Confessions of a beginner, at the London Art Fair

I have to admit that I only opened up to contemporary art in 2013. Before that, I was pretty allergic to any work that wasn’t showcasing any technical skill. My knowledge of contemporary art was limited to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Yes, safe contemporary art in a large institution. In 2013, I joined the Tate Patrons scheme and my art curiosity expanded to embrace artists I had never heard of, meeting artists and visiting commercial galleries in addition to museums. I also signed up to Twitter in 2013, following art professionals and students. And I avidly visited art fairs. The London Art Fair is the first in 2014.

20140119-105832.jpgDavy and Kristin McGuire, Fairies series

I have been told that the London Art Fair (LAF), a modern and contemporary art fair, is a step up from the Affordable Art Fair. I went to the LAF preview, which was very busy and the first artworks M. BB and I came across were lithographs. Hey you can buy a Bacon for £8,500! I wonder whether lithographs are good value or – as they appear to be – not. I kept being attracted by artworks that “rang a bell” (you can’t chase the demon…): Maisie Broadhead recreating the universe of Vermeer in photographs; Gordon Mitchell who was inspired by Magritte; Marzia Colonna who reminded me of Archipenko. It was a surprise to me that I favoured abstract and conceptual pieces over the figurative and impressionist pieces that I love in museums. Did I unconsciously want abstract pieces in my living room? It looked like it.

20140119-110131.jpgRichard Hamilton’s Pop Art Design seen at the Barbican Centre sold at Sims Reed Gallery

From the beginning of the fair, I put myself in “fair mode” i.e. I browsed quickly the art on sale whereas, at exhibitions where the art is not for sale, I spend much more time. That’s probably because I am in “discovery mode” in exhibitions, whereas I easily know what I like or not for a potential purchase. I did fall for a piece: Girl, a wood sculpture by Paul Mount, a female silhouette as minimalist as it is evocative. The price asked was above what I would have spent for my first art acquistion. Next time, maybe.

Having visited a few fairs now, I recognised the typical structure. More known galleries at the centre and young and emerging (not to call them unknown) galleries on the second floor. The LAF second floor was named Arts Projects and turned out to be more interesting than only showing lesser known galleries. Tate organised a tour with an inspiring Arts Projects committee member. Themes were submitted by the galleries and subject to a committee. Amongst the themes were geometric shapes, art history, truth vs. fiction, and the art making process. There is also a dialogue section that pairs British galleries vs. other European galleries.

The LAF has a solid list of events on offer for its “VIP” guests. My friend E. and I went to a highlights tour given by Sotheby’s; a tour of Art Projects organised by Tate; drinks and display of Laure Prouvost’s Monolog at the Contemporary Art Society, and last but not least, a tour of the highlights of the Hepworth Wakefield gallery, which put it on my Day-out-of-London list. The London Art Fair ends this Sunday, January 19th.

20140119-110316.jpg The Hepworth Wakefield

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