Frieze Opens Its Cork Street Gallery Complex, Offering International Dealers a Slower-Paced Alternative to the Art-Fair Hamster Wheel

The first exhibitions at No.9 Cork Street are on view through October 23.

Installation view, Elisabeth Wild and Vivian Suter,
Installation view, Elisabeth Wild and Vivian Suter, "Nina’s Wishbone," October 7–23, 2021. Proyectos Ultravioleta, No. 9 Cork Street, London.

Frieze inaugurated its new pop-up art hub in Mayfair today, on London’s historic, gallery-lined Cork Street.

Called No. 9 Cork Street, the gallery complex offers a new model for international dealers hoping to exhibit in the U.K. capital for more sustained timeslots than those offered by the art fairs. The fair leased the two townhouses in December 2020, and has since converted them into a complex with three spaces that will be open year-round for visiting galleries to take up four-week residencies.

The spaces do not come cheap. Prices for this first season range between £39,500 ($55,000) and £55,500 ($77,000) for the month, depending on the size (younger galleries are eligible to apply for a 40 percent discount). But compared to the cost of taking part in art fairs—or, God forbid, paying full-time rent on a space in London—it may be a persuasive offer. In return, galleries get a fully equipped gallery space, back room, and support from the Frieze brand in promoting the exhibitions across digital, physical, and social media.

“It is the most exciting moment to launch No.9 Cork Street, celebrating London and its creative community after such a challenging year,” said Frieze’s artistic director Eva Langret, who has organized the space’s initial programming, which will coincide with the opening of the Frieze fairs next week. Going forward, the galleries will be selected by No.9’s newly appointed director, Selvi May Akyildiz.

Installation view, Christopher Myers, "I Dare Not Appear," October 7–23, 2021. James Cohan, No. 9 Cork Street, London.

Installation view, Christopher Myers, “I Dare Not Appear,” October 7–23, 2021. James Cohan, No. 9 Cork Street, London.

Downstairs, in the beautiful Matheson Whitely converted complex, the New York gallery James Cohan is presenting a solo exhibition from U.S. artist Christopher Myers, who is showing new large-scale appliqué textile works alongside letters written by Sarah Forbes Bonetta, a young Egbado girl who was “given” as a gift to Queen Victoria by a Dahomey King, who raised her as a goddaughter. The letters, and the tapestries surrounding them, capture a sense of living between worlds.

Upstairs, the Guatemala City-based gallery Proyectos Ultravioleta is showing a striking presentation of the mother-daughter artists Elisabeth Wild and Vivian Suter.

Meanwhile, the emerging Los Angeles gallery Commonwealth and Council has brought together new works by British artists P. Staff and Danielle Dean, as well as Nikita Gale and E.J. Hill.

Gallery co-director Kibum Kim, who had just zigzagged back to Europe from L.A. after Art Basel, where they showed in Statements, told Artnet News that they were excited by the new model of showing the hub offers. The works across time-based media, sculpture, and installation align with the thematics of marginalized bodies entangled in the distracting noises and buffeted between the competing forces of contemporary life. 

“As a smaller gallery we’ve given a lot of thought to where we want to spend our energy, time, and money, and we do want to explore different kinds of approaches beyond the traditional art fair that takes us out of Los Angeles,” Kim said. The gallery is not participating in the main Frieze fair this year, but the director said that, “for better or worse,” mounting projects outside of L.A. is key to expanding their audience of collectors and curators.

“Obviously a lot of galleries have been doing pop-ups, but the enormous amount of time, research, and labor processes that takes up is a bit difficult for a small emerging gallery like ours, so I think this project immediately just felt very compelling, and to be able to be in the inaugural show during Frieze week is all the more exciting.”

Having the infrastructure, expertise, and network of Frieze behind them has been “really helpful,” Kim said. “Even just leading up to this during the week we’ve seen the kind of power the Frieze brand and organization brings.”

Installation view, Danielle Dean, Nikita Gale, P. Staff and EJ Hill, "Give, Up," October 7–23, 2021. Commonwealth and Council, No. 9 Cork Street, London.

Installation view, Danielle Dean, Nikita Gale, P. Staff and EJ Hill, “Give, Up,” October 7–23, 2021. Commonwealth and Council, No. 9 Cork Street, London.

At a moment where the art market is coming out of hibernation and art fairs are whirring back to life, many are reconsidering where they travel and whether they truly want to resume the frenetic fair hamster wheel. This kind of model, showing abroad at a slower pace, is growing increasingly attractive for international galleries hoping to broaden their reach and connections at a slower pace, and without the prohibitive cost of a full-time space. Cromwell Place opened in the city’s museum district in South Kensington in 2020, and in Beijing, international galleries including Lisson, Lehmann Maupin, and Massimo De Carlo are mounting pop ups at a new venue called the Blanc International Contemporary Art Space, the Financial Times reported.

“We did seven art fairs in 2019, which almost broke us, and I think as with any other gallery that you’re speaking to we were able to really take stock of the pros and cons of doing fairs. Not just financially but on our psyches and our bodies too,” Kim said.

After this round of exhibitions closes on October 23, there will be programming from Reykjavík’s i8 Gallery, Berlin-based Dittrich and Schlechtriem. There will also be a three-week pop-up of the nonprofit artist editions collective, Allied Editions, and programming from the Arts Council Collection. 


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