Intended to launch a calendar year of events that culminates with Frieze in October, this year’s London Art Fair has invited over a hundred and twenty exhibitors to satisfy an art savvy audience’s appetite for modern and contemporary artworks. Modest in scale, the fair is in some ways a more amenable adventure for those acquiring an abstract painting or portrait, in an environment the fair describes as ‘supportive’. Whereas Frieze is artist lead, with collectors acquiring contemporary works as commodity, London Art Fair is part of a plethora of fashionable fairs that by its audience and atmosphere deal in the art of living. With a network of lesser-known gallerists and project spaces presenting artworks and objects that are enchanting for their attractive colours and craftsmanship, the fair exhibits art without pomp or ceremony; that curated into one’s home is intended as a beautiful backdrop to your life.
For its 29th edition the fair has its regular contributors, including Eyestorm, Purdy Hicks, Redfern Gallery, Galerie Rothamel, Muriel Guépin Gallery, Paul Stolper Gallery and White Conduit Projects boxed side-by-side, whilst also introducing curated spaces that give art an opportunity to be active and engaging for the artist and the audience alike. Providing a platform of projects that showcases emerging artists from Zimbabwe, South Korea, Germany, Japan and France, who by their participation are able to experiment and express their interests. Projects and performances that for their animation are shown in parallel with the more static Photo50, which leads one into a part of the fair devoted to contemporary photography. Siting a show within a show Photo50’s Gravitas is a curated exhibition of images that deal with children and adolescents, that for its candour creates a serious moment in a sedate situation.
Highlights at this year’s fair include Noé Sendas’ cleverly choreographed photographs of girls performing on stage, Peep no 56, 2016, Peep no 55, 2016 (Carlos Carvalho- Arte Contemporanea), revealing their limbs from behind a blackened shadow as a defined shape. Reminiscent of the 1930’s, these part pin-ups elude to an attractive ideal of women as energetic and expressive, that in the artists’ hand become troublesome for their darkened identities. Dede Johnson’s The Flowing Glacier 2016, (TAG Fine Arts) as a powerful image of glaciers recall American Robert Longo’s charcoaled replicas; whilst Lluis Barba’s digital collage, Gallery of Views of Modern Rome, Giovanni Paolo Pannini 2016, (Cynthia Corbett Gallery), taps into a whole generation of artists, including Raqib Shaw, who borrow equally from the Old Masters as much they do from the modern period, in an attempt to create visual universes.
And by mimicking Andreas Gursky’s method of operation Antoine Rose’s seascapes Y or J class 2015 and spiagge Bianche – study 1 2015 (French art studio), are rewarding for their impossible intimacy. Ramirez-Gomez David’s Autoportrait – Se La Vi 2009 for Bellechasse, is a more primitive work that appeals to our sense of self, while Susannah Baker-Smith’s Interior – Yuriri 2016, (GBS Fine Art) would be visually more rewarding if it were not for its reference to Gerhard Richter’s 1998 portrait of his daughter Betty. Aly Helyer’s Unfinished Man 2016, (LLE), is on the other hand entirely original for her palette, whilst Maurice Cockrill’s 1979 work Bird in Flight, (Boundary Gallery) delivers something of the unbridled verve of a more experimental era at a fair absorbed by style.