In: galleries

February 3, 2016

London Art Fair, 2016

A puzzle. That is how the London Art Fair looked from the first floor of the Business Design Centre in Islington. The 95 art galleries that have been present this year at the 28th edition of the London Art Fair were the extraordinary puzzle pieces that collaborated to create an image of the contemporary and modern art world as it is today.

Curated by Natasha Hoare, Associate Curator at Witte de With for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, the event was an absolute trip from the perspective of a one-day visitor such as myself.

The Business Design Centre proved to be an excellent space to gather so many galleries from around the world. Their representatives showed enthusiasm and excitement in sharing the work of diverse artistic voices with the visiting public.

I was impressed with the strategies of display, the international context created by the presence of so many galleries from outside UK, and especially by the warmth with which the gallery representatives would welcome and discuss with you the exhibited works and artists.

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While touring the galleries, I remembered that Natasha Hoare wrote a book called “The New Curator” which basically consists of interviews with curators from around the world and this art fair definitely felt as though it has been a major international art project.

Through discussion with gallery representatives and some of the artists present at the fair, I could finally form an image of the major shift that has occurred in the art world. Art has become information, which is one of the greatest assets in the present time. Art can be accessible to anyone and this phenomenon gives the artists a larger platform and wider windows towards succeeding in the early stages of their work. If art is information, it travels faster and across longer distances.

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You could say that there is actually no distance nowadays; this was apparent in the works of many of the contemporary artists present at the art fair. The main focus is time and closeness. Artists now have access to multinational and multicultural spaces and their source of inspiration has no limit when creating their narratives. Time remains the only competitor against the artist. In the end the winner is actually the public, who are growing in numbers, well-educated, well-informed and can more quickly gain access to art.

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The new artist is focused on a cross-cultural dialogue with the public and also on extending the making of their work through a more interdisciplinary route. We now see painters, sculptors, and photographers working with writers, scientists, fashion designers, sound engineers, etc.

Galleries have quickly picked up this trend and are creating the perfect platforms for an artist of the new era, who is creating for a wider and much more knowledgeable public.

Guem_MinJeong

We are most certainly witnessing a surge of multi-media art and I absolutely fell in love with the work of Korean multi-media artist Guem MinJeong. Just like the rest of her fellow contemporary artists, Guem MinJeong adds to her art many adjacent skills and here, that is the deal-breaker.

The passage between the old and the new is being forged in a dramatic manner and Guem’s work brings the past, the old, the essence, and the roots into a virtual, futuristic, scientific plan. We witness it, but more importantly, we experience it.

Guem has showcased a series of site-specific video and sculpture installation works – Breathing, Twisted and Melting, Object series – on the theme of “breathing space”. Her installations transform the space of a white wall or embraces impossible external spaces such as forests and ocean into an interior space. Exhibition space itself becomes the subject matter for the artist.

In works such as “Breathing Door” (2007), the artist depicts a large white closed door which inflates and deflates to the sound of slow breathing. Conceived during the artist’s residency in Tamsui, Taiwan in 2014, the rhythmic cycle of the video loop reflects on the pace of 21st century, modern life.

Guem explains that “by making the space that I experience move and breathe, I would rather express the self in it – that is, the essence and value of humans. I wanted to take a closer look at it as a symbol representing the essence of people by moving a physical space, not a narrative film as virtual reality.”

Guem MinJeong holds a DFA from Yonsei University and BFA, MFA from Hongik University, Seoul. Her works are held in private and public collections, including the Seoul Museum of Art and Kumho Museum of Art. She has received numerous awards from Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture and currently lives in Seoul.

Guem MinJeong was represented by Hanmi Gallery and Ms. Yookin Choi was gracious enough to take me through the art works that they exhibited at the fair and to offer me precious information about the artist mentioned above.

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Another artist who impressed me was Steve Goddard. This time, I had the pleasure of actually discussing with Steve how routine is just another madness for an artist. Mr. Goddard did agree that time is precious and that it can be overcome by hard work and dedication to inspiring ideas.

Steve told me that it takes him roughly 9 hours to finish a painting, once the idea has been imprinted in his imagination. He sometimes wakes from his sleep, makes a note of the idea that inspired him, and begins work as soon as he feels that he is ready to paint it.

Looking at his paintings and his sculptures, I felt as if I was an important piece in his art. He seems to attract you inside a tunnel of visions, turning you into his link to reality. Once you have observed the art work, you will become part of its story and it will offer you a place in the imaginary in exchange for your understanding in the reality.

Steve Goddard’s website is a contemporary story about nights of visions, colours in the dark, paintings of nothing that are traps for everything. Art.

Steve Goddard was present at the fair with Galerie Sardac. Mr. Rowan Shulver, Director of Galerie Sardac, was kind enough to answer to a few of my questions with regards to how they perceived the fair. He informed me that Sarah Monk (fair director) and Craig Brown (sales manager) “were a pleasure to work with” and that there was an overall feeling of accomplishment on all sides at the end of the fair.

Unlike our previous articles about art fairs, this will not be able to provide you with any names or recommendations of galleries’ booths to visit. It is about the experience of an unusual art fair

#1 Ground floor

In a brownfield site of 3000m2 in the centre of Paris, the first edition of EXPERIENCES Art Fair is born. The art fair set out with an initiative to annually promote contemporary creation in empty buildings of the French capital, in partnership with a real estate group which provides the venue. This unique event features works created by more than fifty artists especially for this purpose including large-format photography, sculptures, video installations and urban art.

#5 performance_

Committed to redefining obsolete codes of traditional art fairs, EXPERIENCES Art Fair offers an innovative and immersive panorama to reconnect the public with the artworks. At the same time, it aims to change the [normal] economic model of an art fair since all works are available for rental as well as for sale, and the organiser is directly funding art projects without galleries as the intermediary. In addition to selected French and international artists, this first edition of the art fair has also invited young Israeli contemporary artists while it presents simultaneously ten French artists in a hotel venue in Tel Aviv, Israel.

#2 Paintings, Alena Gaponova

The venue and ways of display have lived up to the expectation of being unusual as the name of the fair may have denoted. The exhibiting venue is three storeys and can be described as shabby (but in a cool way, with hipster aura) compared to the usual setting of major art fairs (which can be bright and grand but perhaps more intimidating). The first floor is a large, dimly lit, long space, scattered with installations throughout. I was mainly fascinated by Alena Gaponova’s paintings in a room at the very end because they give different visual representations when colours of the lights in the dark room change –at one point you see a woman’s face painted on the canvas but the next moment it changes and you see a man’s face only.

Street art installation (partial) by Jisbar

On the brighter second floor, which is mainly dedicated to photography works by various artists, Maximilien Franco’s “InsideHEADphones” project stands out. It invites visitors to put on the headphones fixated in front of each photograph that depicts an anonymous passer-by in the street listening to music with his/her headphones. By listening to the same music to which the portrayed strangers were listening when the photos were taken, we can suddenly intrude into each of their personal worlds, as if a strange intimate link between the viewer and the subject is created through the music or songs.

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At one moment during the vernissage, while fair-goers were chatting with friends and enjoying their glasses of wine in front of photography works, the light was suddenly dimmed and a team of performers came down the stairs, with the majority of around ten women wearing only underwear but each of them tied to an ironing board. They lined up in the middle of the exhibition space and started to perform [the act of] struggling to free themselves from their ironing boards while all visitors gathered around and paid full attention with the aid of mobile phones or cameras… This live performance, as I perceived, was probably about the emancipation of women from their family roles and social stereotypes. Besides the live performance art, observing other people’s reactions could be seen as part of the interesting “experiences”.

Installation by Victor Cord'homme

The top floor is for larger sculptural and installation works, but unfortunately, I have to say that the display on this floor did not seem as carefully curated and exposes incoherence. This can be a slight weakness when such an art fair is without any booths and artists just bring their own works to be exhibited next to one another in the same space, unlike any curated exhibition. On the other hand, several rooms at the back provide wonderful spaces of creativity, where one artist occupies and designs the setting and display of each whole room.

Installation (partial) by Vinie Graffiti

On the whole, the concept of EXPERIENCES Art Fair is innovative and has provided an alternative experimental platform to traditional art fairs. It has also demonstrated the creative energy in Paris, still being a breeding ground for young talents and an indispensable contemporary art scene. So come to experience this unique art fair from 28 November to 6 December 2015, it’s free entry anyway – also unusual for an art fair!