The most fun you can have at an art fair is to pretend you have money, make up an imaginary budget, then promenade snottily around, arousing gallerists, deliberating over what to buy. Some people of course do actually have money – god bless their souls for spending it on art, please keep doing so – and the London Art Fair is good for its unintimidating and unpretentious atmosphere – the Business Design Centre in Angel is so unglamourous, and stands are layered tightly together, so that you don’t feel overwhelmed, and nor do you have to walk very far.
On the second floor you’ll find the creche, aka, Art Projects (featuring special projects curated by Pryle Behrman from thirty emerging level galleries) with the rest of the galleries on the ground and first floor so the grown ups can do their shopping in peace. Close your ears to the art babble (“So they made EXACT copies of marijuana whirlwinds”) and keep your eyes on the prize.
So – what to buy this year?
Nancy Fouts, Lovebird On Grenade; Courtesy Pertwee, Anderson & Gold.
My first stop would be super hip gallery Pertwee, Anderson & Gold. Back for a second year at the in the fair's microsection of swag, urban galleries (just inside the entrance to the right, note for next time). The handsome gallery representative modestly dismissed their high number of red dots to their stand’s positioning – but as with last year P, A & G stood out, not only because they were close to the door, but for their unique set up. It feels like Tim Burton’s living room: goth around the edges and cosy and safe on the inside. (Think taxidermy and 'street art'). On a medium-size budget you could go for a piece by Nancy Fouts, such as Still Smiling (£2,940). Her Lovebird on Grenade piece (exactly what it says on the box) had already sold out – an edition of ten – at £2,700. If you had more cash to blow, you could buy an entire taxidermy ostrich in a glass box for £22,500 from the Museum of Curiosity.
January is the hardest-up of all the months, but you could root around for £9,500 to procure a Hockney Lithograph, surely? It’s of Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy and on offer at Sims Reed. And it is very nice, as well as being slightly less ubiquitous among Hockney’s works. If you’re more attracted by the abstract, then head to Austin/Desmond Fine Art for a gorgeous original oil on canvas by Keith Coventry, entitled Lothian Estate.
CATLIN GUIDE, 2013.
On a bleak day you might feel drawn to something in black and white – dodge past the supercilious gallerist at TAG Fine Arts (we only wanted an image for our review, lady, be nice to the press now, even if we do look stoned) – then Katsutoshi Yuasa’s The World Without Words woodcut print on paper (edition of five) at £2,950, should please. It’s breathtaking and very reasonably priced – and four are still available. Another artist worth spending on is Yang Yongliang, whose panoramic Peach Blossom Colony (digital print, £7,600) from the recent series ‘The Land of Peach Blossom’ is mystical, spiritual, surreal, landscape photography of the next level. Cinematic and laconic.
And for the thrifty, with only the change in their hole-riddled pockets to spare, a copy of the latest Catlin Guide (£12.99) is essential, and this year comes in optimistic yellow. It includes details of forty new graduate artists, compiled by London-based curator by Justin Hammond. It’s a smart investment: get to the next big thing before they get big and expensive.
Of course, it’s all only a matter of taste. So we also asked the LAF’s director, Jonathan Burton, to pick his top five buys from this year’s fair.
1. Cole - Oliver Michaels - Three photographs, refined digital manipulation and a stark aesthetic – wry titles such as ‘Primordial decorative & Insenser’ – a real highlight at this year’s Fair.
2. England & Co - Eduardo Paolozzi - Cloud Atomic laboratory 1971
Set of 8 photogravure etchings. I love the 1960s sci-fi feel of these pieces – popular culture – but also slightly unsettling.
3. Jonathan Clark Fine Art - Adrian Heath, Curved forms – Yellow & Black 1952 and Portland Gallery - Adrian Heath - Untitled 1957. Two very strong examples of Heath’s painting from the 1950s.
4. Hoxton Art Gallery - Nadine Feinson - Contemporary painting – original vocabulary, balancing gestural abstraction and figurative content – rigorous approach and celebrates paint and painting.
5. Edel Assanti - Mauro Bonacina, Untitled 2012. Vibrant, large-scale painting – acrylic, nails and balloons – the latter paint-filled and burst on the canvas.
(Image on top: Katsutoshi Yuasa, The World without Words, 2012, Water based woodcut on paper, 122 x 121 cm; Courtesy Tag Fine Arts.)