Deep Frieze

Where next for the global art market?

Look, bubbles create other bubbles, they're like derivative bubbles . . .

An anonymous hedge-fund manager, quoted in the new issue of N+1

Among the "derivative bubbles" created by the bubble in financial assets was a bubble in the global art market. And one event, more than any other, came to symbolise its excesses: Frieze, the annual art fair held in London, was, as Tim Adams put in a New Statesman piece last year, a "frenzied narcosis of Prada and oligarchs", a three-ring circus of conspicuous consumption.

Until the near-collapse of global financial capitalism, that is. At last year's Frieze, Adams reported, the "excess . . . seemed finally to have run dry". The art, he wrote, "was never quite the point of Frieze; that was always the buzz, generally loud enough to drown out any shouts about the emperor's new clothes". And the buzz stopped abruptly on the day Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy (last year's Frieze took place exactly a month after Lehman went down).

At last night's private view for the 2009 iteration of the fair, there wasn't any frenzied narcosis -- at least, none that I saw (though I wasn't allowed into the inner sanctum of the Deutsche Bank VIP suite) -- but the crush at the bars was discernibly thicker than it was last year. The bald figures, however, suggest that, for all the "buoyancy" of the mood last night, the art market is still in the doldrums.

Only 135 galleries are participating in the main fair this year, compared with 150 last year. And, as one artist I spoke to remarked mordantly, most of the gallerists who have turned up are showing second-rate work, as if they're hoarding the best stuff through the financial winter. (One exception to the medicore, reheated conceptualism that tends to predominate at Frieze were the vaguely hallucinatory paintings of the Belgian artist Michaël Borremans.)

Another sign that the art market won't be recovering any time soon is ArtReview magazine's "Power 100" list, announced today. "This year's list inevitably refects the financial tumult of the last 12 months," the press release reads, "with just about a third of last year's entries falling off and being replaced with newcomers. Collectors as a bracket suffered the heaviest fall within the list, with many former high-rollers going or gone." Perhaps the most precipitous fall is that of Charles Saatchi, who has fallen from 14th in 2008 to 72nd.

Jonathan Derbyshire is Managing Editor of Prospect. He was formerly Culture Editor of the New Statesman.

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Commons Confidential: Money for old Gove

Backstabbing Boris, a doctored doctorate, and when private schools come to Parliament.

Treachery is proving profitable for Michael Gove since his backstabbing of Boris Johnson led to the victim being named Foreign Sec and the knifeman carved out of Theresa May’s cabinet. The former injustice secretary was overheard giving it the big “I am” in the Lords café bar by my snout and boasting that he’ll trouser £300,000 on the political sidelines. I note a £150,000 Times column and £17,500 HarperCollins book deal have been duly registered. Speaking engagements, he confided to the Tory peer Simone Finn, will be equally lucrative.

Gove is polite (always says hello and smiles at me despite what I write) but it was insensitive to talk money when his companion was moaning. Finn, a Cameron crony, whined that she had been sacked as a spad and so is out of pocket. Perhaps he could lend her a tenner. And I do hope Mickey isn’t passing himself off as an “expert” to coin it.

While Nigel Farage’s successor-but-one Paul “Dr Nutty” Nuttall protests that he never doctored a CV with an invented university PhD, Ukip’s ritzy nonpareil continues to enjoy the high life. My informant spied Farage, the self-appointed people’s chief revolter, relaxing in first class on a British Airways flight from New York to Blighty. Drinking three types of champagne doesn’t come cheap at £8,000 one-way, so either the Brexit elitist is earning big bucks or he has found a sugar daddy. Nowt’s too good for the Quitters, eh?

Labour’s youngest MP, Lou Haigh, was popular in a Justice for Colombia delegation to monitor the Northern Ireland-inspired peace process there. At Normandia prison in Chiquinquira, after a five-hour drive to see Farc guerrillas cleared for release, inmates pushed past the British male trade unionists to greet the 29-year-old Sheffield Heeley tribune. What a change from parliament, where it is women who are treated as if they’re wearing Harry Potter-style invisibility cloaks.

The kowtowing is catching up with Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, the SNP party animal and onetime-Tory-turned-Labour. Better late than never, I hear, she delivered a masterclass in toadying to the Chinese at a Ditchley Park conflab. Ahmed-Grovel MP avoided discussion of human rights abuses and made much instead of the joys of Scotch whisky to Beijing, and Scotland as a gateway to the UK. I trust she kept her sycophancy secret from SNP colleagues jostling in parliament a short while back for photographs with Lobsang Sangay, head of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

John Bercow is concerned that private schools dominate visits to parliament. So a bit like the Commons chamber, where 32 per cent of MPs (48 per cent of Tories) come from establishments that teach 7 per cent of pupils in the UK. 

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 08 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brexit to Trump