It's good to start big and they don't come much bigger than Tate Modern's Turbine Hall where the outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei kicked off Frieze week with the 11th commission to fill the echoing space.
His beach of 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds went down a treat at the private view where guests, perhaps wary of a week of heavy spending ahead, debated the ethics of stealing just one tiny seed as a souvenir.
Then it was a totter down the river to Waterloo where Steve Lazarides, the man who made Banksy, threw a glamorously grungy party to launch his week-long exhibition in a railway tunnel. To a soundtrack of barking pit bull, guests including Kevin Spacey and Nadja Swarovski wandered around a dank underworld of artworks made from live maggots, dead pigeons, pornography and syringes while sipping Veuve Clicquot.
Across town, there were more macabre offerings – electric chair studded with butterflies, anyone? – at Vanitas, an exhibition in the former embassy of Sierra Leone in Portland Place where the Chapman brothers were ghoulish guests of honour. And at the opening of the Pavilion of Arts & Design in Berkeley Square, the art-world shared comfy sofas and a glass of Ruinart with the aristocracy, from Larry Gagosian and Dasha Zhukova to Princess Michael of Kent and Count von Bismarck, while L'Wren Scott – Mick Jagger's girlfriend – was rumoured to be the night's biggest spender. Meanwhile, the cash started flowing at Phillips de Pury with a Tatler charity auction of 25 water pots designed by Anish Kapoor, Tracey Emin and Marc Quinn, among others, which raised £185,000 for the Bhopal Medical Appeal.
Day two and time for a workout – at the Hayward Gallery's Move, an exhibition linking the visual arts and dance. Arty types flung off their stilettos and brogues to launch themselves across the room on William Forsythe's gymnastic rings, balance on tilting tables and hula hoop on the roof. The highlight, though, was the UK premiere of Isaac Julien's magnificent nine-screen installation Ten Thousand Waves, inspired by the tragedy of the Morecambe Bay cockle-pickers and starring Maggie Cheung.
There were parties, too, to launch Blain Southern, the new gallery from the pair behind Haunch of Venison, with a show of video works by Mat Collishaw (Tracey Emin's ex-boyfriend) while Tank Magazine held a charity event at DKNY on Old Bond Street and a discerning crowd headed to Lisson Gallery to congratulate the doyenne of performance art, Marina Abramovic on her retrospective. Guests at the after-party in a Paddington warehouse included curator and 2009's most powerful man in art, Hans Ulrich Obrist, actor Ben Whishaw and sculptor Richard Long, who cut some striking shapes on the dancefloor. But it was an exhibition of stuffed kittens and paintings by Cheetah the chimpanzee that became the night's hottest ticket. New on the Frieze scene last year, the Museum of Everything, a quirky collection of outsider art in a disused dairy in Primrose Hill, has hired Sir Peter Blake as its guest curator for 2010. Queues snaked around the block and later on the party was stormed by irate neighbours in dressing gowns. Perhaps the brass band and circus performers were a bit much.
The main event. Frieze Art Fair finally opened, though not to the public (they're allowed in on Thursday), and when you got into the marquees depended on how much of a VIP you were. There's a hierarchy to these things. By the time the VIPs turn up at 2pm, the VVIPs have been browsing for hours and slapped sold stickers all over the most-desirable works.
One of the first reported successes was Damien Hirst's cabinet of fish at White Cube, sold to an anonymous buyer for £3.5m. Collectors (Charles Saatchi, Dasha Zhukova), gallerists (Jay Jopling, Larry Gagosian, Sadie Coles) and assorted celebrities (Claudia Schiffer, Ronnie Wood, Zaha Hadid and Michael Gambon) browsed the stands. There were even some artists: Grayson Perry, Anish Kapoor, David Bailey, Ai WeiWei and Tracey Emin, who was in a wheelchair, having apparently tripped down the stairs at home while carrying a tray of tea. Queues formed for David Shrigley's temporary tattoos and the chance to ride one of Gavin Turk's art bikes around the sculpture park.
The selling continued across town at Phillips de Pury where 35 works went for a total of £6.6m, including David Hockney's Autumn Pool at £1.3m. By the time the hordes arrived at Frieze for the evening private view, the bottles of Pommery were empty but the art lived on – until 9pm at least – when the marquee decamped to Sunday, an upstart fair in Marylebone (young, trendy types), or the Groucho Club (celebrities, established types) where the art world attempted to out-drink the film world, also congregating there following the opening gala of the London Film Festival.
Meanwhile at Club 21, an exhibition/ happening in a former church, party-goers coyly circled a giant black bed in the scarlet-lit basement. So far, no one has taken up the artist Jota Castro's offer to create a "scene" by making love on it but the exhibition runs for another week so there's still time.
As is now traditional for Frieze week, Damien Hirst went under the hammer again, this time at Christie's. While his butterfly painting sold below estimate at £2.2m, Andreas Gursky's photograph of the New York Stock Exchange, last seen hanging in the Lehman Brothers offices, exceeded expectations to sell at £433,250, almost three times its estimate.
There were private views aplenty but the largest crowd descended on Hauser & Wirth's shiny new gallery on Savile Row to see the fabric pieces Louise Bourgeois was working on when she died earlier this year. At Gagosian visitors queued semi-patiently to experience James Turrell's Bindu Shards, a 20-minute light and sound chamber installation for one person at a time, while White Cube stayed open through the night for Christian Marclay's 24-hour video collage The Clock.
The fashion pack, including Margherita Missoni, Pam Hogg and Jefferson Hack, turned out for Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld (son of French Vogue's editor, Carine) and his exhibition of Nicolas Pol paintings at The Dairy while Scream gallerist and rock scion Tyrone Wood hosted a blingy reception in a £16m penthouse where the art played second fiddle to the chandeliers and facelifts.
The House of the Nobleman, backed by the Russian real-estate billionaire, Sergei Polonsky, was perhaps the evening's most unexpected event, an elegant 18th-century townhouse crammed to the rafters with Picassos, Saatchi's rising stars and luxury bathrooms. Later on, the great and the good, including Jarvis Cocker, Zaha Hadid and Frieze director Matthew Slotover decamped to Bar Boulud for the glitzy Cartier dinner, a Frieze week high point.
Back to the auction rooms for one last push. The first half of Jerry Hall's art collection went under the hammer at Sotheby's last night, including a portrait of the model at eight months' pregnant by Lucian Freud, and works by Warhol, Ruscha and Auerbach.
Then, what better way to round off a week of sales, openings and parties than with a little collective back-slapping? The Art Review threw a party to celebrate the publication of this year's Power 100 at the Mayfair club Almada where movers, shakers and wannabes gathered to raise a glass to 2010's Number One most mighty in art, the sharkish American gallerist, Larry Gagosian. Finally it was home to bed and a swift escape from town before the public descends on Regent's Park for the closing weekend of Frieze. Next stop for the arty party? Art Basel Miami Beach in December.