We were invited for a sneak peak at the 24th London Art Fair yesterday, where more than 100 galleries were gearing up for five fast and furious days jostling for the attention of the thousands of visitors expected to pass through the doors. Amid the usual mix of the sublime, the hackneyed and everything in between, the most fascinating fare was to be found on the Art Projects floor, where the focus is fresh talent. We spoke to Art Projects curator Pryle Behrmann and sniffed out some of the most interesting work on display.
In total 29 galleries were chosen for the Art Projects and Pryle – who has curated this section since its inception in 2005 – explained there was no great secret behind the selection process.
“We just try to be honest and choose our favourites, the most interesting proposals that say the most about where contemporary art is at the moment.
“We never have a theme but every year there are certain themes that come out of it, that seem very prevalent. This year a lot of artists have been quite satirical, not just about the current financial climate and wider society but about the art world too. They are being gently provocative about their own place and what it means to be an artist.
“Artists seem to be embracing the fact they are part of the wider world. During the good times they were not up in some ivory tower looking on, they were part of it, enjoying the ride while it was all going well.”
Following on from this, the two main themes Pryle identifies in this year’s Art Projects are travel and escapism and a wry look at the get-rich-quick fantasies which played out in both the art world and the world at large as the good times came and went.
The former theme is best exemplified by the works on show in the Bearspace trio of unsettling landscape artists. The oppressive atmosphere which links the work of Suzanne Moxhay, Reginald Aloysius and Jane Ward undermines any notion of the other as escape, with Ward’s work in particular hinting at a nightmarish, shattered future. The RCA grad uses hundreds of photographs taken on trips to create multilayered canvasses which she then erodes with chemicals leaving distressing pock-marked, muddled scenes.
The best representation of the prosperity-for-all fantasy comes from Lauren Was and Adam Eckstrom’s Ghost of a Dream project – gharish bits of pictures, sculptures and furniture made from hundreds of discarded lottery tickets and scraps of romantic novels – brightly-coloured pseudo-salvation in its most direct form. One of the giant pieces could almost be the flag of failure, a cheery collection of useless hopes.
Meanwhile the role of the artist is picked apart by Patrick Tresset’s Paul the Robot, on show at the Tenderpixel stand. Using cameras to capture the features of the sitter the bionic arm then sketches out a portrait with unerring skill and accuracy, reducing the role of the artist and lampooning their self-proclaimed status as socio-cultural conscience for a lost generation.
And taking that idea further, jabbing at the very notion of “the art fair format” as Pryle puts it, is the beautiful structure created by Gabriel Dubois for the Edel Assanti showcase. Based on the ramshackle huts built by 1960s draft-dodgers on the Canadian coast, it’s a stark challenge, a pertinent comment and a reassuring bastion of the unexpected.