I have always had a love/hate relationship with Frieze Week. So much amazing art to see, but so little time! As the big galleries and auction houses in London save their best shows and sales for the first week of October, the excitement in the city is palpable. It’s a tough balance, finding enough time to absorb all you can without becoming too over-exposed and missing key messages or aesthetics. Easier said than done when everything happens in just five days!
This year, I concentrated more on the art fairs than the stand-alone gallery exhibitions. While pondering how to sum up Frieze and Frieze Masters, I decided it was just as important to look back on my favourite three other fairs in London over the same long weekend. So here goes...
The Other Art Fair
Presented by Saaatchi Art bi-annually in London, The Other Art Fair is Britain’s leading artist fair, where collectors can buy directly from emerging artists. Featuring 130 contemporary artists chosen by art industry experts, there is a huge range of styles and themes, starting at just £50. My top two favourites this year were Fintan Whelan and David Wightman.
An Irish Artist now living in Germany, Fintan Whelan’s abstract paintings cleverly combine a sense of serendipity with a dramatic burst of energy. Exploring different pigments and their reactions, Whelan successfully exploits the ever-changing detail of light and texture in order to affect the senses.
David Wightman’s landscapes are fast becoming a staple of the commercial London art scene. Despite being represented by London gallery Long & Ryle, and exhibiting in a number of galleries across the UK and Canada, Wightman still finds time to meet his growing collector-base at The Other Art Fair. He uses collaged wallpaper to create bright and vibrant landscapes that have a simplicity of form and yet are striking in their textual complexity.
1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair
Started in 2013, and held at Somerset House, 1:54 has fast become the leading international art fair dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. This year’s fair was – unsurprisingly – characterised by a mass of colour, but with numerous political issues at its core.
My standout artist of the fair was Ethiopian-born Addis Gezehagn, whose solo show by Addis Gallery was astounding. Reminiscent of Paul Klee’s Tunisia paintings, Gezehagn’s ‘Floating City’ series depicts urban homes that are rootless, blurred and ephemeral. The acrylic paint and paper applied to canvas reduce his home city of Addis Ababa to a flat patchwork of colourful doors and gates.
Moniker Art Fair
Focussing on urban contemporary art, this curated art fair has a thematic focus each year. This year’s overarching message was ‘UNCENSORED’, an ‘unfiltered and unrestricted celebration of the revolutionary elements of urban contemporary art’. With many more immersive installations than ever featured before, it was a powerful and somewhat different art fair. However, a sucker for figurative art, I couldn’t get past Kaili Smith’s solo show by Thinkspace Projects.
At just 23, and working between The Netherlands and New York, Kaili focuses on topics of globalisation and merging cultural influences. Moniker’s sold out series – ‘Le Petit Prince’ – reflects on the conflicting reality of children growing up in progressively criminal environments. His subtle brushstrokes and delicate play of light contrast with the intense urban nature of the subject, creating powerful portraiture.