Held at the Islington Business Design Centre last week, the 31st London Art Fair showcased exceptional modern and contemporary art from all over the UK and beyond. An opportunity to engage with new art, to view and buy the works of upcoming artists and to learn about the art world, the Fair attracted 20,000 international visitors and over 130 leading galleries from 16 countries in its run from 16-20 January.
Sarah Monk, Director of the London Art Fair, said: “As with every year, our aim is to provide a space to showcase the most exceptional modern and contemporary art of our time and, in association with new headline sponsor IG, the 2019 edition demonstrated our continued good health and strong marker of intent for the future.
“We celebrate our heritage through initiatives such as our annual Museum Partnership; whilst also embracing change and disruption through our curated sections, Art Projects and Dialogues, and through the evolution of new features, such as Platform, which feed our visitors’ and collectors’ appetite for discovery.”
Zavier Ellis, Director of Charlie Smith London, said: “We had a superb opening night, selling five out of our seven artists to all new collectors. We have placed work each day and have also had significant interest from prominent British curators. My opinion is that London Art Fair continues to evolve and is the only fair that can offer a profound survey of the relationship between Modern and Contemporary British art.”
Víctor Lope, Director of Victor Lope Arte Contemporaneo, said: “It has been our best opening at London Art Fair. We sold several to different collectors, from England, Turkey, the Netherlands and Scotland. We sold works by German artist Dirk Salz and Spanish artist Patrik Grijalvo and sculptures by Basque artist Iñigo Arregi. Also, museum curators showed interest in the works of Spanish artist Concha Martinez Barreto and Danish artist Maria Torp. We are now in conversations about a commissioned sculpture by Jacinto Moros.”
London Art Fair welcomed back many returning galleries for its 2019 edition as well as several new additions from the UK, Europe and from several countries further afield including South Korea, Japan, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Brazil and Canada. Galleries at all levels of the market saw strong sales across the week—both in the Main Fair and the specially curated sections—with artworks being placed in major private and corporate collections and national institutions.
Galleries specialising in Modern British art, which has long been celebrated as a strength of the Fair, voiced strong support from international collectors. Christopher Kingzett Fine Art sold a bronze maquette by Elisabeth Frink (St Edmund, 1976) for £38,000; Alan Wheatley Art recorded fantastic sales of works by both Alan Davie and Adrian Heath, mainly to new clients; and Crane Kalman Gallery sold a selection of L. S. Lowry drawings and an oil painting for a six-figure sum. Meanwhile, Kynance Fine Art sold a pencil and watercolour design for a dinner plate by Vanessa Bell (Portrait of George Eliot, 1932/33), to a buyer in Saudi Arabia, and an early Kenneth Martin work on paper, something that is rarely been seen on the market.
Healthy sales of Modern British artists were also reported by Osborne Samuel, who sold a major work by Alan Reynolds (Sunrise, 1956) for £130,000, and Brownsword Hepworth, who sold an important Keith Vaughan painting for a six-figure sum, both sales taking place on the Preview Evening.
The Nine British Art were delighted to sell a total of six oil paintings by Frank Avery Wilson for upwards of £80,000. Twentieth-century artists from the other side of the Atlantic were also popular at the Fair, with Gilden’s Art Gallery selling significant works by Sam Francis and Roy Lichtenstein on the gallery’s tenth appearance at the Fair.
Castlegate House Gallery sold Grayson Perry’s ‘Fucking Art Centre’, originally created for a Battersea Arts Centre auction, to a significant UK collector for in excess of £50,000. Other ceramic works sold include a Salvador Dali from Sylvia Powell and works by Dame Lucie Rie and Annette Lindeberg at Askew Art.
Amid painting, sculpture, photography and installation art, the Fair also featured talks, tours, screenings and curated spaces, including Photo50, an annual exhibition of contemporary photography; Art Projects, which features large-scale installations, solo shows and group displays; Dialogues, a guest-curated section of Art Projects intended to encourage and foster relationships between home and abroad; Art Projects Screening Room, an accompanying programme of collaborative film and new media initiatives; and Platform, a new feature focusing on a single distinct theme every year.
In the Screening Room, highlights included Afrofuturisms Past, a programme of collaborative film and new media initiatives curated by Pryle Behrman. Focusing on key works from the 1970s onwards from Africa and the African Diaspora, the films on display in the Art Projects Screening Room explore the past experiences and future possibilities of African communities through alternate and imagined realities.
Platform, a new feature, focused on a single distinct theme every year. For the 2019 edition, Platform explored the expansive territory of Ceramics. The section allows invited galleries to present a combination of well-known, overlooked and emerging artists that align to the theme.
Photo50, the annual guest curated Contemporary Photography exhibition, took as its theme ‘Who’s Looking at the Family, Now?’ and was curated by @1000words_magazine Director and Editor in Chief, Tim Clark.
Taking place in the run-up to Britain’s departure from the European Union, London Art Fair 2019 provided a timely insight into the state of the UK art market in 2019. Healthy sales across the board indicated that London continues to be open for business and is still a major player in the international art market. While political uncertainties may not have had a bearing on sales, they did provide inspiration for many artists exhibiting at the Fair, including British-Bulgarian artist Yanko Tihov, whose Europe 2019 was sold by TAG Fine Arts to a UK collector.
The De’Longhi Art Projects Artist Award 2019 was won by artist Kimathi Donkor who is represented by Ed Cross Fine Art, one of the 33 galleries from 11 countries included in Art Projects, a curated platform for emerging galleries to showcase innovative contemporary art from across the globe.
London Art Fair’s Museum Partner for its 2019 edition was Eastbourne’s Towner Art Gallery, who presented stand-out works from their evolving collection of modern and contemporary art by artists including Eric Ravilious, Gertrude Hermes and Wolfgang Tillmans.
Joe Hill, director of the gallery and curator of ‘The Living Collection’, said: “It has been a pleasure to work with London Art Fair on the Museum Partner programme for 2019. The opportunity to showcase the Towner Collection to visitors and exhibitors of the fair has been key to developing the profile of the gallery as we approach our hundredth anniversary in 2020.”