Trends Collectors Market United Kingdom

Crossover collecting: ancient meets Modern

What happens when you mix a Medieval tapestry with a Modern abstract? Collectors are finding out for themselves

Across the ages: a woman eyes up Ron Mueck’s Big Baby, 1996, at Christie’s “Masterpieces” last year; Bernardo Daddi, Saint Dominic, around 1342, on show at Richard Feigen, Frieze Masters

Mention the idea of collecting works from across the ages to the contemporary and Modern art dealer Richard Ingleby, and he gets visibly excited. “There is huge scope for mixing works across time and place,” he says, adding that he has organised several shows combining old and new art at his Edinburgh gallery. These include a 2002 exhibition that paired paintings by leading abstract artists, including Howard Hodgkin and Ellsworth Kelly, with antiquities ranging from 4,000-year-old Babylonian ducks to Anatolian figures.

“Almost all of the collectors who we work most closely with share this wider view. My favourite collections work like conversations around a dinner table, some voices are louder than others of course, but there’s always a chance to go sideways and end up where you didn’t expect,” says Ingleby, who is participating in the established contemporary art fair, Frieze London, this month (11-14 October).

Like Ingleby, many dealers showing at the tenth edition of the fair are looking forward to the first edition of Frieze London’s new highly anticipated sister event Frieze Masters, also held in Regent’s Park, which the organisers say has a unique selling point: “Presenting a unique contemporary perspective on historical art”. Ninety-nine dealers will display works made before 2000; and the diverse roster comprises an assortment of Old Master connoisseurs, Oceanic art dealers, a tapestry specialist and an expert in Indian miniatures, as well as a sizeable chunk of Modern art dealers.

In discussing the VIP allocation for both fairs, Victoria Siddall, the director of Frieze Masters, provides a telling insight into how the Frieze management is casting its net across the art world. “We ask galleries to nominate collectors so the majority of the invitation list comes from them. There is quite a bit of crossover between the lists of Frieze London and Frieze Masters. We have invited a lot of people to both fairs.” She adds: “We think that the relationship works both ways [i.e. contemporary art collectors will visit Frieze Masters and inversely buyers of pre-2000 art will stop by Frieze].”

But do dealers agree? Whether the fair taps into current buying trends, ultimately demonstrating that collectors are expanding their horizons, remains to be seen. The general consensus among the galleries questioned, especially the pre-20th century ones, is that buyers are now more eclectic, with every gallery citing examples of a few key clients on their books who buy works from different centuries. Other art fairs are also exploring this territory: Tefaf Maastricht introduced Modern and contemporary art in 1991. The Pavilion of Art and Design, which mixes old and new art with design, is now in its sixth edition in London and its 16th in Paris. Masterpiece, which focuses on the luxury end of the market including jewellery and vintage cars as well as art and antiques, launched in London in 2010.

“We have many clients who collect art, including sculpture, from many periods,” says Robert Bowman of London, who deals in sculpture dating from 1860 to the present day. “While I appreciate that the ‘collector’ generally has a passion for a specific area, these clients are becoming rarer.”

Bowman recently sold a work by Rodin, priced at around £1m, to a client who has no other sculpture on display in his home, but owns paintings dating from the 16th century to today. “He has shown no further interest in other works I have offered him, explaining that he may well be tempted, but essentially he buys what appeals to him, not within boundaries of style or period,” Bowman adds…

To read the full feature, which appeared in our October issue, pick up a copy at Frieze (stand M1) and Frieze Masters (M14), or subscribe to our digital or print editions.

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9 Oct 12
16:55 CET


Interesting story, I believe it's the first time I've heard about such a 'combination' of artworks from different time and style. Congratulations for the site BTW, it is a great inspiration for our young online art community! Regards

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