In the over saturated world of international Art-fairs one could quite imagine that launching a new event in London would be a dangerous gamble. However, START London’s latest contemporary art fair has bucked the trend and come up trumps.
The fair which brings together emerging galleries and new artists is the brain-child of the founders of the Global Eye Programme and directed by Niru Ratnam previously Head of Gallery Development and external projects at Art14. Ratnam is a former gallerist and the co-founder of STORE. He has garnered support and sponsorship from Prudential Insurance.
46 international Galleries have been chosen for it’s first edition with a versatile and exiting mix of works, cultures and presentation. START’s diversity breaks the mould of fairs driven by blatantly commercial galleries and artists with little cultural impact.
The fair which has taken over The Saatchi Gallery on the Kings Road is well laid out, demonstrating bold curatorial input and sincere passion for art presentation in a global sense.
At “Start” some of the galleries evolved from artists run spaces, initiatives, experimental spaces and art education programs such as “ The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts” featuring a groundbreaking visual journey through the medium of music. Programmers/artists: Sama Mara and Lee Westwood composed geometric spaces explored through music composition ( Photo above). The viewer is invited to create music on the computer program which in turn creates geometric prints, synonymous with traditional tiled decorations found in mosque in North Africa and the Middle East . This combination of experimental contemporary –classic music creating traditional crafted “tiles” elegantly bridges between western and eastern cultures as well as past and present.
Another example of a not for profit exhibitor is YARAT Contemporary art organisation. Founded in 2011 Yarat is dedicated to nurturing contemporary art in Azerbaijan. Based in Baku Yarat (meaning “Create” in Azerbaijani) It showcases artworks by artist Nazrin Mammadova and Farhad Farzaliyev , especially notable Farzaliyev’s composition of traditional tapestries with Neon writing, quoting Grandmother’s wisdom thus creating a visual narrative across cultures and histories.
Other international first timers galleries are: Zemack Contemporary Art based in Tel Aviv- Israel, and featuring a prominent and promising artists such as Eran Shakine with his raw series of “ Cultural Heroes” . These large drawings combine humour and the macabre challenging the viewers perception to re-examine its view of art’s icons such as Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh. Although presented as Comics characters Shakine demonstrates mastered drawing ability matched to that of his subjects.
South Africa’s Cape Town is also represented: Brundyn Gallery presents an excellent display of MOHAU MODISAKENG ‘s work: A central tenet and foundational question that Modisakeng’s work responds to is the issue of violence and concerns around the role it plays and continues to play in colonial, as well as post-colonial African societies. His of work engages several discourses related to the political economy of the racial segregation, institutionalised/systemic racism, militarisation, and civil unrest of apartheid South Africa and the African continent at large. The work engages both individual and collective narratives informed by the realities of living in South Africa. The constructed narratives engage the black body as a site of fragmentation, distortion, and degradation. His stunning large scales photographic series “ Ditaola” (2014) has the rawness and spirituality deserving of Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida “Punctum” definition.
Against this spirituality is JODY PAULSEN’s fantastic pop work: “Eat Me” a Tondo shaped work constructed of hot dog clothes patches. This light hearted display is a sharp contradiction to Modisakeng’s seriousness, but works brilliantly, demonstrating strong curatorial flair within the fair.
Amongst UK representation are new comers: Copperfield with a beautiful presentation of ALASTAIR MACKIE’s Complex System, (2013) and Eric Van Hove’s “V12 Laraki” curious objects influenced by engine design. Also a strong presentation of paintings and photography by Paradise Row with Tom Gidley, Yelena Popva and Majed Aslam.
The only problem I had with this fair was a lack of signage telling fairgoers where the gallery was from. It was also missing in the guide given free at the door. Hopefully this oversight will be remedied next time.
Words/Photos Michal Cole © Artlyst 2014 Top Photo: Fair Director Niru Ratnam
START Art Fair is open Thursday 26 June – Sunday 29 June
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