Magazine of art press and reviews from London
David Franchi – Wednesday, 28th January 2015
The fair is a major UK event for Modern British and Contemporary art. With 128 exhibitors, London Art Fair 2015 has been an excellent observation point of the contemporary British art sector, but also with international gallery presentation from Milan, Paris, Toronto and New York.
At the London Art Fair the main argument of the debate, generally speaking, is the financial side of the art. People where complaining about the business side of the art world. Many visitors found out the main purpose is to sell, art is left aside and the marketing and business are prevailing. Even The Art Newspaper, in its free edition distributed at the fair, titled: ‘Year of record sales but at what cost to the art?’
In a moment of low economy, while common people in the world are struggling, last November in four days of auctions in New York buyers spent an impressive $1.66bn, including $852.8m at Christie’s. Which other business sector can compete: finance, arms sales? There is a massive surge in art and art dealing in New York, London and Paris. The stress due to the requests of buyers is framing the artist’s works.
The point is we are in a moment of artists born under the market. We can disagree or not, but new artists are literally born into the market. It is impossible for them to get out of it. And it is not only regarding figurative art. It affects also music, for example, or theatre and cinema. Is new popular music giving new ideas? Is it creative? Not at all. Very poor and very low in inventiveness, but much focused on money and sale. Marketing is the word. Unfortunately, is not easy to avoid this side and the consequences are a lowering quality production of art.
The largest sector of the London Art Fair is the Modern British and Contemporary art. The renewed installation of
Rowntree Clark’s British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (1966), with works from the five artists exhibited: Anthony Caro, Bernard Cohen, Harold Cohen, Robyn Denny and Richard Smith. Several galleries, including Alan Wheatley Art and Goodman Fine Art, displayed works by significant Scottish abstract painter Alan Davie RA, who died in 2014 just before a major exhibition of his work at Tate Britain. Contemporary highlights include The Multiple Store’s new edition by Yinka Shonibare MBE, ‘Kaleidoscope’, which playfully explores gender stereotypes and power relations.
The London Art Fair 2015 edition has seen a new museum partnership with Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, presenting an exhibition of key works from their collection in ‘The Figure in Modern British Art’. Simon Martin, Artistic Director of Pallant House Gallery, curated a unique exhibition focusing on paintings, drawings and sculptures by some of the leading British figurative artists of the 20th century including Walter Sickert, David Bomberg, Lucian Freud, William Coldstream and Frank Auerbach. Located in a specially designed pavilion at the front of the main Fair, ‘The Figure in Modern British Art’ examined how different artists in Britain approached the human figure and displayed a choice of extraordinary works drawn from Pallant House Gallery’s permanent collection.
Another novelty for the 2015 edition was two exclusive sculptures by Eduardo Paolozzi installed outside the Fair. At the entrance to the Business Design Centre, in fact, visitors could found two unique monumental sculptures by Paolozzi presented by Bowman Sculpture. The sculptures, Kalasan (1973-4) and Trishula (1966), were originally commissioned by Terence Conran, a former student of Paolozzi, as part of a sculptural children’s playground for his Habitat store in Wallingford, Oxfordshire. The aluminium works are displayed at London Art Fair following Paolozzi’s 70th birthday exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 1994.
Highlight of the 2015 edition was also Photo50 ‘Against Nature’ an exhibition of photographic installations curated by Sheyi Bankale of Next Level Projects. Photo50 made available a critical opportunity to examine some of the most interesting elements of current photographic practice. Photo50 ‘Against Nature’ posed a series of questions that consider what it is to look at and display a photograph, and how a photograph can become elevated to the status of an object. The exhibition displayed nine artists works located in an area shared by photography, sculpture and performance.
A film programme in partnership with LIMA, Amsterdam, was another highlight of London Art Fair 2015. Curated by Pryle Behrman, the Art Projects Film Programme runs throughout the Fair in a purpose-built screening room within Art Projects. It presents a selection of recent works from LIMA collection revolving around the imagery of cinema and its relationship to media art.
Many were the live performances, including ‘B.I.N.G.O’, an interactive game led by artists Henry/Bragg and the premiere of William Mackrell’s ‘North South’. On 22 January, Thursday Late in association with Peroni Nastro Azzurro, gave the opportunity to visit the Fair until 9pm. Special events included the premiere of William Mackrell’s ‘North South’ courtesy of Andipa Gallery – a vocal exchange of the words ‘North’ and ‘South’, presented for the first time as a live performance; and Maeve Rendle’s novel-reading, courtesy of The International 3. Further performance highlights included artist duo Henry/Bragg’s exploration of the rituals of bingo through a live, interactive game courtesy of C&C Gallery.
The inaugural Art Projects Artist Award, furnished by the Fair’s education sponsor Sotheby’s Institute of Art was also an innovation. Situated alongside the main Fair, Art Projects is London Art Fair’s curated section of emerging contemporary art from across the globe. It features large-scale installations, solo shows and group displays, alongside an extensive film and performance programme. The judging panel carefully selected, included the areas of collecting, journalism, curating and education. The winning artist received a cash prize of £2500.
International ‘Dialogues’ is a collaborations series between emerging UK and international galleries. Curated and selected by Anna Colin, ‘Dialogues’ returned to Art Projects for a second year. With many of the invited galleries and artists working together for the first time, the section promises a unique exhibition of critical conversations around shared ideas or a common aesthetic. Anna is co-curator of the next British Art Show, associate curator at Fondation Galeries Lafayette in Paris and co-founder of Open School East.
An extensive programme of talks, tours and critical debates took place throughout the week in association with partners such as the Contemporary Art Society, ArtTactic, Apollo Magazine, Lund Humphries, The Arts Desk, Photoworks and Sotheby’s Institute of Art.
London Art Fair 2015 was at the Business Design Centre, Islington, from 21 until 25 January 2015.