Whether you’re window shopping Modern British art or want to start your art collection with the latest emerging talent, then London Art Fair is probably the right place for you.
Established in 1989 at the Business Design Centre as Art ’89, the fair’s inaugural edition featured just 36 galleries, with a few thousand visitors attending. Over the years the fair has expanded its number of gallery booths, introducing distinct sections to present a variety of art and, come Thursday, over 20,000 visitors are expected to descend upon Angel.
So where to start? Let’s keep it simple and explain what you’ll discover in each section.
Since 2014, the fair has partnered with regional museums to provide a London platform for their Modern British collections. In the past, the Hepworth Wakefield, Pallant House Gallery and Jerwood Gallery have curated one-off exhibitions, offering visitors a unique experience of significant heritage collections.
This year, Art UK (formerly the Public Catalogue Foundation) will celebrate the UK’s publicly-owned art through 30 works that have been selected from the personal perspective of artists Sonia Boyce, Mat Collishaw, Haroon Mirza, Oscar Murillo and Rose Wylie. Curated by Kathleen Soriano, Art of the Nation – Five Artists Choose delves into an array of public art collections including Heritage Motor Centre and the University of Hull Art Collection to reveal the varied range of art owned by the nation.
Now in its 12th year, Photo50 continues to spotlight the diversity of contemporary photography practice. Hemera Collective curates this year’s presentation Resolution is not the point., which includes the works of 10 artists and artist collectives. Focusing on the collaborative nature of photography that is ‘a catalyst for interdisciplinary exchange and collective action,’ the show features many international artists working together across continents.
You’ll see James Tylor and Laura Wills’ project The Forgotten Wars, which uses photography as a means to foreground cultural critique about the British Government and Aboriginal Australians. Plus you can immerse yourself in Pio Abad’s mixed-media work that subverts everyday domestic items into politically significant objects.
Here, photography exists beyond being a pretty picture – it serves to pose pertinent questions. Friday January 19 is London Art Fair’s Photography Focus Day when key themes in Resolution is not the point., along with current trends and advice on collecting, can be explored in the organised talks, tours and panel discussions.
Want to discover emerging and innovative contemporary art from Angola to Australia? Then head to Art Projects. Here, you’ll find exhibitors (this year 33 from 10 countries) presenting curated solo and group displays.
Many of this year’s presentations are curiously reflective. From exploring the legacy of respected artists to recreating narratives with historical relics, the past informs contemporary practice.
Other galleries take a new approach to the art-fair stand, from Ed Cross Fine Art’s onsite critical dialogue between two artists to Darger HQ, which crowdfunded its fair participation to showcase Kristina Estell and Peter Fankhauser’s joint, site-specific installation.
Part of the Art Projects section, Dialogues pairs 10 selected galleries to create unique collaborations between their represented artists and, for the first time, it will exclusively feature 24 women artists. Providing a platform that encourages discourse, the complexities of gender and cultural identity will be explored by artists who hail from Asian, African, Kurdish and Maori backgrounds.
ALASKA Projects and IMT Gallery will look at the female portrait, Elsewhere, Tanja Wagner Gallery and Hanmi Gallery will consider the performative aspect to Nilbar Güreş and Yingmei Duans’ practices that challenge the cultural codes of being female.
No art fair is complete without critical discussion, and this year promises some engaging conversation. Highlights include: deputy editor of Apollo magazine, Fatema Ahmed, chairing a talk on the creative exchanges between Modern British art and the USA; a panel discussion including Photo50 exhibitor Larry Archiampong, which will question if the experience of migration can be represented through the medium of photography; and Andrew Ellis, director of Art UK, introducing the Art Detective network that is helping solve some intriguing art mysteries.
London Art Fair is at Business Design Centre, 52 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 0QH between January 17–21, 2018. Ticketed entry £15–£28.
Want to see more art in London? Check out these current exhibition in the capital.