Optimistic, buoyant even, seems to be the mood across the art world in these final, frantic, tent-pitching few days before Frieze week kicks off in London. There are, of course, those pesky international debt crises and unpredictable stock markets to worry about, but, for the most part, things are looking up.
For proof of this buoyancy, you need look no further than Stand P5 at Frieze Art Fair, where from Wednesday the German artist Christian Jankowski will be selling a luxury super-yacht – a snip at £60m if you buy it simply as a sailing vessel, or £70m if you buy it as a certified artwork or "floating sculpture". If it sells, and it's a big "if", it will be the biggest sale in the fair's history. Even if it doesn't (there's a cheaper, smaller yacht on offer too, for just over half a million pounds), it's a sign of renewed confidence as much as a witty comment on art as luxury commodity and investment.
"Art is something tangible and real", the fair's co-founder Matthew Slotover told Reuters last week. "In an age where people are losing faith in paper money, currencies and equities, it's one of those assets that people feel, 'well, at least I've got this actual thing'. If you've still got cash after everything else, that's when you buy art. Imagine if no one had borrowed to buy property – there would have been no crash."
Yacht sale or not, Frieze Art Fair 2011 is the biggest yet. This year there will be 173 exhibitors from 33 countries scattered across Regent's Park in new, eco-friendly, recyclable marquees. These, incidentally, are designed by Carmody Groarke, the hip practice behind Carsten Holler's Double Club and the V&A's current Postmodernism show, and will give more space to the galleries while shifting the moving-and-shaking (the VIP room, the bars, all of the important bits) into surrounding translucent pavilions which will snake around the park's trees. In this, its ninth year, the fair expects almost 70,000 visitors over its five-day run – many more than the 27,700 who came to the first edition in 2003. And it's only going to get bigger. Next year, Frieze Masters, selling art that dates from antiquity up to 2000, will join the original fair in Regent's Park, doubling Frieze in size.
It's not all about the numbers, of course. Nor is it, though all three are unavoidable now, about the sponsorship deals, the celebrities and the parties. The critics may sniff at the sterile art-souk made of wobbly white walls and hasty deals, but as Frieze has grown, it has also kept one eye on development, both of home-grown talent and, increasingly, of a global scene. This year, new galleries from New York (Pace, Andrea Rosen), Paris (Chantal Crousel, Yvon Lambert) and Berlin (Johnen) make their debuts, while others from emerging territories, notably Istanbul's excellent Rodeo, and Project 88 from Mumbai, graduate to the main fair from Frame. The latter section, dedicated to galleries under six years old, will probably be the most exciting corner once again. This year it welcomes 21 first-timers, including galleries from Lima, Buenos Aires and Bogota, to acknowledge the new powerhouse markets of Latin America.
Another notable addition for 2011 is In the Public Eye, a joint stall run by the Serpentine, Whitechapel, ICA and Camden Arts Centre, among other institutions, which will sell limited-edition prints by artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Michael Landy and John Baldessari. Prices range from £25 to £3,900, giving visitors of the most modest means the impetus to start their own collection.
As befits its status as an unmissable stop-off on the art-world merry-go-round, sandwiched between similar bun-fights in Basel and Miami on the calendar, London has prepared an exhausting programme of cultural activity for Frieze visitors (see right). Indeed, the city's art scene hasn't looked this healthy since 16 September 2008, the dizzying day that Damien Hirst held his record-breaking £111m sale at Sotheby's and Lehman Brothers collapsed. Green shoots are all around, and not just in Regent's Park. While Zoo Art Fair hasn't survived the financial upheavals, this year there are at least five other fairs – including two brand new ones, Moving Image, dedicated to video art at the Bargehouse, and Sluice on South Molton Lane – orbiting Frieze, all relying on the pull that comes from the biggest star.
Meanwhile, the auction houses are dusting down their big hitters. Phillips de Pury estimates that its 36-lot contemporary art evening sale – including works by Jeff Koons, Anselm Kiefer and Damien Hirst – will bring in £14.6m. On Thursday Sotheby's is expecting £3-4m from Lucian Freud's Boy's Head while Christie's has a couple of Richters (including Candle, estimated at up to £9m) topping off their Friday evening sale. This year, Bonhams also joins the fray with its first contemporary-art sale, on Thursday, offering an exciting selection of work by Cindy Sherman, Martin Kippenberger, Roni Horn and Phyllida Barlow.
Further signs of life come from White Cube, which opens a third gallery in London, its biggest yet, along with Thomas Dane, while Blain Southern is among those looking to expand next year. And the grapevine is abuzz with rumours that two venerable New York institutions – Pace Gallery and David Zwirner – are scouting for spaces in the city.
New York is significant, of course, because next year Frieze makes its bid to take a bite out of the Big Apple. In May, it will set up camp in the city for the first time, hoping to capitalise on the ailing Armory Show. It will be Frieze's biggest test yet and – who knows? – could be the start of a new, global, era. But the biggest question remains: will anybody buy the yacht?
Regent's Park, London ( www.frieze.com) 13 to 16 October
Turbine Hall, Tate Modern
As always, Frieze week kicks off in grand style with the unveiling of this year's Turbine Hall commission. Tacita Dean is the 12th artist (and third British one) to take on the monumental task, following on from Ai Weiwei and his popular, though ill-fated Sunflower Seeds. Praised by Tate for her "keen sense of the cinematic and the sublime", Dean is expected to use film to fill the vast space. Go early in any case, before the health-and-safety police find a reason to rope it off like they did last year.
11 October to 11 March ( www.tate.org.uk)
The Alternative Fairs
Hoping to cash in on the flood of Frieze shoppers, a number of smaller fairs, each with a distinct identity, will also set up their stalls next week. The largest and most luxurious of these is the Pavilion of Art and Design, a refined, Ruinart-soaked affair on Berkeley Square, where Frank Lloyd Wright chairs and Alexander Calder cufflinks jostle for space among reclining Henry Moore bronzes and sprawling Chagalls. At the other end of town, and rather different in feel, is Moniker, a street art fair in a disused railway tunnel in Shoreditch. Now in its second year, the fair offers a roster of international "outsider" galleries a platform to sell works by Banksy, Ben Eine, D*Face and Jaybo, among others. Finally, Sunday returns to its cavernous home on Marylebone Road after a successful debut in 2010. This year it has put together an impressive international set of 20 young galleries, each bringing solo or duo artist presentations. London's Limoncello will show Sean Edwards, Simon Fujiwara and Tim Davies will represent Frankfurt's Neue Alte Brucke, and Mexico City's Proyectos Monclova is dedicating its stand to Christian Jankowski. Elsewhere, Bryan's Bar will serve cocktails mixed by the mischievous artist Ryan Gander.
Ahead of the first major retrospective of George Condo at the Hayward Gallery (which opens on 18 October), Sprüth Magers presents an exhibition of his drawings. Nude women, decapitated heads and nightmarish cartoon characters make up the New York artist's disturbing "psychological landscapes", collected by Kanye West (Condo designed the artwork for the rapper's last album), the Chapman Brothers and Salman Rushdie, among others.
11 October to 12 November ( www.spruethmagers.com)
Landing on the rooftop of the ICA like a convoy of lumpy, pastel-hued UFOs, Franz West's giant three-part aluminium sculpture Room in London will transform the vista across the staid Mall for the rest of 2011. Inside, the pop-up Kunsthalle Bar, featuring guest DJs and open until late every night of Frieze week, is set to be the after-hours hang-out of choice.
12 October to 29 January 2012 ( www.ica.org.uk)
Tracey Emin: The Vanishing Lake
6 Fitzroy Square
Tracey Emin has chosen an elegant Georgian terrace, formerly a bank, to house an exhibition of new work inspired by the lake near her home in France. Melancholic self-portraits, hand-woven tapestries and a bronze sculpture of a pregnant woman will be scattered through the atmospheric setting.
7 October to 12 November ( www.whitecube.com)
Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman
The eccentric potter has spent the last two years rummaging around behind the scenes at the British Museum, choosing more than 100 objects from its collection for a show dedicated to the anonymous craftsmen and women who have shaped our world, whether with hand axes or hand towels. The selection will go on show alongside new work – gaudy pots and intricate tapestries – by the artist.
To 19 February 2012 ( www.britishmuseum.org)
Old Vic Tunnels
Following last year's sinister tribute to Dante's Inferno, which attracted some 10,000 visitors, the street art dealer Steve Lazarides is back underground. This year, his stable of artists, including Antony Micallef, Stanley Donwood and 3D, have drawn inspiration from the Minotaur myth. Running alongside the exhibition is a pop-up restaurant, Pret a Diner, where visitors can enjoy a three-course meal, prepared by a roster of Michelin-starred chefs (including Viajante's Nuno Mendes) and served amid the works. If £75 for three courses sounds a little steep, though, the bar will stay open until 2am on most nights.
10 to 25 October ( www.theminotaur.co.uk)
White Cube, Bermondsey
With consummate timing, White Cube opens its largest gallery yet (58,000 sq ft) in a former warehouse in Bermondsey, on the first day of Frieze Art Fair. The inaugural show will be a group exhibition featuring work by their biggest hitters, namely Damien Hirst, Andreas Gursky and Gabriel Orozco, inspired by Chinese scholars' rocks.
Opens 12 October ( www.whitecube.com)
Gerhard Richter: Panorama
Autumn's blurriest big-hitter. A major retrospective for the German modern master, spanning a 50-year career in photo painting, from his black-and-white portraits of the Baader-Meinhof gang to September, a series inspired by 9/11.
To 8 January 2012 ( www.tate.org.uk)
Any Frieze-week visitor on the lookout for fresh talent should take a trip down to Peckham, fast becoming London's hottest art spot. As well as paying the South London and Hannah Barry galleries a visit, it's worth dropping into the young lens-focused Son Gallery. For Frieze week, it's hosting the third solo show of Guy Gormley (son of Antony), featuring photographs of his journey from London to Unst, in the Shetlands, the northernmost point of the British Isles.
12 October to 26 November ( www.songallery.co.uk)
Inspired by Peter Zumthor's secret garden Pavilion, the Serpentine's Frieze weekender has a horticultural theme this year. Jake Chapman, Charles Jencks and Paul Smith are among the diverse bunch of more than 50 artists, architects and designers lined up to appear in a specially constructed dome in the park. Among the varied "performances" confirmed so far, Sophie Fiennes will screen her unseen film about the oldest gardener in London, Wolfgang Tillmans is showing his photographs of allotments and Rosie Atkins will attempt a history of gardening in 15 minutes.
15 & 16 October ( www.serpentinegallery.org)
The Museum of Everything
Cause of the biggest roadblocks of Frieze week for the past two years, the Museum of Everything's main exhibition is already up and running in the basement of Selfridges. Next week it will open a smaller show in the disused Selfridges Hotel next door, dedicated to the American fibre sculptor Judith Scott. On Friday 14 October, the Museum will host a salon, "Is it Art?", featuring the director of the Tate Chris Dercon and the artist Alice Anderson, among others.
12 to 25 October ( www.musevery.com)
Scenes from the Art World
Idea Generation Gallery
Is there anything the arterati likes more than being snapped partying? The veteran society photographer Dafydd Jones presents an exhibition of his candid art-world portraits, captured over half a century of private views, including the opening of Tate Modern; Hirst, Emin et al. misbehaving at early Serpentine bashes; and the first Frieze Art Fair in 2003.
To 16 October ( gallery.ideageneration.co.uk)
Whitechapel Art Gallery
The Polish artist features in the collections of Moma, the Pompidou, the Tate and Charles Saatchi, but has never had a major exhibition in the UK. His paintings mix Pop art and abstraction, ranging in subject from Seurat's bathers to Sonic Youth and the Japanese tsunami.
14 October to 1 January 2012 ( www.whitechapelgallery.org)
The Future Can Wait
A collaboration with The Saatchi Gallery and Channel 4's New Sensations prize, The Future Can Wait moves into a new, more central, home on Bloomsbury Square for this, its fifth year. Francesca Lowe, Oliver Clegg and Wendy Mayer are among the 55 rising talents on show.
11 to 17 October ( www.thefuturecanwait.com)
Andy Warhol: Bardot
Gagosian Gallery, Davies Street
A crowd-pleaser if ever there was one, Gagosian presents Andy Warhol's covetable, vivid portraits of Brigitte Bardot. The pair first met at Cannes Film Festival in 1967; these works date from 1973, when Bardot announced her retirement from the big screen.
10 October to 12 November ( www.gagosian.com)
The October Issue
Louise T Blouin Institute
"The art magazine becomes art" in this experimental exhibition. Modern Painters takes its October issue off the presses and into the gallery, which will feature areas curated by its writers, artworks by artists featured in the magazine, and giant, blown-up advertisements placed at strategic points throughout. Look out for works by Torsten Lauschmann and Matthew Collings' Facebook Art School, featuring the Chapman Brothers.
11 October to 12 November ( www.ltbfoundation.org)
The House of the Nobleman
One of the stranger events last year, The House of the Nobleman returns to a Grade 1-listed Regency mansion overlooking Regent's Park. Once again, Old Masters will rub gilt frames with contemporary artists – from Monet to Murakami and Doig to Degas – in oligarch-style luxury surroundings. In addition, Zaha Hadid has created an installation especially for the art/property showcase.
14 to 23 October ( www.houseofthenobleman.com)
An exhibition of new work from the Turner Prize-nominated sculptor, with plenty of her trademark sexual/ threatening female forms, is one good reason to make the journey out to East London next week.
10 October to 20 November ( www.maureenpaley.com)
Appealing to the compassion (and deep pockets) of the jet-set crowd, the Venice in Peril fund has commissioned 14 artists, including Nan Goldin and Hiroshi Watanabe, to create a series of photographic works inspired by the floating, and rapidly sinking city. Phillips de Pury will auction them off in November.
11 October to 11 December ( www.realvenice.org)