The revenge of online fairs: Frieze London and Frieze Masters 2020

Frieze London, together with Frieze Master, opened its doors last week and tomorrow it is already, or finally, ready to close them again. Better to say, what have really opened were the online registrations for its digital Viewing Rooms with previews and VIP programs: given the period it was surely the only possible optio also because last time that a fair attempted to take place offline, it has been closed early (see the latest edition of the TEFAF in Maastricht).

We must say that rather than viewing rooms, we should speak of galleries, meaning galleries of photos in sequence, sometimes accompanied by some videos. Surely we could not expect to be able to relive the feeling of walking through corridors and stands immersed in voices and people as we have always done, but the hope of being able to appreciate new and different contents through the cold screen of the PC is always there.

We must also say that some galleries have exploited the advantage of their headquarters or their offices in London in order to offer the opportunity to see the works with safety and compliance with the rules imposed. Of course, it is easier to take advantage of it when you live in London: this is demonstrated by the fact that this hybrid Art Week has nevertheless created a very strong local engagement, especially because we are talking about the great names of art who are based in the capital. (Hauser & Wirth, Marian Goodman, White Cube, Gagosian up to Lisson Gallery which has even opened new spaces, just to name a few).

It is always a bit complicated to judge works and installations, and this year of course it is a little more difficult, because obviously the experience of viewing and appreciate (or non-appreciate) in person is lacking, of the staging, of the judgment on the solo shows rather than on the group shows, which in any case were both chosen as exhibition methods.

In addition, this is a completely different experience in which the experiential factors that make it so are missing, ranging from the exchange of words to the glass of wine. And anyone who knows the world of art knows how much this is worth.
Turning instead to the classic considerations on sales, in reality we cannot define Frieze as a failure: and how could it be, when we are facing with the representation of the strongest galleries on an international level (therefore it is not to be amazed that the mentioned Hauser & Wirth exceeded 10 million on the first day of the fair).

To sum up this edition so different from the others, but so normal and inevitable given the period, it can be said that we are still facing a good level of success probably due to an improvement and better exploitation of technologies on the supply side, but also an adaptation and a desire to buy – despite the period – on the demand side.

However, nothing will replace relationships and personal interactions, so we can reassure those who wonder if there will be a return to offline or if the future of the much loved and hated fairs will be online.

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