MULTIPLIED, ‘the UK’s only fair dedicated to contemporary art in editions’, is now in its sixth year. It has quietly established itself as a respected satellite of Frieze (thirteen this year), fulfilling an important function in the art world calendar. For while the majority of Frieze visitors go only to stare at the eye-wateringly expensive exhibits, at Multiplied there is a real possibility for the average art enthusiast to buy (and it helps that entry is free too). It is a smart move by Christie’s, for although the big auction houses have always scheduled their major contemporary sales to coincide with Frieze week and the international buyers who are attracted by it, this is the first serious art fair to be run by an auction house. And it is a stand-alone event – Multiplied has created its own brand and hosts over forty independent galleries, and although they have a stand showcasing a few select highlights from upcoming sales, the fair is explicitly not just an advertisement for these auctions. Christie’s South Kensington salerooms offer the perfect venue for an interesting selection of galleries specialising in art in editions, and in return attracts more people through its doors, particularly a younger and more contemporary crowd.
What is striking about Multiplied is the variety, the multiplicity of techniques and mediums in which editions are produced. This, it would appear, is a vibrant and innovative area in today’s art world – and one which Frieze itself has overlooked. There are photographic prints, woodcuts, silkscreen prints, etchings, giclee prints, digital prints, label designs for whisky bottles at McLean’s Artist Malts and marble sculpture at TAG Fine Arts. There are also examples of 3D printing at C&C gallery, in which leading contemporary artists such as Gavin Turk present small copies of sculptural works, very pertinently calling into question how such new technologies co-exist with traditional print media and the extent to which is it the product of digital mediation. Elsewhere famous names such as Peter Blake, Mat Collishaw, David Shrigley and Pablo Bronstein rub shoulders with art school graduates at Made in Arts London and the Royal College of Art, whose freshness and verve more than stand up to the established practitioners. Because of this, Multiplied is an ideal place to learn about multiples and how they are produced, as artists and gallerists are on hand to explain the finer points of the intaglio printmaking process or photo-gravure. Multiple editions are a fertile ground for innovation as digital technology offers more options than ever for reproduction and can be combined in many different ways with the more traditional printmaking techniques.
Auction houses are constantly looking for new ways to engage with the buying public, and the boundaries are becoming ever more blurred; areas as diverse as arts publishing, artists’ estate management, direct dealing and art fairs have all been adopted by the big auction houses to maintain their status in a global art market. The Multiplied Art Fair is certainly a successful adaptation, and a very democratic one too.
By Kitty Hudson
MULTIPLIED 2015 is at Christie’s South Kensington, 85 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3LD and is open until Sunday 18th October (11-6).