LONDON—As the London Art Fair closed on Jan. 17, dealers were mostly positive about the level of sales that had taken place. Attendance had been consistently high despite heavy snowfalls, amounting to 23,219 visitors over the show’s five-and-a-half-day run, up from the 21,500 visitors at last year’s edition of the fair.
Most exhibitors were from London or elsewhere in the United Kingdom, and there was no overlap with the galleries who participated in the more internationally successful Frieze Art Fair. The London Art Fair also expanded its original focus on contemporary art to include British modern art from the early and mid-20th century, and this is where the higher-priced works were found.
London dealer Stephen Paisnel reported a dozen sales of works by established Postwar British artists, including a large painting by Alan Davie from the early ’60s priced at £120,000 ($194,000). Other high prices reported included that paid for a large, early painting by Patrick Heron, which Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert, London, had priced at £350,000. Piano Nobile, London, sold The Blue Dress, a painting by the Camden Town School artist Harold Gilman (1876–1919), for £95,000 ($153,900).
Most dealers took care not to set their prices too high, however. The Richard Green gallery, for example, brought nearly 100 paintings to the fair, none priced over £100,000 ($160,000). Gallery director Jonathan Green said that that had been the right policy for this fair, and reported he was pleased to have sold 12 paintings by Mary Fedden, Terry Frost, Ken Howard and Edward Seago. Scottish-picture specialist Duncan Miller, London, sold more than 30 paintings, most by young contemporary artists, for prices in the under-£5,000 ($8,000) range.
One of the best-selling artists at this fair, as ever, was Impressionistic painter Andrew Gifford. John Martin Gallery, London, sold eleven paintings by Gifford for prices in the £6,500/20,000 ($10,400/32,000) range. The top-selling artist of the fair, however, was Pop art perennial Peter Blake, whose hand-colored etchings and diamond-dust-sprinkled portraits of Andy Warhol were exhibited by print publisher Paul Stolper, London. Nearly 50 of Blake’s prints found buyers, for prices in the range of £1,000/2,000 ($1,600/3,200) apiece.
This was clearly the price point at which the most business was being conducted. In the separate projects area of the fair, Foley Gallery, New York, showed work by U.S. artist Thomas Allen, and sold eight pieces for prices in the £1,600/1,900 ($2,560/3,040) range each. The artist’s work consists of photographs of three-dimensional dioramas, which the artist creates by cutting up the covers of pulp novels and reassembling them in theatrical tableaux.
Ordinary-Light Photography, London, exhibited works exploring the effect of atomic-energy and nuclear-bomb programs. Sixteen prints were sold or placed on reserve, at prices in the range of £650/900 ($1,040/1,440).