It is hard to believe that the London Art Fair is now in its 28th year. The Modern and Contemporary British art fair continues to feel fresh and exciting – as well as impeccably curated – and its 2016 incarnation is no exception. Here are a few of the must-see stands and events this year:
Since 2014 the London Art Fair has formed a museum partnership to showcase a selection of the best of Modern British Art. This year Jerwood Gallery, based in Hastings, presents ‘Coast’, a concise exhibition of C20th painters inspired by the British coastline. At the heart of the display a statuesque bather by the tragically short-lived St Ives artist Christopher Wood fills the canvas, alongside a Barbara Hepworth painting, John Piper, John Tunnard and second generation St Ives artist Alexander Mackenzie’s abstract compositions. Together with neighbouring stands such as Piano Nobile (also showing a small Kit Wood) and Rowntree Clark with mid-century British abstract works this is an excellent introduction to the world of Modern British collecting.
Kenneth Armitage Centenary
A centenary is always a welcome opportunity to highlight an artists work, and Jonathan Clark does just that with a large and unusual work by Kenneth Armitage. A contemporary of Lynn Chadwick, Reg Butler and Eduardo Paolozzi, Armitage was one of the young British sculptors to emerge in the 1950s and exhibit at the Venice Biennale, with striking semi-abstract figures. ‘The Forest’, a later work of 1965, shows hands and feet as if pushing through the solid metal they are trapped behind.
An equally good reason to display an artist’s work afresh might be a book. A monograph on the paintings of William Gear has recently been published to coincide with the centenary of his birth in 1915. Author Andrew Lambirth will be giving a book signing at the fair on Thursday, while the Redfern Gallery are showing some of his large abstract works composed of shards of colour.
There is an especially good selection of Scottish art at the fair this year. Ewan Mundy is showing a selection of exquisite etchings and watercolours by David Young Cameron as well as work by the Scottish Colourists and William Gillies, Duncan R. Miller is also displaying Colourist J.D. Fergusson and others, while both The Scottish Gallery and Browse & Darby are exhibiting haunting multi-media works by contemporary Scottish artist Victoria Crowe.
Modern British Masters
Elsewhere in the vast halls of Islington’s Business Design Centre there are some striking juxtapositions of some of the big names in British art. At Osborne Samuel large figurative etchings by Lucian Freud hang opposite an even larger, intricately etched ‘map’ by Grayson Perry.
There were also several stands showing John Hoyland’s brightly coloured abstracts of the 1960s and 70s, recently the focus of the inaugural exhibition at Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery.
Beetles & Huxley are exhibiting photography from the early 20th century to the contemporary. Andre Kertesz and Josef Sudek introduce the genre with small gems, while the more major part of the display is given to contemporary photographers Zhang Kechun, with his washed out vistas like an Ansel Adams of postmodern China, and Michael Kenna’s stark black and white landscapes, many taken in Japan.
This year the Photo50 display is curated by Federica Chiocchetti, who has chosen the theme ‘Feminine Masculine’. A selection of images by contemporary photographers give multiple insights into the eternal mystery of the relations between men and women. This project is always an eye-opener, and this time brings together well-known names such as Elinor Carrucci (‘Closer’ presents intimate and personal close-up scenes from marital life) and emerging photographers such as Ekaterina Anokhina and Francesca Catastini.
For ‘Dialogues’, the Art Projects section of LAF hosts a series of collaborations between UK and international galleries from Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, curated by Natasha Hoare. Art Projects is a great space for discovering both emerging artists and new galleries with creative approaches to the presentation of work in a wide range of media.
Caroline Wiseman’s Aldeburgh Beach Project
Caroline Wiseman’s stand offers visitors the chance to have their photograph taken in an installation specially created by artist Bill Jackson for London Art Fair. With deck chairs placed in front of a backdrop depicting Aldeburgh Beach and the lookout tower that now hosts artist residencies, the concept parodies traditional British seaside holiday photographers. The experience is free, with unique prints available, guaranteeing a very personalised work of art!
Talks and Tours
And finally, there is a packed programme of talks, tours and performances taking place all week until Sunday – for full details please visit www.londonartfair.co.uk.
London Art Fair runs from the 20th – 24th January 2016 at the Business Design Centre in Islington.
By Kitty Hudson.