Art & Design

October 12, 2015

An Idiot’s Guide to Buying Art at Frieze

We’re not saying our author is an idiot, we’re just not accepting any responsibility for the advice stated here

  • Written by Nimrod Kamer

Art is a movement, because stuff moves from one place to another. They leave the Louvre in Paris and end up in the Louvre Abu Dhabi. They travel from from the Gagosian on Davies Street in Mayfair to the new Gagosian on Grosvenor Hill, twenty metres away. Other works land every Autumn in a tent on Regent’s Park, London. This is a manual on how to collect art at Frieze, and then rebound it’s value every year.

Never arrive at Frieze after the preview days.

All the valuables would have been sold by then. If you do, you’d have to create the veneer of genuine hype around a random installation, on your own, like an art student.

Frieze is not Art Basel.

It’s completely invoice and pdf orientated. Art Basel Miami Beach is much breezier.

Frieze Masters 2014: Marlborough Fine Art

Frieze Masters

Don’t buy anything there since the price always stays the same. The old masters are dead and there’s no rush to get anything in this section, except paintings by Lucio Fontana, who’s apparently surging in his grave like a Saturday night 11pm UberLUX outside Loulou’s.

Frieze Sculpture Park

Avoid, or bring an umbrella: you can never trust the British weather.


When entering exhibition spaces pretend you’re on your way out. Mingle with your shoes. Bring a valued art piece that you already own to the fair, to see how they treat you. Security would ask to put it in the cloakroom, while others may think you just bought it and chase you. No one else gets to carry any art back home.


There is an algorithm called No-one in the art world cares about it. It’s basically a machine that calculates all art deals and tells you who to buy and who to sell and to liquidate like stocks – for instance, artist Prem Sahib, who’s showing at the ICA, is number seven on the BUY UNDER $100,000 bracket. When you meet people like the Evening Standard’s publisher Evgeny Lebedev, tell them about ArtRank and ask whether they own any art that’s there.

Invoice yourself

Wealthy writers buy many copies their own books to get on the bestsellers lists. Local icons like Gilbert & George admitted to buying their own art, a £50k piece that they didn’t manage to sell for a long time. They’ve put a red dot on it and moved on (well, a symbolic one, as Frieze doesn’t do red dots). It can be done anonymously or not – the value will go up regardless. Many galleries buy their own artists’ works even when others are interested. Everyone loves to invoice themselves.

Invoice others

Before buying commodities in Frieze you ought to go to the Deutsche Bank Lounge, where the private equity masters are celebrating something, and ask around what’s hot on the exchange. Then go back and negotiate with galleries, but don’t bring actual money or Apple Pay with you. The art world still operates on a shaky web of gentlemen’s handshakes. You state a wish to buy and then the ‘sold’ sticker is put up before anyone commits legally to paying. 60 days later you should maybe pay – in the meanwhile boast about your purchase, and check the market’s reaction by asking SIRI or the White Cube’s Jay Jopling.

Frieze London 2014: Carsten Holler’s ‘creche’ at the Gagosian booth


All the art here is made on Earth, a dusty pale blue dot. It has no value in the universe.

Secret tip

Look for an old man named Poju Zabludowicz and his wife Anita – surround them with love and ask them to show you around.

Don’t use Instagram

Instagram and art are such a good mix, but, you should refrain from posting anything from the actual fair. Only Instagram art when it’s on your living room wall with an acrylic frame and matching carpet. The Instagram landscape mode update is the biggest thing that happen to 16:9 canvases since vertical expressionism.

Try not to break anything

Artist Jasper Joffe claims that his criticisms of Frieze led to his work being banned from the fair. No one cared. They do care when something breaks – it happens every year. Gallerists are mortified and try to sweep it off.

Frieze London 2014: Works by Alex Israel at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise

What to wear

Wear a dress or a suit with many knitted elements. Pop art is always good, including a matching car. Collaborator Philip Colbert made a pop down egg rickshaw for Duchess Camilla.

Last tip

In an art fair like Frieze you get confused with dealers, curators and performance architects laughing near you. Remember that symbols can behave like materials and art is a commodity made of paypal and bonds. An instrument of indebtedness. The invisible hand of art market will guide you between the cubes.

The Frieze Art Fair will be open to the public 14-17 October in Regents Park, London

Read Nimrod Kamer’s ‘10 Tips for Travelling With a New Lover


All images courtesy of Linda Nylind and Stephen Wells.


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