Saatchi Gallery’s Art Fair START concludes its second outing

London’s Chelsea is not where you would expect to pick up inexpensive works from emerging artists, but that’s what happened at START art fair in the Saatchi Gallery this September, for the second time. Director Niru Ratnam is determined to make this one diverse, in a fair way of course. In the shadow of lines and borders being drawn all over the planet, START shone a light on the worldly.

Mumbai’s THE LOFT, Lin & Lin Gallery from Taipei and ART+TEXT Budapest featured among 70 other galleries. So there were plenty of surprises to give jaded art fair veterans a jolt: performance art from Franco Vietnamese Mai Nguyen-Tri and Polish film posters remade by Piotr Krymowski were highlights.

Mahmoud Obaidi got top billing under the START Projects banner. His own works were present as Baghdad Manifesto, where daggers and swords twisted and mocked, with dark paintings reliving Bosch. This, his first solo show in London, was rarely spacious: a well worn-path formed in the direction of the Iraqi’s unsparing evocation of conflict. On show were hits from his Confusionism series from 2013, including Peace, Struggling Thrones and Make War Not Love.

A complete contrast next to Projects co-headliner, In the Garden, where Indian Sumakshi Singh’s woman-made paradise had embroidered flora and fauna floating dreamily to projections of fireflies and hummingbirds.

Tehrani Amin Montazeri showed his paintings solo for the first time in the UK with Dastan’s Basement, and a microscope was needed to appreciate the impeccable finery of his mythological subjects.

Mahmoud Obaidi reappeared then, curating younger artists from Doha’s Firestation residency, in a nod to the established heralding the new. His curated show of young Qatari talents, ‘Identity, Construction and Deconstruction’, involved Shaha Al Khulaifa, Maryam Y Al Homaid, Roda Al Nassr, Hana Al Saadi, Aisha Al-Sowaidi and Waseem Marzouki. It seems the overlap between emerging and female artist is prospering in the Gulf.

Another Project called Future Island connected Taiwanese artists to this list, with Kuo-Chun Chiu and Su Yu-Xin of particular merit, investigating identity and the environment in their surreal imagery.

As well as being a learning experience it looks like START also sold quite a lot of art, and was a hit with collectors. “The fair is now attracting a serious and international set of collectors. Established London collectors such as Richard Greer mixed with the new generation of collectors such as Kaimar Maleki and international collectors such as Geetika Jain, and it was also great to see museum directors such as Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art’s Simon Groom,” said Niru Ratnam.