What Frieze says about London

October 21 2013

Image of What Frieze says about London

Picture: Guardian

Interesting piece in The Guardian by Nick Cohen on why Frieze is a perfect reflection of London's unsettling excesses at the moment:

If you doubt that London is the capital city of the global oligarchy, look around. When Russian, Kazakh or American billionaires buy mansions, the government ensures they pay minimal property and foreign earnings taxes. As a consequence, foreign buyers are taking half the houses costing £1m or more in central London. A vast service industry tends to their needs. I could point you to the luxury shops and private schools, but consider this statistic from the law courts instead. Corporate lawyers are so dependent on oligarchical wealth to keep their incomes high, foreigners now make up almost two-thirds of litigants in the commercial court.

Nothing can stop the infatuation. When George Osborne arrived in China, he assured his hosts that if its wealthy wanted to buy companies, power stations, homes, or anything else their hearts desired, he would welcome them to Britain, his party's anti-immigration platform notwithstanding.

We have a government, tax regime, property market, legal system and immigration policy designed to meet the needs of the plutocracy. And art for oligarchs too. Specifically, we have a giant, cartoonish cat in a garish sock by Jeff Koons hanging above the dealers at the Frieze art fair in Regent's Park.

"How much is it?" I asked an assistant.

"We don't give out prices," she replied, with a look that said: "If you have to ask, you can't afford it."

As an art dealer working in Mayfair, I obviously rely somewhat on the London's enormous influx of overseas money. But the flipside is that the city where I grew up has become too expensive to actually live in.

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