The Frieze Generation

James Merrell

A decade after Saatchi and the Young British artists caused a sensation, Pernilla Holmes and Stephen Wallis report on London’s new art and design wave.

Saturday, October 13, 2007: It was the final night of Frieze Week, the bacchanal of art fairs, auctions, gallery openings, and nonstop cocktails that takes over London each fall. Phillips de Pury auction house, which had spent most of the previous nine hours selling off $85 million worth of recent art, was celebrating with a jam-packed after-party in its still-under-construction Howick Place headquarters. Out on the makeshift dance floor—where an 18-foot, $9.6 million Damien Hirst “Butterfly” painting lined one of the walls—the crowd grooved to the disco and funk band Chic. With ebullient auctioneer Simon de Pury urging collector Jean Pigozzi to join him onstage, Chic broke into “Good Times,” its Studio 54–era classic: “Good times, these are the good times / Our new state of mind, these are the good times.”

One could easily imagine the song as a kind of anthem for the entire weeklong fest that revolves around the Frieze Art Fair, an event that, since its debut in 2003, has energized London’s contemporary art scene and served as a beacon for the rest of the world. Last year Frieze attracted almost 70,000 visitors. During that week the contemporary art sales held by Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips totaled $360 million. Galleries threw parties at the Ritz for star artists and hosted boozy dinners for VIPs at St. John and Claridge’s. Despite escalating concerns over the global credit crunch, real estate woes, roiling stock markets, and the tanking dollar, there are few signs any of this is slowing down.

Not only do galleries put on highly anticipated shows and the auction houses stage major sales during Frieze, but concurrent fairs such as Zoo, Scope, and last year’s newcomer, DesignArt London, help ensure that the top—increasingly international—collectors make a point of being in town. “At the fair we’re seeing more buyers from outside the established markets, from places like Latin America, Russia, and Asia,” says Frieze cofounder Matthew Slotover. “Some of them are beginning to buy art in a very significant way.” Just look at Russian oligarch and part-time London resident Roman Abramovich, whose recent spending spree included $120 million for a pair of trophy paintings by Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud at the May auctions.

A decade ago, when the Royal Academy of Arts staged the landmark “Sensation” exhibition of works from Charles Saatchi’s collection, Hirst, Tracey Emin, and the rest of the Young British Artists, or YBAs, were virtually the country’s official artists and Saatchi was the only London collector most people could name. Now the city boasts a new crop of collectors, some with their own museum spaces, and the most talked-about artists in London often aren’t British but come from Africa, Asia, or Eastern Europe. And there are ever more intriguing overlaps between London’s art world and its richly talented design community.

Frieze launched just as many of these shifts were gathering force, helped along by the opening of the hugely popular Tate Modern and the growth of London as a global financial center. It was the right fair at the right time. And while Frieze pitches its tent in Regent’s Park for a mere handful of days a year, its impact has been huge. “Frieze has made the idea of buying contemporary art more accessible and brought it to a wider British public,” says Slotover. “People have said to me that it used to be weird if you bought contemporary art, and now you’re a bit weird if you don’t.”

In many ways the fair has defined London’s art world today. This is the Frieze Generation and the times are good. —Stephen Wallis

After the YBAs

Awalk through London’s East End is an education in the diverse communities that enliven this city, from Indian Balti houses to halal butchers to old-style fish-and-chip shops with Cockney-accented keepers. This is also where you find the greatest concentration of another kind of immigrant: artists, from Germany, Holland, India, Nigeria, Japan, and other points across the globe. With its unmatched wealth of art schools, London has always attracted young artists, but the booming market and the rich cultural scene are encouraging more of them to stay.

“So many international artists have chosen to make London their home,” says dealer David Risley, who runs an East End gallery where he represents Jorge Sosa, Boo Ritson, and Helen Frik, an Amsterdam-based sculptor he’ll be showing in September. “It really opens things up. Ten years ago the Turner Prize included predominantly British-born artists—now they’re from all over.”

Indeed, among the four nominees for this year’s prize are Runa Islam, from Bangladesh, and Polish-born Goshka Macuga. The 2006 winner, Tomma Abts, is German. Other international artists in London commanding interest these days include Indian painter Raqib Shaw (whose Garden of Earthly Delights III fetched $5.5 million at Sotheby’s last fall), Turkish filmmaker Kutlug Ataman, Dutch painters Michael Raedecker and Maaike Schoorel, and Nigerian multimedia artist Yinka Shonibare, to name just a few.

In contrast to the shock and cynicism that dominated so much Young British Art of the nineties, many of these artists are working more conceptually and in subtler ways, with distinctly international perspectives. Shonibare, for example, often creates works offering wry critiques on Britain’s past in a variety of mediums. In his winning proposal for Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth, which will be installed for about a year starting in 2010, he designed a scale model of Horatio Nelson’s ship, HMS Victory, with batik fabrics for sails, all placed inside a bottle. The work suggests both the colonial spoils that fueled Nelson’s career and the ethnic wealth of London. “The obvious reason for living here is the cosmopolitanism,” says Shonibare, a 2004 Turner Prize nominee and resident of the East End. “I like the freedom of London. It’s forward-looking and rebellion is absolutely allowed. What I do is very critical of the establishment, and still I was given an MBE [an honor bestowed by the queen for contributions to society].”

Emma Dexter, a former curator at the Tate Modern and now director of exhibitions at the Timothy Taylor Gallery, notes that “London is a home for artist refugees from around the globe who appreciate its scale, its anonymity. At the same time it’s an incredibly vibrant community that artists want to be part of. There’s something interesting going on every night.” —Pernilla Holmes

East Meets West

One result of the much-trumpeted emergence of London’s East End as an essential hub for youthful, avant-garde art was that an afternoon of gallery-going became something of a logistical nightmare. Suddenly a tour of top galleries meant traveling between the centrally located West End and far-flung points scattered across the East, where miles separate key addresses. Having to contend with the traffic forced even intrepid collectors to limit themselves to a handful of stops in a day.

But in the ever-shifting cycles of the London art world, the West End, traditionally the domain of the established and the blue-chip, has begun to steal a bit of the East’s edge. It started in Mayfair, where big-name galleries such as Hauser & Wirth, White Cube, Sadie Coles HQ, Haunch of Venison, and Timothy Taylor mix with auction houses, antiques shops, and designer boutiques. Now another West End neighborhood has people buzzing. It’s Fitzrovia, sandwiched between Mayfair and Regent’s Park, where the Frieze Art Fair is held. As many as 20, mostly young, galleries are said to be relocating or opening there by the end of the year.

“I’ve had my eye on this area for a while,” says Stuart Shave, who after ten years in the East End relocated his gallery, Modern Art, to Fitzrovia this spring. “It feels like the center of London, yet it’s edgier than Mayfair. And you can get really good shop-front spaces.” Traditionally a garment district, Fitzrovia is less polished than Mayfair. It has already attracted such galleries as The Approach, Mummery + Schnelle, and Alison Jacques. Museum 52 is mulling a move from the East End, while others soon to open include Josh Lilley, previously a director of the Cass Foundation’s gallery, and Pilar Corrias, a former Lisson Gallery director who is opening a space designed by Rem Koolhaas to show major artists such as Francis Alÿs, Tobias Rehberger, and Philip Parreno.

Is the East End losing its primacy as the place to see edgy new art? “London’s not really like that any more,” says Maureen Paley, who pioneered one of the first galleries in the area more than two decades ago. “Even some of the younger ones in our neighborhood have international reputations and exhibit at major art fairs. There’s no longer such a clear East-West divide.”

Indeed, in the current frenzied contemporary market, where experience is less important than being “hot” and young artists can outprice long-respected figures, such distinctions have blurred. For a number of reasons—not least, lower rents—the East will always be younger and more free-spirited. Though parts of it have assumed more of an establishment feel, particularly along Vyner Street, which is home to a cluster of prominent galleries that includes Ibid Projects, Kate MacGarry, One in the Other, David Risley, and Wilkinson. With these just down the road from Maureen Paley and Herald St gallery, going east is now a little more convenient for collectors.

Still, the appeals of the West End—steady foot traffic and proximity to auctions, the Frieze fair, and wealthy buyers—are calling. “The East End is great,” says Risley, “but there’s definitely a shift. I’d love to move to the West End one day.” —Pernilla Holmes

Design Crosses Over

Sure there’s New York, Milan, and, well, most of the Netherlands, but when it comes to high-profile design talent, London is virtually in a league by itself. The city is home to superstars Ron Arad, David Adjaye, Tom Dixon, Zaha Hadid, Ross Lovegrove, and Marc Newson, along with numerous younger, up-and-coming names, many of whom came to study in the unrivaled programs at the Royal College of Art, Central Saint Martins, or Goldsmiths. “What has changed relatively recently is that a designer can enjoy commercial success and recognition here,” says Alasdhair Willis, founder of Established & Sons, which produces and sells limited-edition pieces by mainly London-based designers. “This didn’t happen ten years ago.”

The shift can be attributed partly to London’s rise as a global financial capital—all those wealthy buyers with fancy flats to fill—and to the growing number of contemporary design galleries catering to them. In addition to Established & Sons, there’s David Gill, Carpenters Workshop, Greenwich Village, The Apartment, Libby Sellers, Kenny Schachter Rove Projects, and Rabih Hage. Even major art galleries like Albion and Gagosian have started to feature design. At the other end of the spectrum, the antiques dealership Mallett has launched a new division called Meta, devoted to producing made-to-order pieces by prominent designers using traditional luxury materials.

“Faced with globalization, homogenization, and every major high street or retail area offering the exact same product worldwide, consumers are wanting something that’s more individual, more personalized, and designers are responding,” says Libby Sellers, a former curator at London’s Design Museum who last year started what she describes as a guerrilla gallery, staging temporary exhibitions in various locations without a permanent space. This fall she’s doing a pop-up gallery in the furniture department at Liberty of London.

Her show opens during the London Design Festival in mid-September and runs through the Frieze Art Fair a month later: bookends for the city’s bubbling fall design season. The 11-day design festival includes two large furniture fairs—100% Design at Earls Court and the edgier Tent London, launched last year at the Old Truman Brewery—showcasing everything from vintage pieces to the latest from international manufacturers to work by recent college grads.

As part of the festival, celebrated designers concoct large-scale projects for public spaces such as Trafalgar Square, where this year Jaime Hayon will create an architectural installation with scaffolding, while across the Thames at Southbank Centre, David Adjaye is doing a tulipwood pavilion that will be auctioned off by Phillips during Frieze Week. Patrik Fredrikson and Ian Stallard, two rising young London designers, have been commissioned by Veuve Clicquot to create a piece outside Somerset House. They’re making a huge Cor-Ten steel slab with laser cuts mimicking woodgrain that will glow at night. “It’s intended as a beacon for the London Design Festival,” says Stallard.

The duo will also have a show at David Gill Galleries featuring their King Bonk, an abstracted fiberglass armchair and ottoman in subtle shades of black. “We didn’t involve any computers—we wanted this to be completely hand-done and have a sculptural feeling,” says Stallard, who explains that the forms resulted from experiments he and Fredrikson did with tying up foam. “Much of their work is very sculpture-oriented,” Gill notes. “In many ways they are artists creating furniture.”

This notion of design as art—rejected by some in both fields—is central to the DesignArt London fair, which launched last fall and is chaired by Gill. Moving from Hanover Square to Berkeley Square for an upgrade in space, the show is doubling in size this year to around 40 dealers, offering a mix of contemporary and vintage modern pieces. The timing, during Frieze, says a lot about the importance of contemporary art collectors to the market for rare and limited-edition designs. “For many years these collectors were looking at earlier furniture by Jean-Michel Frank, Ruhlmann, Eileen Gray,” Gill says. “But the market has moved forward.”

Like everyone else these days, it seems, they want the new and the now. —Stephen Wallis

The New Saatchis

Until very recently Charles Saatchi pretty much had a monopoly on London galleries devoted to private collections of contemporary art. But while Saatchi has spent the past two years preparing his latest space, a grand 19th-century building on Kings Road slated to open on October 9, Anita Zabludowicz and David Roberts have charged onto the scene, buying in depth from shows and fairs, commissioning directly from artists, and, most significantly, setting up their own exhibition spaces. Does Saatchi finally have competition as the most important collector of contemporary art in Britain?

A year ago this month, Zabludowicz’s art foundation opened a gallery, 176, in an old desanctified Methodist church in London’s Camden district. Instantly it became a prime stop for cutting-edge art in the city. Zabludowicz mostly left the spaces raw to allow her curators the flexibility “to do what they want,” she says.

The three exhibitions a year at 176 (this fall’s show is tentatively called “Material Presence”) all draw at least partly from Zabludowicz’s more than 1,500 works, assembled over the past dozen years. “I’m mainly interested in emerging artists,” she says, “though once I start buying artists, I like to follow their careers and keep buying.” Some of the artists she began collecting young—Matthew Barney, Andreas Gursky, Gregory Crewdson—are now blue-chip names. “And I still buy their work,” says Zabludowicz. “But these days I’m also looking at young artists like Hope Atherton and James Ireland.”

Zabludowicz’s husband, Poju, is involved with 176 as well. A property and hotel magnate who owns significant chunks of Las Vegas, he has a net worth of close to $4 billion, according to the 2008 Sunday Times Rich List. Already the couple has plans to expand the foundation. Later this year they are hoping to start a residency program for artists in Finland, where they own properties, and they’re searching for an exhibition space in the United States.

Scottish-born David Roberts, who also made his money in real estate investment, has been building his collection of 2,000-plus pieces for a decade and a half, though his spending has accelerated in the last five or six years. “It’s a real mixture, from emerging artists to well-known artists such as Maurizio Cattelan, Anselm Kiefer, and Louise Bourgeois,” says Roberts. “I have quite a lot of work by YBAs but also by international artists from all over. Basically it’s a collection based on very personal choices.”

Last fall Roberts opened a relatively modest space, One One One, in the heart of the burgeoning Fitzrovia gallery district, and he has since hired Vincent Honoré, formerly of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and the Tate Modern, to be his curator. This season Honoré is putting together a show of works by the duo Nina Beier and Marie Lund, whose wide-ranging works encompass performance, film, sculpture, and installations. All this, however, is just a prelude to the 12,000-square-foot warehouse in Camden that Roberts will open in the spring.

“David is a great example of the serious new London collectors who are adding a dimension beyond what the museums and galleries are doing,” says dealer Stuart Shave. And unlike Saatchi, who has been accused of dumping artists’ work and destroying their markets, neither Roberts nor Zabludowicz sells.

“The beauty of a private foundation is that I can buy what I want with no committees to slow down the process,” says Roberts. “And we can be experimental since we don’t have to worry about target audiences or getting the numbers in. The space will be aimed at people who love art. And that’s it.” —P.H.

London In Season

The British capital is a year-round destination for contemporary art and design, of course, but there are three—market-driven—focal points: the auctions in February and June and the Frieze Art Fair in October. Among the auction highlights this fall is a controversial sale of works Damien Hirst has consigned directly to Sotheby’s (including a bull in formaldehyde sculpture estimated to bring up to $24 million). Check the Web sites of Christie’s, Phillips de Pury, and Bonhams for details on their sales. Here’s our short list of shows and fairs not to miss.

Art Galleries

Gagosian
Minimalist master Richard Serra fills the huge Kings Cross gallery with his latest steel behemoths (October 4–December 31). 6-24 Britannia St.; 44-207/841-9960; gagosian.com

Maureen Paley
Banks Violette, known for his eerily elegant pared-down symbols of goth culture, presents a video projected onto a fine mist of water (September 10–October 19). 21 Herald St.; 44-207/729-4112; maureenpaley.com

Hauser & Wirth
In a new group of large-scale paintings, Argentine artist Guillermo Kuitca expands upon the series he did for last year’s Venice Biennale (September 24–November 8). 196A Piccadilly; 44-207/287-2300; ghw.ch

White Cube
The gallery’s Hoxton location showcases new pieces by the art world’s favorite glassmaker, Josiah McElheny (October 14–November 15). 48 Hoxton Sq.; 44-207/930-5373; whitecube.com

Lisson
Julian Opie’s Pop-y paintings, sculptures, and animated LCD and LED works take over both of the gallery’s spaces (October 15–November 15). 29 and 52-54 Bell St.; 44-207/724-2739; lissongallery.com

Stuart Shave/Modern Art
David Altmejd’s latest sculptures of surreal giants combine the grotesque and the transcendently beautiful (October 16–November 15). 23–25 Eastcastle St.; 44-207/299-7950; modernartinc.com

Design Galleries

David Gill
The duo Fredrikson Stallard presents King Bonk, a sculptural fiberglass chair and ottoman in subtle shades of black (September 15–October 19). 3 Loughborough St.; 44-207/793-1100; davidgillgalleries.com

Carpenters Workshop
The rediscovery of furniture artist Wendell Castle continues with a show of his fiberglass pieces (October 16–November 15). 3 Albemarle St.; 44-203/051-5939; cwgdesign.com

Established & Sons
Maarten Bass unveils several of the quirky Chankley Bore objects he previewed at the Milan Furniture Fair (October 16–December). 2–3 Duke St.; 44-207/968-2040; establishedandsons.com

Collector Spaces

176
“Material Presence” features works from the Zabludowicz Collection by young artists such as Myriam Holme, James Ireland, and Mark Tichner (September 11–December 14). 176 Prince of Wales Rd.; 44-207/428-8940; projectspace176.com

One One One
In “All the Best,” collaborators Nina Beier and Marie Lund tweak the artist- curator relationship (September 12– November 15). 111 Great Titchfield St.; 44-207/637-0868; galleryoneoneone.com

Saatchi Gallery
The first show in Charles Saatchi’s new space spotlights one of his latest obsessions—“The Revolution Continues: New Art From China” (October 9–January 18, 2009). Duke of York’s HQ, Kings Rd.; saatchi-gallery.co.uk

Museums

Serpentine Gallery
This year’s commissioned pavilion, an intricate structure of steel, glass, and timber by Frank Gehry, drew inspiration from catapults designed by Leonardo da Vinci (through October 19). Kensington Gardens; 44-207/402-6075; serpentinegallery.org

Design Museum
From London’s 1851 Great Exhibition to Tokyo in 1987, “Design Cities” chronicles key moments in modern design history (September 5–January 4, 2009). Shad Thames; 44-207/403-6933; designmuseum.org

Tate Britain
Francis Bacon’s first UK retrospective since 1985 reunites major works by the painter, whose critical and commercial stock is soaring (September 11–January 4, 2009). Millbank; 44-207/887-8888; tate.org.uk/britain

Tate Modern
Brazilian conceptual artist Cildo Meireles, whose work plays with scale and space, gets his most comprehensive exhibition in Britain to date (October 14–January 11, 2009). Bankside; 44-207/887-8888; tate.org.uk/modern

Fairs

London Design Festival
Anchored by the huge shows 100% Design and Tent London, this sprawling event encompasses exhibitions, panels, and other events across the city (September 13–23). 44-207/734-6444; londondesignfestival.com

DesignArt London
Some 40 exhibitors offer first-rate vintage modern and editioned contemporary pieces (October 15–19). Berkeley Sq.; designartlondon.com

Frieze Art Fair
The centerpiece of London’s fall art fest features 150-plus top international dealers, plus special artist projects and public talks (October 16–19). Regent’s Park; friezeartfair.com

Zoo Art Fair
Previously held at the zoo, this show of some 60 emerging galleries and artist collectives is now staged at the Royal Academy of Arts (October 17–20). 6 Burlington Gardens; zooartfair.com