london art fair 2011

23 January 2011 § 1 Comment

The London Art Fair 2011 kicked off this last week with, let us say, a whimper rather than a bang. Despite being around for some 23 years, it has been on the way down for many years since Frieze stole its thunder a number of years back. Its decline this year was sadly rather evident.

The first thing to strike you was not who was there, but who was not. The big international galleries have long since avoided the fair: White Cube, Hauser & Wirth, Victoria Miro and the like steer well clear. Middle level galleries are now almost completely absent – the likes of Stephen Friedman and Flowers are largely gone. As for small, influential galleries like Carl Freedman – not a chance. Even little West End galleries like John Martin selling popular and easily accessible work – the galleries for who you would imagine this show is perfect are deserting the ship.

So who is left? There was a reasonably good selection of work from Modernist British artists – Ivon Hitchens, Roger Hilton, Alan Davie and the like – shown by galleries such as Anthony Hepworth, Austin Desmond and Richard Green. It was however thoroughly mixed in with contemporary work of generally poor quality from a multiplicity of small galleries – mostly little-known or ‘popping-up’ from unknown origins. 

The whole was exhibited in a maze of alleys and passageways that seems ever more confusing and cramped year by year. The balcony stands afford such little viewing space that it is rather like having a gellery on a tube train whilst the Art Projects section showed some dire stuff in an assortment of back rooms.

The supposed ‘VIP’ tickets afforded a slightly more leisurely experience, but unaccompanied by any drinks until 6pm when some mediocre cava appeared in plastic glasses (the fact it was in relatively generous quantity was a minor blessing). As for the supposed ‘VIP room’ – I wont even go there!

Was it really as bad as I make out – probably not and I passed a pleasant enough couple of hours at the fair – but it was all slightly disappointing and not the sort of event  to inspire the spending of large amounts of money on high quality art – even if you could find it. The first word from some dealers I spoke to backs up this impression – “the worst year yet”, “no buyers around” and “never again”. Verdict: C minus – could try harder. Will we see anything change next year – nope!

spotted at frieze – new young artists to watch

19 October 2010 § Leave a comment

It seems rather superfluous to note that once again that Frieze is the event of the UK art world calendar – but, there you go, I have just done it anyway. The game that everyone plays around the time of the fair is trying to spot the trends. Which artists are up, which are down, who is hottest, who is buying, who is not buying, and so on. It is a game that not only takes place in Frieze itself, but in the, ever-increasing, multiplicity of private views, auctions, exhibitions, parties, openings and satellite fairs that clog up the middle of October. 

Amongst other complications dealers and galleries will do their best to confuse the issue by talking up their own artists and increasing their perceived desirability by hanging work that is already sold (or not for sale) or keeping you holding for work that they had already planned to sell elsewhere.

It would take weeks to try to analyse all of the trends and even then, as I have suggested, it is far from clear. What is perhaps easiest to spot is which young artists seem to be on the up. I mention prices, despite a frequent feeling in the art world that it is somehow vulgar to do so. My feeling is that if you have a ‘shop’ and sell objects it is rather pretentious not to. I also note them as a kick up the arts aims to look at investing in art as well as aesthetics – to create a collection, sadly, you need to pay! Revealing my preference for painters and oil, here are my top six:

6. William Daniels. Hardly ’emerging’ but his stock is rising well with a nice selection of paintings selling out at Vilma Gold gallery. Some questions of whether he is a little ‘stuck in a rut’ with his style and subject very much the same over the last few years. Not greatly prolific however, so the market is not flooded. Prices creeping up from a few £k in to the tens.

5. David Smith. Already has had three solo shows in the last four years at the good-at-spotting-upcoming-talent Carl Freedman Gallery just round the corner from White Cube Hoxton. Mesmerising paintings that drip with feeling. All works sold quickly at about £12-14k

4. Simon Fujiwara. You could not help seeing his Frozen ‘intervention’ which you would, almost literally, trip over throughout the Fair. Based on the conceit that the fair was built over a newly-discovered Roman city, mini ‘excavations’ were exposed around the site. One ‘important’ section of the dig even had a resident ‘archaeologist’ busily working with towel, tweezers or magnifying glass on the latest discovery. Priceless.

3. Lesley Vance. Reputable LA gallery David Kordansky devoted a large section of their stand to a display of Vance’s modestly sized abstracts. Working back from photographs of still lifes she creates dense and atmospheric works. Needless to say – all sold at over £10k

2. Jessica Dickinson was exhibited in the Frieze Frame section showcasing young artists. Shown by NY gallery James Fuentes Dickinson’s airy, pastel-coloured abstractions involved layering and reworking to reveal a sense of time or even timelessness. The works reminded me of Makiko Nakimura at the small Albemarle Street Gallery –  John Martin – also worth a look . Both must be seen in real life as images fail to show the depth of work. Price of Dickinson £?, Nakamura £3 to 9k.

1. Simon Fullerton. Another Carl Freedman artist who has had a recent solo exhibition at the charitable Chisenhale Gallery space. Fullerton’s enigmatic, undeniably attractive, portraits each have a hidden story. The stories are usually of loss, sadness or exploitation. Just over £12k, and  no doubt rising soon, for the portraits.

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