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London Art Fair attracts collectors supporting established and burgeoning markets
Visitors at London Art Fair 2018. Photo: Mark Cocksedge.

LONDON.- The 2018 anniversary edition of London Art Fair closed on Sunday 21 January, reporting healthy sales and garnering critical acclaim for its curated spaces. Founded in 1989 as an initiative of Islington’s Business Design Centre, where it has been held ever since, the Fair has grown substantially over the last thirty years and is now considered one of London’s leading platforms for modern and contemporary art. London Art Fair 2018, which opened with a Preview Evening on Tuesday 16 January, saw participation from 131 exhibitors representing 18 different countries, offering a snapshot of the best of British and international art.

Sarah Monk, Fair Director, said: "Over the last thirty years London Art Fair has continued to evolve in order to stay relevant and continue attracting, and exciting, collectors and visitors. Whilst we still provide a home for outstanding Modern British art, we have embraced an increasingly international and contemporary outlook, with new galleries from around the world expanding our offer and reach. What unites our galleries is an emphasis on excellence, whether it originates in the 20th or 21st century. Our 30th anniversary edition has proved that London continues to be open for business, whilst our curated spaces Dialogues and Photo50 have demonstrated that international collaboration is still very much alive and well in the art world."

London Art Fair continues to nurture collecting at all levels, with prints and editions starting in the hundreds to major works by internationally renowned artists. Notable sales included a Grayson Perry embroidery sold by Castlegate House Gallery for £45,000; a Picasso drawing sold by Gormleys Fine Art for £52,000; and an Eduardo Paolozzi bronze sold by Piano Nobile for £165,000.

Galleries specialising in Modern British art, which has long been celebrated as a strength of the Fair, reported healthy sales, particularly to British and London-based international collectors. At the start of the Fair, England & Co sold Landscape with Figures (Birdman Piper and Fisherwoman), a watercolor by British surrealist Edward Burra which had not been exhibited for over 70 years, to a private collector for approximately £200,000. Elsewhere both Alan Wheatley Art and The Scottish Gallery sold works by the late Alan Davie at £18,000 and £16,000 respectively.

London Art Fair 2018 demonstrated that confidence in the contemporary art market is also high with galleries reporting strong sales across all mediums including painting, photography, prints and applied arts. Venet-Haus Galerie reported a significant number of sales to younger collectors, who acquired the playful, irreverent work of The Connor Brothers and pieces by pioneering street artist Van Ray. Meanwhile Plinth sold out of limited edition works by Louise Bourgeois and Royal Academician Richard Wilson. The appetite for new contemporary voices was also apparent in the Fair’s Art Projects section, with C&C Gallery selling out of their stand of Mona Osman paintings and Chiara Williams Contemporary Art selling components of Frances Richardson’s award-winning installation In times of brutal instability to both curators and collectors.

The 2018 edition of the Fair saw the attendance of a number of notable curators and representatives from public and private institutions. Galerie Olivier Waltman sold a Jerome Lagarrigue oil painting to US music producer Swizz Beatz for an undisclosed sum which he acquired for The Dean Collection, an initiative started to "support artists and cultural visionaries around the globe." Meanwhile Rabley Contemporary sold a Rebecca Salter woodblock to the Print and Drawings Department of the British Museum, with another Salter piece bound for the San Diego Museum of Art.

Celebrating 30 Years
Since its launch, London Art Fair has adopted an increasingly international outlook with over 25% of this year’s exhibitors coming from outside the UK. However it is testament to the Fair’s ongoing success that UK galleries who were present at the inaugural Fair continue to return. John Mackechnie of Glasgow Print Studio, who has exhibited at all thirty editions of London Art Fair, comments: “We were delighted once again to be able to bring art from Scotland to our regular collectors and to introduce our work to a new audience. We are leaving behind over forty works that are going to new homes.”

John Martin Gallery comments: “We have exhibited at the London Art Fair for almost 15 years, and this year have connected with a very diverse audience. We have found, this year in particular, that people visiting the fair have a genuine and serious interest in the artworks. One of the main attractions of the fair is that it introduces our artists to new audiences both from London and further afield. This year, we have observed that the buyers are noticeably younger than in previous years, and ours sales have been an almost equal split between new and existing clients. We hope to return to the fair next year.”

Over the last thirty years the Fair has played host to acclaimed artists early in their career as well as established names, with Chris Ofili and Jenny Saville awarded ‘rising star’ awards at the 1996 edition. London Art Fair continues to provide a platform for exceptional early-career artists, offering collectors the chance to invest in the stars of the future. Arusha Gallery sold all of their 35 works by London-based painter Charlotte Keates, with a waiting list of over 100 collectors interested in acquiring new pieces. Joanna Bryant & Julian Page sold four works by Matilde Demele, recent winner of the Clifford Chance Printmaking Purchase Prize 2017. Meanwhile Contemporary Collective sold multiple works by Sophie Derrick, who disrupts traditional portraiture by combining photography and painting to create multi-layered, textural compositions.

Curated Spaces
London Art Fair 2018 once again provided insight into the evolution of the art market through its curated spaces Photo50 and Art Projects. This year’s De’Longhi Art Projects Artist Award winner Nilbar Güreş (Galerie Tanja Wagner), was drawn from the Fair’s Dialogues section, dedicated to facilitating collaborations between pairs of international galleries. Showcasing work exclusively by female artists, Dialogues featured a number of live performances which reflected curator Misal Adnan Yıldız’s intent to bring women's’ experiences to the fore. During one of the performances at the Fair’s Thursday Late evening, Mehtap Baydu (Galerie Nev) enlisted the help of Fair Director Sarah Monk for her striking performance Silence. By creating a mould of her lips from red sealing wax which she used to silence Monk, Baydu addressed the act of silencing people across the world, women and men alike.

In celebration of the Fair’s 30th birthday, London Art Fair collaborated with Museum Partner Art UK to stage the initiative’s first ever exhibition. Prominently displayed inside the main pavilion entrance, Art of the Nation - Five Artists Choose invited five leading contemporary artists - Sonia Boyce, Mat Collishaw, Haroon Mirza, Oscar Murillo and Rose Wylie - to choose their favourite artworks from the nation’s public art collections. Visitors enjoyed a diverse selection of works - including an impressive large-scale painting by Turner Prize winner Lubaina Himid - which offered insights into the artists’ creative inspiration, and celebrated the quality of the UK’s regional collections.

Sarah Monk, Fair Director, concludes: “This anniversary edition was a fantastic celebration of the confidence and heritage of the Fair whilst also being a clear marker of intent for the future. We look forward to building on the great strength and success of this edition.”

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