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Six things you didn’t know about Frieze art fair

Emily Steer

Frieze London and its sister fair Frieze Masters have kicked off in London this week. But how much do we really know about this art colossus that lands in Regent’s Park every year? Here's a quick FAQ. 

What’s the cheapest artwork that has sold at Frieze?

In a formal sense, Allied Editions have sold limited artist editions for a wonderfully modest £50 before, but there have been various pieces that’ve gone for lower. In 2007, the Chapman Brothers drew on bank notes offered up by the crowds at White Cube’s booth. This year, Ken Kagami is setting a price that no one will beat unless they start handing out money (which, honestly, could well happen): he’s offering free portraits as part of Misako & Rosen’s Frieze Live presentation.

How about the most expensive?

Frieze Masters tends to be the place for the really big sales, although Frieze London packs a punch with its star names. The record was set in 2012 by Helly Nahmad for a sale of Joan Miro’s The Sorrowful March Guided by the Flamboyant Bird of the Desert (1968). This sold for £20 million, which, when put into context isn’t much lower than Miro’s record sale, set at £23.6 million in the same year at Sotheby’s.

How many buyers are in the room?

Approximately 12,000 people attend the preview day of both fairs, and these tend to be the ones who are looking to purchase: that's roughly 12 percent of the total footfall at the fair. Feel guilty looking around but not buying? Don’t worry, you’re part of a rather large majority. 

Art makes the world go round… check out all these hotels!

London’s hotels experience a total of 60,367 nights' custom from visitors to the fair. Expand that outwards to flights, trains, dinners, taxis and other – ahem – enjoyments over the week and you have a nice spike to London’s entertainment economy. That’s a whole load of free shower caps.

How many people build the Frieze London scaffold?

It takes 120 people approximately one month to build the structure – a total of 336 hours. It’s not just the work on show that’s taken a bit of elbow grease.

Any controversy? 

The fair has remained relatively free of controversy. A shame, one might say, but perhaps it shows an openness of mind in the British viewing public. Over its lifetime, Frieze has shown the work of serial controversy-courters such as Paul McCarthy, whose 'butt plug' Tree sculpture was too much for Paris, and Richard Prince, who irked Frieze NY for using Instagram photos without permission. But Frieze London seems to be accepted whatever it throws our way. 

For more info, check out our Frieze London and Frieze Masters guide.

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