Review by Bethany Rex
Presenting over 100 galleries and featuring some exceptional contemporary work from leading figures and emerging talent, this year’s London Art Fair is exceptional. The opening night provided a refreshingly buoyant atmosphere, which was steadily helped along by a crowd of people who were clearly more than ready to shed the incessant recession talk that has hung around arts organisations like a bad omen throughout 2010.
Compared with last year’s 2010 “recession busting” fair, there was a reassuring number of red stickers proving that galleries and artists have strengthened their position in the market. The FAS Contemporary stand was buzzing all night and despite the high-ticked pieces on display there was an amusing piece of theatre created by a seating area made from old crates that could have easily been moonlighting as an installation piece. Until the artist sat down on it.
At Advanced Graphics London, there was an accessible collection of prints by the likes of Neil Canning and Clyde Hopkins. Produced entirely by hand and in collaboration with the artists, the prints are an easy buy-in for those of us whose Amex is still in the post. Carrying on the trend for contemporary and innovative printmaking, Glasgow Print Studio’s stand was a hive of activity, presenting a beautiful new screen print, Oriental Poppies, by Elizabeth Blackadder and a charming image by Moyna Flannigan Mr Lucky.
At bo.lee gallery Ione Rucquoi’s portraits were interestingly juxtaposed next to the anthropomorphic sculptures of Beth Carter. Purdy Hicks’ collection of Tom Hunter images was evocative, particularly in Anchor and Hope (2009) for which there was, a very British, queue to take a closer look. Sims Reed Gallery impressed with a stunning Grayson Perry tapestry and numerous David Hockey etchings.
Photo50 presented a 5th year of the contemporary photography showcase, featuring 50 words and containing a broad range of approaches to contemporary photography with established artists such as Helen Chadwick alongside emerging practitioners. Particularly notable was Lisa Barnard’s series 32 Smiths Square, which documents the abandoned former Conservative Party Headquarters with a sequence of pictures of Margaret Thatcher. Not sure I’d want that on my wall though. On the gallery side, Foley Gallery did what it does best, showcasing a variety of images that inject a much needed sense of humour.
Art Projects, returning for its 7th edition with 31 UK, European and American galleries presenting curated displays was the location for my favourite project of the night. Presented by SUMARRIA LUNN, the provocative work of Glaswegian art collective “littlewhitehead” was pointedly humorous and witty – if not a little dark for some. Emphasised by a smart, and decidedly cute, move to install the work outside of the tradition Fair strand- you are forced to confront the pieces as they become part of the narrative of the occasion.
Commissioned for the London Art Fair, The Struggle, represents the first of a new body of work and invites the viewer into a darker world. The artists have burned 100 copies of Hitler’s ideological text Mein Kampf to dust, mixed and ash with resin and cast it in a mould taken from an antique copy of the Bible. The broader cultural meaning to be found in this piece is evident, however, what stood out to me was the human aspect of the work. Against a background of endless Damian Hirst prints, these brutally honest installations might sit uncomfortably in penthouse apartment but are more than at home here.
There was plenty of name clocking to be done this year. Tracey Emin, David Hockney and one of our favourites David Spiller at Beaux Arts London prove that the art world doesn’t stop for anyone. London Art Fair showed no signs of Blue Monday, showcasing a fantastic (if not slightly overwhelming) array of establishing and emerging contemporary art. Whether you’re looking for the next big thing, browsing, or attending with a view to invest there is plenty to write home about this year.
London Art Fair continues until 23 January at the Business Design Centre, Islington. A series of tours, talks and discussions are taking place alongside the fair this year. All tours and talks are free to attend with your ticket and can be reserved in advance at www.londonartfair.co.uk/talks.
See our review of Abstract Critical@Poussin Gallery in the February/March issue of Aesthetica. Out 1 February 2011.
Image courtesy littlewhitehead and SUMARRIA LUNN.