16 September 2021 Exhibitors welcome return of fairs; Edel Assanti gallery doubles up; Raducanu brings it home — for Frieze’s owner.
Galleries continue to add to their square footage, underscoring the importance of a real-life presence for their artists. In London, Edel Assanti will double its space with a 4,000 sq ft gallery in Fitzrovia. “The pandemic in every way strengthened the importance of doing ambitious physical presentations that we can also build more [digital] content around,” says co-founder Jeremy Epstein.
The impressive listed building includes a 23ft-high conservatory and was constructed in 1904, originally as a hostel for the Young Women’s Christian Association. It is being redesigned by the London architects Sanchez Benton. “The space is about slowing people down, you can’t see the whole thing at once,” Epstein says. It opens in January 2022 with an immersive show by Noémie Goudal, the first artist to join the gallery and whose work the gallery will bring to Frieze London.
Epstein is also the initiator of June’s first London Gallery Weekend and, in the spirit of this collaborative event, he and co-founder Charlie Fellowes have committed to a rotating residency for an overseas gallery, twice a year and at no cost, in one of Edel Assanti’s three exhibition spaces.
After more than 10 years, the Judd Foundation — which runs the estate of Donald Judd — has switched its sole representation from David Zwirner gallery to Gagosian, a mega-gallery transfer that will make waves in the art market. “We have been getting busier and bigger and it was time to make a change,” says Flavin Judd, the artist’s son and artistic director of the foundation.
The move follows Donald Judd’s recent exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and a showing of the artist’s “Untitled” (1980), an 80ft-wide plywood installation, in Gagosian’s 21st Street gallery. This seems to have played a part in the decision. “They had the only space that could accommodate it,” Flavin Judd says.
The Missouri-born artist, who died in 1994, started out as a painter but is best known for his stack sculptures, meticulously measured units that jut out from the wall. These are highly prized — a 1978 stack sold at auction last year for $5.2m. In a statement, Larry Gagosian, founder of the gallery, says he got to know Donald Judd in the early 1980s and describes him as “one of the first artists whose work I really admired”.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy to be in a fair in my life,” said Samantha McCoy, director of the Magnum Photos gallery, at this year’s postponed Photo London. One of the first such events to be held in person since the Covid-19 pandemic, the fair seemed to exceed relatively low expectations, probably a blueprint for the rest of the season.
There were fewer exhibitors than at its last outing in May 2019, down from 114 to 88, while overseas visitors, including the all-important museum curators, were thinner on the ground. Sales also seemed at a quieter pace, though Magnum did well, including with Antoine d’Agata’s thermal camera record of the lockdown in Paris, which sold for €8,200 to a UK buyer.
Visitors to the coinciding Eye of the Collector showed an appetite for a new type of fair, with works dotted appealingly around Two Temple Place, the former home of William Waldorf Astor. Sales here ranged from a Persian bronze blade from c1200-1000BC (£3,800, Charles Ede) to an assembled cloth work by Spiller + Cameron made this year (£6,230, Vigo).
In New York there was some relief that the Armory Show and Independent fair went ahead and that the usual fairgoers were back, at least those who didn’t have to come from afar. That both events were in new venues — the Javits Center and the Battery Maritime Building respectively — chimed with the mood of the new normal. There were “no earth-shattering” booths at the Armory, says Naomi Baigell, managing director of TPC Art Finance, though she reported that works were selling fast.
At Independent, the highly focused booths of up-and-coming artists worked well; Che Lovelace at Various Small Fires, Chase Hall at Monique Meloche and Hana Ward at Mrs gallery were among those who sold out. Price levels remained relatively low, though. “It seems we are in a market moment where collectors want the chance to make a killing, so work by younger, figurative painters in the under-$100,000 range was doing extremely well, while much of the rest was moving a bit more deliberately,” says Julia Halperin, executive editor of Artnet News.
Uruguay will get its first sizeable museum dedicated to contemporary art, built around the collection of the country’s leading sculptor, Pablo Atchugarry, whose foundation is backing the building. The 75,000 sq ft Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Atchugarry (Maca) will be in the coastal Punta del Este, where the foundation already runs a sculpture park and other gallery buildings. Maca opens in January 2022 and will be free to enter — a rarity for a private museum.
The permanent collection will have more than 500 works, including by Atchugarry and fellow Uruguayan artists such as Carmelo Arden Quin. Artists also come from elsewhere in South America and beyond. The US artists Louise Nevelson and Frank Stella feature, while the opening exhibition will be a survey of the Bulgaria-born Christo and his Morocco-born collaborator and wife, Jeanne-Claude. “Uruguay is a country made by immigrants, all with different backgrounds. The art of today has so many connections, what is happening in one place can be happening elsewhere,” Atchugarry says of the mix.
And finally . . . It’s been a good week for Frieze’s majority owner Endeavor. The sports and entertainment group represents surprise US Open tennis champion, Emma Raducanu, who is signed to its IMG agency. Frieze might be a very small part of the Endeavor empire, but with the 18-year-old speculated to reap £200m from endorsements and advertising income over the next few years, perhaps the art-fair champagne will flow even more freely next month?