Last week the London Art Fair of Modern British and Contemporary Art took over Islington’s Business Design Centre, presenting visitors with three levels of art.
For only £11 each Lizzie and I decided to check it out on the last day, a Sunday afternoon. The Centre was jam-packed and we could hardly move as we were shoulder-to-shoulder with the other art appreciators, which meant we got separated several times and reunited either by chance or careful text directions. (“I’m on the stairs by the telephone booths…”)
The galleries that presented brought loads of great works and quite a few big names including Damien Hirst and Barry Flanagan. In fact, several galleries had sculptures, photographs and diamond dusted images by Hirst on display.
And while London is known for being art-friendly with most major museums and galleries offering free admission, I truly appreciated what the Art Fair did.
Collected in one place were loads of galleries that can be considered exclusive, typically marketing themselves to those who want to buy; this is the art that people usually only want to see when they go shopping to add to their private/public collections. Unlike the Tate, National Galleries, etc., these galleries present themselves much the way a designer shop would do. Now the works by artists they represent were on view for appreciation and totally accessible at the Art Fair. (Though I did see price tags on most of the works, often as high as £30k.)
And while it would have been easy for the Fair to come off as pretentious or force visitors to consume art in a specific way, it didn’t. Instead I found it inspiring and conversation-provoking with the gallery attendants ready and willing to discuss the works they chose to display. There was also a strong creative energy present as artists, curators, art enthusiasts and appreciators mixed and interacted with each other and the pieces displayed.
Overall it was a true celebration of art with everyone attending interested in viewing, buying or both.