, more museum-scale exhibition.

For those not in the know, The Free Art Fair is an exhibition with a difference where the visiting public will be able to take away one piece of art of their choice.

During the week visitors view the exhibition and make a note of the artwork/s they like the most. They are then required to return to the Barbican on the closing day of the fair (Sunday 18 October), and queue to claim their artwork, if it hasn’t been snapped up already. If the artwork has been claimed, you can return to the back of the queue and try again with another choice until all the works have been allocated.

However, even though organisers claim it’s a great way for a diverse range of people to become art collectors, especially those who can’t usually afford works by artists of such calibre, there is quite a large amount of competition for the pieces.

Last year, I went on the first day of the show, and there were already people at the front of the queue with duvets wrapped round them, aiming to stay there till the end of the week, so they could have first dibs! Madness…oh what we do for the love of art.

Despite my misgivings, in the busiest week of the UK contemporary art scene, The Free Art Fair is a serious alternative to the commercial art fair frenzy and focuses on the art, rather than on prices and numbers. Coinciding with the global economic crisis, The Free Art Fair asks even more questions on the overheated art market and has became a major part of the debate about the value of art.

The great thing about the Free Art Fair is that it moves away from art fair commercialism and is organised entirely without any budget. Everything is given or donated including the gallery space, the catalogues, and even the insurance. The contributing artists love the concept and enjoy the direct relationship with the public.

This year the fair will once again showcase a mixture of work from established artists to emerging ones, giving away thousands of pounds worth of free art. For more information about the artists and what’s on show, visit: www.freeartfair.com

Gagosian Gallery in Paris?

September 17, 2009 § Leave a comment

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Rumours have been circulating for weeks with re: mega-dealer Larry Gagosian opening a gallery in Paris – almost certainly in or near the über trendy rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Several top players in the art world familiar with the company and its directors, have said that the gallery is in talks to acquire a space in the upmarket 8th arrondissement. However, any confirmation details of this taking place
have been kept firmly quiet by the Gagosian team.

The artistic capitals of the world, just like the fashion capitals of the world, change over a period of time and for ages London was the place to go and to be in the art world. Now it’s different, London’s financial situation has changed things, and Paris is beginning to rise to the top in the gallery scene.

I began to notice this last year when I went through the list of exhibitions taking place in the French capital.  There was a strong, exciting body of work on show in 2008, with the French seeming to embrace the new wave of contemporary art with gusto.

At the recently launched Design Art London in Berkley Square last October, the majority of dealers came form the French capital showcasing inspiring high-quality design pieces from designers such as Le Corbusier, Arne Jacobsen and Jean Prouvé.

In recent years, Paris has regained some of the prestige it enjoyed during the 20th century as a place to buy art, revitalised by the return of the Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (FIAC) to Paris’s Grand Palais in October 2006.

The French government have also been keen to keep promoting the arts in Paris with money being spent over the last few years on art institutions and museums such as the Musée du Quai Branly and the Atelier Brancusi designed by Renzo Piano and situated right next to the Centre George Pompidou.

The presence of billionaire French collectors such as Francois Pinault and Bernard Arnault is also certainly boosting Paris’s rivalry with London. Pinault founded the retail and luxury group LVMH and owns Christie’s International whose Paris branch became the highest-grossing auction venue in the first half of 2009.  This was accomplished with the help of the Yves Saint Laurent auction in February where a record 342.5 million € was achieved from sales.

The New York-based gallery’s expansion will certainly be welcome in Paris where Larry Gagosian would instantly become one of the most important contemporary art dealers – it would also allow him to exhibit contemporary artists that are represented by rival galleries in New York and London.

He will also shortly be opening a showroom in Athens with a Cy Twombly show on 25 September, 2009. Gagosian’s Athens branch will be run by shipping heiress Marina Livanos, who recently married Andreas Martinos, one of Greece’s most prominent art collectors.

I guess theses days you can’t wait for the buyers to come to you – you have to go to them. A gallery has to be proactive. Every deal has to be chased and opening galleries in thriving city centres is a great exercise in local client relations.

Other projects supplementing Larry Gagosian’s stable of galleries include the launch of an arts bookshop at the end of the month on New York’s Upper East Side, where catalogues and publications produced by his galleries will be available.

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For the time being, the art world will for the moment be waiting with baited breath to see what happens next…

Daring New Moves by Auction House Phillips de Pury & Company

September 16, 2009 § 1 Comment

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The Wall Street Journal has reported that in a daring move, auction house Phillips de Pury & Company, is adding another 18 contemporary art sales to its calendar over the next year and a half, while Sotheby’s and Christie’s are scaling back and promoting their fine art sales.

The new sales at Phillips de Pury & Company, are expected to occur once a month between London and New York and will be themed according to titles such as ‘Sex’, ’Film’ and ‘Black/White’. This in keeping with Phillips’s reputation as the younger, hipper auction house, who’s sales are closely followed by the art market.

At a time when revenue at Christie’s are down considerably from last quarter, and Sotheby’s has shrunk their once heavyweight catalogs nearly to the size of CD cases, Phillips, the third-largest auction house for contemporary art, is keeping to their format of A3 sized catalogues and increasing their print runs.

This rather bold move comes courtesy of Bernd Runge, Phillips’s new chief executive and former vice president of Conde Nast International. Mr. Runge was tapped early this year by Phillips’s new owner, Mercury Group, a Russian retailing giant that acquired a majority stake in the privately held auction house last October.

Though critics say that trying out untested works on the battered art market could prove to be a mistake, others are praising the novelty of the plan. Mr. Runge, in his first interview since taking the post, said the monthly auctions will target local audiences in New York and London who haven’t bought art before. He said that he is handling the logistics of the sales, along with the company’s other business affairs, but said that the art will be chosen by the company’s art specialist and its chairman, Simon de Pury.

This is a risky strategy, and critics say that moving more untested artworks into the marketplace now could backfire if collectors hold on to their wallets, potentially rattling confidence in the overall art market.
But, Phillips is going ahead and placing some of its biggest bets yet on the volatile category and what happens on the 26th (‘Now’ auction in September, London – see earlier post) remains to be seen…

NB: Phillips was founded in 1796 by Harry Phillips, formerly the senior clerk of Christie’s founder James Christie. In its early years, the house held sales for Marie Antoinette and Napoleon, and later made its reputation in English furniture and silver. It made its first major foray into contemporary art when Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy bought the company in 1999. In 2002, LVMH sold the company to its managing directors at the time, Simon de Pury and Daniella Luxembourg. Ms. Luxembourg sold her shares five years ago, and Mr. de Pury has run the company since then.
Source: Bloomberg

New Kid on the BLOCK

September 14, 2009 § Leave a comment

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If you’ve ever doubted fashion’s right to be classified as an art form, a more literal interpretation might be all you need to sit up and take notice. While Mondrian-esque colour blocks and geometric silhouettes were felt all over this autumn/winter’s catwalks from Yves Saint Lauren to Hermès, Marios Schwab to Hervé Léger, one extraordinary new young shoe designer has turned bold, graphic futurism into her signature style.

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Many of 28-year-old Atalanta Weller’s made-to-order pieces (which could easily be sculptures in their own right) have been influenced by the work of architects and furniture designers who share her Hoxton studio; yes, this is an artist who is constantly pushing the boundaries of form and material. Infused with what she describes as a “50s Cadillac meets Las Vegas neon aesthetic”, Weller works with metals, plastics, rubber, polystyrene and even used car parts (like her model for BMW) – just as her boyfriend quipped, “It’s the only way you get boys to look at your shoes!” Other creations include woven balls for Gareth Pugh (pictured), plus equally radical collaborations with Sinha-Stanic (spring/summer 2008) and four seasons running with House of Holland.

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For this Cordwainers College graduate and British Fashion Council New Generation (NEWGEN) winner, the future looks bright. Right now these incredible designs are still only made-to-order, but Weller’s 2010 eponymous line will showcase ready-to-wear versions of her trademark conceptual shoe. And before it’s even launched, i-D have featured her alongside Pierre Hardy, Christian Louboutin and Giuseppe Zanotti as one of the world’s most progressive shoe designers. Quite an achievement when you’ve barely begun!

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