Frieze 2008, parties and people
There are two basic rules of protocol for Frieze Art Fair in London’s Regent’s Park. First of all, no matter what happens, say everything sold in the first two hours. Secondly, just when you feel you are the most famous person in the room, it is time to leave. ’Oh look, its Valentino, oh he’s leaving, oh its Grayson Perry, oh he’s leaving too, oh look, Lulu’s making for the exit’.
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In essence, it all seems to take place in the few small hours between 11am and 3pm, a period of time known as ‘Professional View’ and well before the 5pm ‘opening’ cocktail party. I now realise this is the reason for the pre-opening party the day before, a slightly less frantic affair within the restored splendour of 33 Portland Place.
My date, or ‘walker’ as he said he preferred to be called for the pre-opening events on day minus one, was John Pawson (who had just arrived back from Qatar rather pleased in the knowledge that in his absence he became the recipient of Britain’s second largest architecture prize, RIBA’s Stephen Lawrence Award (it is second only to the Stirling – the Lawrence is awarded for a project with a budget of less than one million pounds). His Sackler Bridge at Kew Gardens is most certainly worthy, I said, and he said we should be celebrating this plus the prestigious Fondazione Frate Sole international prize he had won the previous week for Sacred Architecture (his Novy Dvur monastery).
So we began early heading first for the Frieze pre-opening drinks before the crowds and had a quiet wander amongst people neither of us knew who must have been collectors or dealers and gallerists from out of town. We didn’t even manage to find our host, Matthew Slotover (maybe he had left already), although we did manage to find the kitchen, which was the hub, and canapés great, so we hung out there for a bite before heading to the Meta opening at Mallet on New Bond Street. These new pieces created in the spirit of the valuables of yesteryear using ancient craft techniques with a modern eye were splendid. We thought (the silver set by Barber Osgerby simply sublime). Here we knew everyone (including Alison Sachs newly at Meta following a stint heading up Swarovski, and Murray Moss of his eponymous shops in New York and LA with his partner Franklyn Getchell). We agreed the pieces on display were delicious as were the oysters and 18th century fare on offer as the comestibles. John noted the 18th century food was beginning to be a theme (quails eggs and patés at the last place too and lashings of champagne – actually not so 18th century but very welcome after the martini soaked Design Week).
Onward to view the Henry Moore and Zaha Hadid ensemble devised by art gallery Hauser & Wirth. Mary Moore, Henry’s daughter, showed us her Moore collection which included sketches of her as a baby, and Zaha explained the tables she had created specifically for the sculpture display, each piece solid aluminium made as whole pieces.
Here the crowd was definitely calibre art pack, including James Birch, Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell, and the very contented Detmar Blow with his new lady love and baby Blow in tow (wrapped in a black sarong). It was a happy sight indeed.
The dinner afterwards excelled all in its creativity. The entire length of Burlington Arcade became a grand refectory table seating hundreds of guests. John and I sat with friends (Catherine Pawson had been delayed in New York so was unable to join) and the speeches was succinct and to the point with a final toast ‘to Henry Moore and Zaha Hadid’. What a super union (one posthumously of course). It was late and we sped to our respective homes.
Day 1 proper and I awaited my houseguest, Arik Levy, who was on Eurostar and curious to see his projects on display at DesignArt London in Berkeley Square. He arrived and hot-footed it over to see an array of design art, or perhaps art design, presented by essentially French (Chahan Minassian’s was a treasure trove, Perimeter, quirky), one Belgian (Pierre-Marie Giraud – delicious ceramics) and British galleries (David Gill) with a couple straddling two continents (the enigmatic Kenny Schachter). Business was surprisingly buoyant, said Kenny. ‘Why not at Frieze, Kenny? ‘ – ‘They won’t have me,’ he said.
Time for Frieze, finally, and following a lovely private lunch party within the VIP Hospital Club rooms with event sponsors Laurent Perrier (where only their finest - Grand Siecle – assembled from different vintages– was served, later at the party it was their ‘table’ brand) we had our skates on for the fair dash. In and out, up and down, we went. 24 hours later and we finally caught up with W* Editor in Chief Tony and his friend Yoko from Hong Kong. Why Yoko I asked wondering if she was also perhaps of Japanese origin. ‘That is my English name,’ she explained which required a little lateral thinking to decipher. Yoko was lovely and a talented journalist by all accounts, so we decided to hunt in a pack and saw all we had to. The biggest were great (Gagosian and Jay Jopling) and there were serious offerings from the smaller galleries Maureen Paley and Thomas Dane. It was all bright and vibrant with moods to match. Murray Moss and Franklyn appeared from around a corner explaining they are about to open a second LA gallery within the future Philippe Starck-designed EOS hotel and they were pulling in their belts but moving ahead as positively as they could while their world awaited the next daily plunge on the markets and the arrival of a new president. ‘There is a perception that the world might end in twenty days back home,’ said Murray. ‘We wanted to get away.’ He loved Frieze, had not been before, and vowed to come back.
We looked around, was it time to leave? The new tent this year with its loftier ceiling did mean the exit was more negotiable (navigation was easier since you could actually see the length and breadth of the labyrinth by looking up). As I was making my exit with Tony Chambers and Wednesday’s walker, Arik, we saw quite a line. ‘They’re queuing for the exit,’ quipped our Editor with his sharp Northern tongue, “Oh my!” shrieked a rather nervous American collector at my side who took him at his word. Of course it was for the cloakroom but she gallantly joined the line until we gently ushered her outside.
We divided to conquer. Tony and the posse made off for yet more Georgian grandeur at Home House and Zaha’s new footwear collection for Lacoste. I went for the launch of British furniture by Litton and Benchmark with sturdy designs by Terence Conran and Andrée Putman, (Terence was at the door as I arrived, leaving).
We regrouped for the Christie’s party, which was without doubt the most visually glamourous as far as people were concerned, and left this time quite late before a midnight feast at the Wolseley. How we just love their walk-in policy.
A little lie down before breakfast, and we were on the road again, first to the new Saatchi gallery to witness the magnificence of the newly curated Chinese collection. The space, shadow gaps and light were faultless and the gallery so brilliantly positioned in the former Duke of York’s barracks on the Kings Road. Eventually there were opening events at Established & Sons – new pieces by Maarten Baas. Mr. and Mrs. Alistair Willis were on form. Gareth Williams ‘from the V&A’ as we always say, was also there but it seems he is now to be ‘from the RCA’ since he is leaving the V&A after 18 years at the helm of our favourite departments to take over a position previously held by Ron Arad. Ron arrived immediately after and then it was the final party for me for the night, SuperDesign at Covent Garden, well worth the visit for meld of Brazilian 20th century furniture on display with current Brazilian design. We went home, lit a fire in the sitting room, comfortable in the knowledge there was no-where else to go.