LONDON—A London art fair, which for 16 years had tried to attract the participation of contemporary art galleries internationally, has finally given up the struggle and rebranded itself.
Known before as Art London and now rechristened as the London Art Fair, the event, which ran from Jan. 19-23, relaunched itself as more of a collectors’ fair, with a core of dealers specializing in modern British art. This market sector has thrived at auction and also at the longer-established 20/21 British Art Fair held at the Royal College of Art each September.
Most “mod Brit” dealers professed themselves satisfied with the outcome. James Hyman sold 18 works, including examples by David Bomberg, Jacob Epstein, Josef Herman and Bridget Riley. One of the top sales at the fair was a six-figure price for Bus 11, 1962, an early shaped canvas, by British Pop artist Allen Jones, at the stand of Offer Waterman. The price far exceeded the £73,000 auction record for the artist.
Austin/Desmond Fine Art sold works by modern British artists, including Ivon Hitchens, William Scott and Graham Sutherland. The gallery’s top sale was “just over £170,000 ($317,900)” for Higher Wind, 1958, by St. Ives artist Peter Lanyon, director John Austin said.
Most of the stands, however, were devoted to contemporary art. Some displayed art that was purely decorative, even Impressionistic. Exceptions included the Richard Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, which had success with Susan Derges’s unique photographic works (made without the conventional use of a camera lens), selling four examples for around £10,000 ($18,700) each; and Garry Fabian Miller’s pictures—six of them sold for prices up to £30,000 ($56,000) each.
Also standing out from the crowd was Paul Stolper showing editioned work by Turner Prize-winner Jeremy Deller and by YBA (Young British Artist) Gavin Turk (opening his first New York show this month at Sean Kelly). Deller’s flowchart print, The History of the World, 1998, was selling well at £2,500 ($4,675), as was his more recent William Elliott Whitmore Live at Melancholy Ranch, 2004, a set of ten 7-inch single records, priced at £1,200 ($2,240) each. Prints from Turk’s diamond-dust portfolio Faces, 2004—priced at £1,400 each ($2,600), or £7,500 ($14,000) for the set of seven—also fared well.
Attendance, the organizers report, was up on last year’s 30,000. According to John Austin, the event was “quite crowded. People wanted to buy.”