ART13 at Kensington Olympia makes its mark on the global art calendar
ART13 is a brand new art fair in London, set to become an annual event.
Often, wandering around art fairs can be an exhausting and overwhelming experience. There is just so much art competing for your attention that it’s difficult to see the wood for the trees. Olympia turns out to be a grand venue for the set-up, the high ceiling of the hall creating more ambiance than usual, and it is large enough for everything to be spread out on one level, so a fairly methodical meander can cover a lot of ground and a great deal of contemporary practice.
Since Frieze London art fair started in 1991, London has grown as an international venue for the art market and as the international shop front of art. Art fairs represent an enormous logistical enterprise, and a major risk to international galleries willing to invest. But ART13 has hit the ground running and made its mark on the art calendar, attracting 129 global galleries, some new to London.
The opening night was buzzing with arty types as well as the art-curious. Prices are not on display, but overheard conversations suggest that there is still enough money to keep artists in paint and galleries in champagne. Sales are high and some artists have sold out already, with commissions for more work being negotiated. Not everything is out of reach though, and there is even a crate of free posters that gets regularly topped up.
A large part of gallery audiences are often other artists and art professionals, not buyers. However, this is not a bad thing, as this artistic circulation is vital to galleries in the complex matrix that is the art world. It is puzzling that some galleries still persist in being a little too exclusive, not having cards and images available for the public to take, and not circulating knowledge about their artists. Mostly galleries get it though, and are pleased to get into conversation about a work or artist that catches your eye.
One of the outstanding features of the show is the impressive amount of specially commissioned art projects integrated into the exhibition space. Most of these works are enjoyable and interactive, including Roelof Louw’s 1967 piece, Pyramid of Oranges, which is a sculpture you get to dismantle, take away and eat. The central project is a tunnel of rice paper by Zhu Jinshi entitled Boat, that you queue to walk through. It’s an extraordinary experience to feel such an intimate and muffling effect within a place packed full of strangers. There is also a chance to see, mounted high over the entrance, El Anatsui’s In the World but Don’t Know the World, a stunning large scale work made from discarded bottle caps.
Among the many gallery highlights is Juan Fontanive’s adorable contraption Ornithology at Riflemaker, a motorised flick book of birds. Scaramouch is showing the creepy and nightmarish melting sculptures of Alessandra Brighetti. Magda Danysz has wonderful and poetic photographic constructs by Yang Yongliang, a dream world in each bowl.
Damien Hirst’s spot paintings are less than convincing in comparison, betraying an arguable lack of engagement in the making process. It’s surely no surprise to learn that painting is not dead, and that there are many creative practitioners still reinventing the scene.
An extraordinary art fair, worth the visiting price – but you’ll need at least three hours to do it justice.
Photos: Arnaud Stephenson
ART13 is at Olympia until 3rd March 2013 , for further information click here.