Visitors view The Census at Bethlehem, a newly discovered work by Pieter Brueghel the Younger, during a private viewing of the Frieze Masters 2013 art fair in London. Photo: Reuters
A Flemish Old Master painting has sold in London for more than $10 million, one of the first big sales of the Frieze art fairs that opened this week.
Pieter Brueghel the Younger's figure-packed Census at Bethlehem had recently been discovered by London dealer Johnny van Haeften in a house in Kenya. His family had owned it for four centuries.
The Frieze Masters fair and its contemporary sister Frieze opened to VIP visitors on Tuesday. They are the flagship events of a week in which as much as $2 billion of art will be on sale at fairs, auctions and gallery shows.
Robert Pruitt's Safety Cones in the Gavin Brown's Enterprise stand at the London's Frieze Art Fair. Photo: Reuters
"Frieze Masters has in some ways redefined Frieze," Tim Marlow, director of exhibitions at White Cube gallery, said in an interview. "There has been an instinct to look back a bit. It's too early to tell if it's brought new buyers into the contemporary market."
Among the 152 galleries taking part in the contemporary fair, Gagosian will be showing five large works by Jeff Koons. The stainless steel Sacred Heart (Blue/Magenta), (1994- 2007), part of the US-based artist's acclaimed Celebration series, was priced at$23.1 million, according to dealers, making it the most expensive work in the fair.
In the first hour of the fair, White Cube sold the 2013 abstract Brown Roofing Exercise With High Road by the Chicago painter Theaster Gates for $131,257.
Frieze Art Fair London
A woman poses for a photograph in front of artwork by Jeff Koons at the Frieze London art fair on October 16, 2013 in London, England. Photo: Getty Images
Frieze mainly attracts wealthy collectors looking for works by emerging artists priced in the $10,000 to $200,000 range.
Oscar Murillo, who has a studio in London, is one of the contemporary market's hottest names. The New York and London dealer David Zwirner had two of Murillo's gritty abstracts on his booth. Both sold, priced at as much as $157,508. Two years ago, the Colombian-born artist's canvases could be bought for less than $3000. He is now hailed by some as the new Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Hauser & Wirth will show US-based Sterling Ruby's 2013 spray paint-on-canvas SP246, priced at$577,531, typifying the upper price levels at a fair that specialises in works by younger, living artists.
Jeff Koons' (left to right) Cat on a Clothesline, Lobster and Ribbon, at the Gagosian Gallery's stand at the Frieze Art Fair in London. Photo: Reuters/Andrew Winning
More valuable works by dead artists, stretching back to Old Masters and beyond are on show at Frieze Masters.
Frieze and its offshoots have grown into the biggest seven-day concentration of art market events in any European capital. Also opening this week were the Pavilion of Art + Design in Berkeley Square and the inaugural 1:54 fair of contemporary African art at Somerset House.
Phillips, Sotheby's and Christie's International are also offering more than 900 works of postwar and contemporary art valued at as much as$256.4 million.
"The pace is non-stop," said New York art adviser Heather Flow. "There are a lot of art fairs this week, though I'm not sure if too many good things to see is such a bad problem. The search for the next superstar is gathering momentum. Secondary market prices are astronomical."