London Art Fair 2019 Review
The London Art Fair is back and it’s better than ever. Now in its 31st year, this five-day takeover is one of the capital’s biggest showcases of the contemporary art scene. Far from embodying the modern cliché of obscure pieces that make most shout ‘but my child could have done that!’ there was a stunning array of incredible pieces from 130 of the world’s best galleries that show the skill and imagination of global artists is absolutely alive and kicking.
Each stand was looked after by a mix of curators, gallery directors and art dealers so there was potential for networking as well as being inspired. This made for some interesting overhearing too, the hosts definitely knew their stuff and conversations between the steady mix of browsers and buyers gave the inside scoop on ones to watch.
The Art Fair has a reputation for a reason, heading inside the Business Design Centre in Angel is like taking on over one-hundred of the year’s best exhibitions under one roof, with talks, tours and events thrown in for good measure. It’s a mammoth show and could easily be overwhelming. Luckily, I was passed a handy guide on the way in with a pull-out map directing me around the three floors of artworks, soI had the choice to be discerning or wander for hours – it could take all day to see even half of what’s on offer.
The first thing I noticed was the range of styles: sculpture, painting, installation, ceramics, outlandish and rebellious junk art pitched up alongside ethereal photography and technicolour paintings. The world focus enhanced this even further, the Art Fair organisers have long since branched away from British and European art and put whole continents in conversation, providing a pretty comprehensive overview of today’s art world for novices and the knowledgeable alike.
When I wanted to escape the crowds, I was struck by the only downside of the show. There was a distinct lack of places to dwell. With so many great pieces jostling for attention, and hoards passing through the stands, the couple of unassuming cafes tucked away from the hustle and bustle just didn’t cut it. They were few in number and didn’t match up to the grandeur of the surrounding exhibitions. This got me thinking about what I really love about the gallery experience: the opportunity for reflection. There were paintings and prints of every persuasion and at times I really just wanted to hone in on the beauty, meaning and skill of the works. Unfortunately, with the competition for space between displays, visitors, organisers (and camera phones!), I didn’t have much chance to linger.
Despite this, the buzz of the atmosphere had its own charms and I left energized and armed with a list of galleries and artists to go back to throughout the year when I really have the chance to get acquainted with them.