london art fair 2013

16 January 2013 § Leave a comment

A giraffe is a horse designed by committee – or so the maxim goes – and it is clear that the London Art Fair is similarly organised by some sort of dysfunctional gathering. The result here is a multi headed dinosaur of a show that really doesn’t know what it is doing or where it is going.image_large-2

I went along to the first – ‘VIP’ – day of the LAF 2013 yesterday with hopes that I would be able to discern some sort of improvement for a Fair that has, over a number of years now, tried without success to respond to the threat of Frieze and the booming appeal of international art fairs to the London dealers. I wanted to pick out the highlights and enlighten you dear reader with some delightful imagery from my phone-cam. I failed.image_paisnel_davie

BF (Before Frieze) the fair was no doubt the art fair in London but in recent years has struggled to find a voice. This years is no exception with its identity crisis even more evident. We have a rump of Modernist galleries that occupy the best (?) central locations in the hall whilst generally mediocre contemporary galleries, year on year, steadily push on to their turf. Upstairs on the balcony are the sort of depressing galleries – typically found in coastal tourist spots – offering meaningless ‘contemporary’ work by obscure artists. Pushed off to the side in a strange warren of rooms we then have Art Projects – the ’emerging artists and new work’.79799_3998eeb58c3672a59d59c861a53eb43f

Add on to that Photo 50 – a curated exhibition of contemporary and historical photography, a bunch a galleries offering editions, others with books and publications and you have a mish-mash of a fair that aims to please everyone but appeals to nobody.London_Art_Fair

The first fair of the year in the art world’s most happening city should be an exciting and appealing event. As the easternmost of London’s fairs dozens of London’s most dynamic galleries and artists are virtually within walking distance, but are they here? No – they wouldn’t be seen dead at this old-fashioned event which promotes some left over bits of Modernist art from mid-level galleries (the best Modernist Galleries now keep well away too!) whilst the young and innovative galleries are shunted off to the side in a subterranean limbo.Clay

As for attracting the big buyers, ‘VIP’ pass holders are offered their own lounge with drinks and canapes. This turns out to be a small sweaty, messy and overcrowded room where the canapes get about four feet past the bar before being hoovered up. I don’t think real VIPs would be impressed.

My personal (and what do I know, but I’m going to say anyway…) tips to LAF. Dump the few modernist galleries. Go contemporary. Focus on something – photography, emerging artists, small galleries – anything. If not the LAF horse is well on its way to the knackers yard to be ground in to Tesco art beef burgers, and that would be a sad loss to London’s limited choice of fairs.

London Art Fair, Design Centre Islington (Angel Tube) 16 – 20 January 2013. £16.

Artists from top: Virgilio Ferreira, Alan Davie, Shih Hsiung Chou, Alex Ball. Other than Alan Davie the artists are amongst those featured in this years excellent Catlin Guide.

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