Galleries buoyant as record numbers visit London Art Fair 2014 (15-19 January)
20 January 2014
30,694 people passed through the doors of the Business Design Centre in Islington last week to visit the 26th London Art Fair, the UK’s largest Fair for Modern British and contemporary art.
The figures far surpass the Fair’s previous record of 25,020 visitors in 2012, with higher footfall matched by brisk trade throughout the week. A survey of galleries prior to the Fair indicated optimism for the art market and the economy going into 2014, confidence which appears to be justified by sales reported this week.*
Sarah Monk, Director of London Art Fair commented:
“We’ve enjoyed a rise in visitor figures over the past ten years, which reflects the growing interest in art, the importance of international visitors and recognition of the quality of work on offer. Galleries have reported strong sales at all price points, demonstrating an engaged and curious audience wanting to buy art, whether serious collectors or someone perhaps making their first acquisition.”
“We’ve made sales every day,” said Mayfair dealer Stephen Paisnel, “and anticipate more follow up thanks to the extent of the appreciation we’ve received”. “It’s been a fantastic week,” agreed Lucinda Bell of LAMB arts, who represents young contemporary artists from around the world. “In terms of sales and interest, it’s been our best Fair yet.” Nicholas Sharp of The Multiple Store who exhibited work by David Shrigley and Cornelia Parker commented that he was “impressed with the quality of people attending – a better percentage of quality buyers”.
With a forthcoming exhibition planned at the Tate, work by Scottish artist Alan Davie RA was to be seen at many stands. Mason’s Yard dealer Alan Wheatley reported the sale of a large 1950s painting in excess of £100,000. “He’s grossly underrated and prices should be much higher” said Wheatley. Mark Goodman of Goodman Fine Art, exhibiting for the first time at any fair, sold another for just under that figure, as well as a large triptych on paper by Francis Bacon.
“The economy is looking better,” said John Thompson, who has been exhibiting at the Fair for over 20 years and this year sold over 30 works by four different contemporary artists, including Paul Wright and Carl Melagari. Toby Clarke of Vigo Gallery sold out of work by one young contemporary artist, Johnny Abrahams, while a John Moore Painting Prize winning work by Biggs and Collings, ‘The Greater Light’, fetched over £20,000. TAG Fine Arts received over 20 orders of Tobias Hill’s ‘Oranges and Lemons’, listed for around £2,000, and Zavier Ellis of Charlie Smith LONDON sold 35 gouache on antique cabinet cards by Tom Butler, each priced at over £300.
While these figures are representative of a general trend, a number of new initiatives for 2014 have supported London Art Fair in maintaining its position as the UK’s leading fair for Modern British and contemporary art. As the first of a series of regional museum partnerships, The Hepworth Wakefield was invited to curate an exhibition on British Modernism in a pavilion at the entrance to the Fair. Sharing this space were Modern British galleries Jonathan Clark Fine Art, Rowntree Clark and PIANO NOBILE.
PIANO NOBILE reported sales ranging from contemporary artists to significant pieces by Hepworth’s contemporaries such as William Crozier, John Golding, Terry Frost and Eduardo Paolozzi, priced up to quarter of a million pounds. “We’ve met patrons from The Hepworth Wakefield, who have bought from us for the first time, and our clients have certainly found out more about the museum,” said Matthew Travers from the gallery. “We’ve also seen a broad range of people from Middle East visitors to our regular Modern British collectors. This Fair is about good quality art, which is very tradable.”
A number of galleries exhibited at the Fair for the first time this year. London Art Fair was the first European outing for Tokyo’s Whitestone Gallery, whose display of five Japanese Gutai artists held pride of place in the centre of the mezzanine. “We’ve had lots of sales from British collectors,” said Naoto Kakumoto, International Sales Manager, “most of these customers are new clients, but we have also seen people who we first met in the USA.” The gallery sold a number of works by Chiyu Uemae during the Fair. Also exhibiting for the first time was Massachusetts photographic book publisher 21ST Editions. “We’ve never been to a fair where we’ve had so many people constantly coming through,” said Pam Clark.
Specialist in contemporary African art, Jack Bell Gallery was exhibiting for the second time. “This year’s Fair saw 70% new collectors and an upbeat atmosphere,” he reported, “our sales were constant across all artists’. Ivory Coast artist Aboudia was a star performer, with work priced up to £5,000. Jill George Gallery were celebrating their 20th year at the Fair. “It’s been very good all week,” said William Jackson from the gallery, “90% of our sales have been to new clients, that’s why we keep coming back.” They reportedly “sold something by most artists” including a large piece by Bruce McClean for around £10,000.
Art Projects, the curated showcase of emerging galleries, saw the launch of a new ‘Dialogues’ initiative of shared presentations between UK and international spaces. “The Dialogues theme has been brilliant,” said Maria Stenfors, who shared a stand with SABOT from Romania, “we’ve discovered dialogues within pieces that we didn’t know were already there.”
London Art Fair was C&C Gallery’s first Fair, “it’s exceeded all expectations,” said director Dr Joanna Gore who sold work by the majority of artists on their stand in Art Projects, including Violet Fingers, John Greenwood and Chris Hawtin, “We’ve done incredibly well over the last week, not just in terms of sales but through establishing great contacts.” 2014 was also the first year that Antlers Gallery exhibited at the Fair. “It’s great for networking across London, Britain and Europe,” said Celia Archer, who sold out of work by Anouk Mercier, nine pieces in total ranging from editions at £350 to the most expensive original work at £2,100.
London Art Fair returns for its 27th edition from 21-25 January 2015.
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NOTES TO EDITORS
*57 London Art Fair galleries were surveyed by telephone, with the following results [figures for 2013/2012 in square brackets]:
1) Do you think the economy in 2014 will:
a. Get better – 70% [24%/45%]
b. Get worse – 2% [33%/14%]
c. Stay the same – 28% [42%/41%]
2) Do you think the art market in the same period will:
a. Fare better – 61% [49%/46%]
b. Fare worse – 0% [7%/11%]
c. Stay the same – 39% [41%/43%}
3) Which sector of the art market, if any, do you think is undervalued and may come closer to reaching its potential in 2014?
Emerging contemporary – 43%
Modern British – 16%
Editions – 13%
Established contemporary – 9%
Digital art – 7%
None – 5%
Photography – 4%
Sculpture – 2%
All – 2%