The 27th London Art Fair has closed its doors for the 2015 edition with only one way to sum up the event, ‘strong attendance and strong sales’. The fair is always the first major London fair, which in turn acts as a good barometer for the health of the UK art market in general.
The overall look of the fair, under the direction of Sarah Monk, was better this year with some of the best new and emerging galleries on the ground floor, in an area that seems to have evolved organically. All of these establishments are pushing boundaries outside of the commercial gallery box. Charlie Smith, a gallery located in Shoreditch, sold 16 John Stark photos while I was on the stand. The gallery also had a number of red dots on paintings by John Butler. Jack Bell found new owners for a number of paintings by Aboudia, an exciting African Artist who will also be featured in the upcoming Saatchi Gallery’s African Art Exhibition, later this year. Beers Contemporary sold all of their paintings by Andrew Salgado. Pertwee Anderson & Gold sold four Nancy Fouts and 2 pieces by Simon Schroder. My favourite piece on their stand was a video installation by the Connor Brothers titled Pablo Escobar’s Gold Plated Hippo. It tells of a fictitious (or is it?) account of the late Drugs Barron’s love of exotic animals and features, yes you guessed it, a gold plated Hippo scull. Danielle Arnaud sold work by this year’s John Moore’s Prize-winner Rosie Wylie, the first octogenarian winner of the award.
The first floor of the fair is the largest space, creating a grand concourse, mostly containing the better established galleries, with an emphasis on 20th century Modern British art. Again this year the trend seems to be pointing to abstraction from the 1960s and 1970s. Mark Goodman, of Goodman Fine Art, one of the dealers in this area, mentioned that a return to abstraction always follows a healthy economic climate. Flowers told us that they had good sales on the opening night and Austin Desmond Fine Art were also (reportedly) happy with sales this year. Goodman Fine Art informed us of the sale of an important painting by Alan Davies, on the first day of the fair, with other serious interest and sales on other big name artists such as Ben Nicholson.
The second floor not only houses the cutting edge Project Space but also Photo 50, an annual exhibition, which goes from strength to strength each year. Project Space gives younger galleries the opportunity to propose a variety of activities from one person shows to less commercially viable installation art which is often more suitable for public spaces rather than domestic environments. This year, newcomers South Kiosk gets my vote for new dealers to watch, with a stunning exhibit of photo-based work by Joacaim Sefzick, Felicity Hammond and Alicja Dobrucka. Art First, Fitzrovia presented a two-person show of Christopher Cook and William Stein, which was notable, WW Gallery showed an installation by Amba Sayal-Bennett, which created a Neo-Constructivist drawing/sculpture from an overhead projector and various found objects. Hanmi Gallery presented one of the most popular pieces at the fair, which was a sublime video installation projecting a traditional Korean carp pool onto a Styrofoam base, highlighting the seasons changing. This year’s Art Projects Film Programme curated by Pryle Behrman was also engaging inviting Lima Amsterdam as a partner and included works by Marina Abramovic and Nam June Paik.
Photo 50 this year was less about hanging photography from the walls and more about pushing the boundaries of what contemporary photography can and should be. Of particular note was Hassan Hajjaj, an Egyptian artist who recreated a Moroccan coffee bar with photos in frames made from rubber tires. Nikolai Ishchuk also impressed with his sculptures formed from photographic images.
Other galleries of note this year were Knight Webb who sold well with their Brixton based African/British artist, Ajani; Berlin based Juliane Hundermark and the subtle abstractions of Anders Knutsson, a Swedish born Brooklyn artist. Other exhibitors of note: The Catlin Guide who annually choose some of the most refreshing graduates to exhibit both on the wall and also in a brilliant publication given away for free. Other interesting galleries worth a mention were Beardsmore; Bearspace and The Multiple Store, who sell original commissioned editions by well known and up-and-coming artists. Cynthia Corbett’s display from this year’s Young Masters Prize was also a must see. Finally, Pallant House Gallery contributed a superb selection of Modern British art from its Chichester based museum.
This year’s Art projects award sponsored by Sotheby’s Institute of Art was presented to Jeremy Hutchison for his text based works, which I felt were not unlike the work of the New York artist Dan Colen. Without a doubt someone to watch!
Words/Photos P C Robinson © Artlyst 2015