In just three years London's Frieze Art Fair has grown from nothing to the world's most important contemporary art fair, drawing moneyed collectors from around the world.
But when it gets into full swing this week it will be the parties, dinners and soirées where models, musicians and artists rub shoulders with the men and women of high finance, that will do as much as anything to seal the deals. The aim is to woo high-spending collectors, and to persuade them to dig deep.
Most eyes will be on the parties thrown by London's prime players: Jay Jopling, owner of BritArt gallery White Cube, and New York dealer Larry Gagosian, who established his huge Gagosian gallery in King's Cross, London, last year.
The stakes are high. There are 158 other exhibitors at Frieze competing for buyers' cash. They will choose from the work of more than 1,000 artists including Sarah Lucas, Gilbert and George, Gavin Turk and Kenneth Anger.
Although the four-day fair in Regent's Park, north London, is the focus, the huge concentration of major art figures in the capital means private galleries view it as the perfect time to launch their own major exhibitions, as well as taking a stand at the fair. Jake and Dinos Chapman, Turner Prize-winner Rachel Whiteread and veteran artist Peter Blake are among the big guns who will launch exhibitions this week.
The main jockeying will be between Jopling and Gagosian, who both count Charles Saatchi among their clients and represent one of the best-known names in art, Damien Hirst. Both can expect to pick up several million pounds'-worth of sales.
Jopling's main bid to corner the party scene is his now annual eve-of-Frieze party on Thursday at the central London restaurant and bar Sketch, where he is understood to have spent more than £50,000 on champagne entertaining his art world contacts last year. Two nights earlier he holds a launch at an east London bar for the Chapman brothers, whose exhibition is opening at White Cube. The likes of Tracey Emin, Stella McCartney and Sadie Frost will tuck into bangers and mash and oysters.
Gagosian, the world's biggest dealer, is due to hold his main party to mark the launch of a show of new sculpture by Rachel Whiteread at his gallery on Saturday. A group of clients and collectors will go on to a private dinner.
Other significant figures holding parties this week include Timothy Taylor, the husband of Lady Helen Taylor, who celebrates a new exhibition of work by Richard Patterson with drinks at his gallery on Friday. A dinner follows at award-winning restaurant St John, attended by the model Claudia Schiffer and the racing driver David Coulthard, both of whom are clients.
Art writer and former Turner Prize judge Louisa Buck said the parties were an important "bolt-on" to the Frieze scene. "When the big honchos come into town... the parties are a good chance to network," she said.
For some buyers there is a real desperation to get around Frieze early for the greatest buys. So much so that some will sneak into the purpose-built, David Adjaye-designed marquee to recce the terrain.
Matthew Slotover, who founded the fair with his fellow publisher of Frieze magazine Amanda Sharpe, said: "Some collectors try anything to get in when they are setting up ... They will come in with spirit levels under their arms and pretend they are hanging the works."
Frieze Art Fair takes place in Regent's Park, London, from 21-24 October.
THE DEALER PRINCE: Jay Jopling
The Eton-educated son of a former Tory chief whip, he is surrounded by the cool and the beautiful. A renowned charmer, he and his wife Sam Taylor-Wood, below, are among London's most sought-after party guests - and are perfectly at home in glossy society magazines. Began dealing and organising warehouse shows from his Brixton flat. Known for his nurturing role and protective loyalty towards his artists.
Jake and Dinos Chapman, Damien Hirst, Gavin Turk, Sam Taylor-Wood, Marc Quinn, Chuck Close, Gilbert and George, Tracey Emin
White Cube, London
HIS PARTY PEOPLE
Neil Tennant, David Furnish, Rufus Wainwright, Patrick Cox, Stella McCartney
Gwyneth Paltrow, Janet de Botton, Daphne Guinness, Sir Elton John, Lord Lloyd Webber, Agnes B, Lily Safra
THE BIG BEAST: Larry Gagosian
A worldwide player with galleries in New York and Los Angeles, expanding to London five years ago. Known for instant decisions and an aggressive style , leading to the nickname "Go-Go Gagosian". Began by framing cheap posters, then selling at a premium. Detractors say Gagosian, below with Elton John, is more interested in deals than art, but has a knack of identifying and locking on to hot artists.
The Andy Warhol estate, Damien Hirst (in the US), Ed Ruscha, Rachel Whiteread, Cy Twombly
Gagosian Gallery, King's Cross, London
HIS PARTY PEOPLE
Gwyneth Paltrow, Katie Holmes, Norman Foster, Glenn Lowry (of New York's Museum of Modern Art), Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, Sir Nicholas Serota
Charles Saatchi, Steve Cohen (US hedge fund manager), François Pinault, Robert Holmes Tuttle
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