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Market review.

Perhaps the most exceptional object to turn up at auction in October was the so-called Crosby Garrett Helmet, an extraordinary survival from lst-2nd century AD Roman Britain unearthed only five months ago by a metal detectorist in Cumbria (Fig. 1). This is a Roman cavalry parade helmet, one of only three to have been found in the UK complete with its--virtually intact--face mask. And what a haunting, enigmatic face it is.

Such helmets were worn for hippika gymnasia--cavalry sporting events. The polished white-metal of the tinned bronze face (the eyes are open-work) would have shone out in dramatic contrast to the original golden bronze of the corkscrew curls and Phrygian cap, and colourful streamers may well have been affixed to the rings along the back ridge and to the apparently unique solid-cast griffin crest at the top of the cap. Arrian of Nicomedia, a provincial governor under Hadrian, suggests the spectacle in his Ars tactica (AD 131-37). Participants in these ceremonial games, either of high rank or outstanding horsemanship, would also bear elaborately painted shields and wear embroidered tunics and possibly thigh-guards and greaves. The piece attracted universal admiration and six serious bidders. Estimated at 200,000 [pounds sterling]-300,000 [pounds sterling] at Christie's South Kensington 7 October Antiquities sale, it sold to an anonymous buyer for 2.3m [pounds sterling], underbid by sculpture dealer Danny Katz.



More recently realised works of art from Roman Britain were being 'excavated' under Regent's Park by artist and Cartier Award prize-winner Simon Fujiwara and his team of temporary archaeologists at Frieze Art Fair. It was the outstanding commissioned project of this year's event (14-17 October). Yet even before Frieze opened for its VIP previews, Frieze Week got off to an amazingly strong start at the select Monday night private preview of the Pavilion of Art & Design in Berkeley Square (13-17 October). This very civilised fair has cleverly forged a niche for itself to cater to those well-heeled contemporary art collectors who flock to Frieze, but who also buy classic modern as well as contemporary design. It is a contained, calm antidote to all the Frieze frenzy.

This year proved its strongest edition to date, courtesy of a boost of hard-hitting fine art dealers. It seemed like the heady days of the '80s when design dealers like Gordon Watson, Galerie Downtown, Jean-David Botella and Anna Autegarden virtually had to restock their stands after the opening night. Espace Nelombos sold more than one of its Picassos, and Dickinson found a buyer for its [pounds sterling]2m 1965 Auerbach, E.O.W. on her Blue Eiderdown 1I (Fig. 2). While the Chahan Gallery won the prize for the best design stand, Galerie Gmurzynska, for me, staged the outstanding picture stand--thoughtful, intelligently hung and beautifully framed. By the end of the fair, it had sold David Smith's 1955 painted steel Construction in Rectangles for around $5m, a Picasso for just under 1m [pounds sterling] (Femme Assise from 1908; Fig. 4), plus works by Alexander Rodchenko, Lucio Fontana and Zaha Hadid, with another Picasso and an Yves Klein on reserve.

Sculpture--or perhaps I should say, three-dimensional pieces--featured among the few confirmed high-ticket sales at Frieze (and at auction). White Cube, for one, promptly revealed it had sold Damien Hirst's wall of fish in formaldehyde, The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths for 3.5m [pounds sterling], and Hauser & Wirth sold Paul McCarthy's HammerHead for $750,000. More generally, the fair was buzzing and most dealers seemed content with the business that had been done.

At auction, a cast of Marino Marini's (1901-80) bronze Cavaliere of 1951 (and cast before 1955) found the top price of the week, realising a record 4.5m [pounds sterling] for the Swedish workers' union Unionen at Christie's Italian Sale on 14 October. Its roughly wrought, chiselled surface adds to the raw intensity of the subject of the anguished rider loosing control of his wild mount, a metaphor for the break of age-old humanistic traditions in the face of modernity. Another edition of five, Takashi Murakami's cartoonish twin sentinels, or 'gods of art', Kaikai and Kiki, similarly soared over expectations in the auction house's Post-War and Contemporary sale, selling to dealer Daniella Luxemberg for 1.9m [pounds sterling].

Intriguingly, both Sotheby's and Christie's decided to shake up their evening sales with a sprinkling of young artists all but untested on the secondary market, a nod to the cutting-edge aspect of Frieze and its satellite fairs and shows, and to the clout of Charles Saatchi who has promoted them. Both sales opened with Ged Qninn's (b. 1963) post-modern takes on the Arcadian landscapes of Claude, for instance, complete with ramshackle caravans and the like. That of Jonestown Radio of 2005 (Fig. 3) is littered with the remains of a pharmaceutical picnic. It realised a record 187,250 [pounds sterling] at Sotheby's on 15 October. The sales more than doubled the totals of last year.



Over in New York, sales at the stately and reasonably well-attended Fine Art & Antique Dealers Show at the Park Avenue Armory (22-28 October) reflected the wide range of good quality works of art on offer. Designer and collector Peter Marino, for instance, bought a rare Meissen elephant from the Royal Court Pantry Stores in Dresden, modelled by Kandler and Reinecke around 1740 (Brian Haughton Gallery); Phoenix Ancient Art sold a Greek black glaze krater from the late 5th-4th century BC priced over $500,000; Galerie Lefebvre sold both a pair of Lalanne Oiseaux de Marbre, armchairs similar to those owned by Yves Saint Laurent ($380,000), and the monumental charcoal cartoon, with Indian ink and white gouache highlights, drawn by Jean Dupas around 1934 for the Chariot of Thetis wall mural aboard the SS Normandie ($1m).
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Title Annotation:ART MARKET
Author:Moore, Susan
Date:Dec 1, 2010
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