The thirtieth edition of the British Art Show (previously the 20/21 British Art Fair) opens at the Saatchi Gallery on Thursday 20thSeptember.
With 50 galleries and three special projects, the event promises to be a true celebration of British art. It remains the only fair entirely dedicated to Modern British Art and is timed to take place at a moment when the market is in a strong position. Writing in June in the Daily Telegraph the art market analyst Colin Gleadell wrote: “When you measure results against expectations, however, modern British art is outperforming impressionism and modern art.” Gleadell noted the strong performance of sculpture and Scottish colourists as well as some significant price inflation. For example, a relief construction of painted wooden rectangular shapes by Victor Pasmore that sold in 1999 for £6,000 sold for £125,000 to an online bidder and a jazzy abstract by Bridget Riley quadrupled its price of seven years ago, selling for £1.6 million.
The presentations at the British Art Fair range from well-known names through to discoveries of overlooked artists. The visitor has the chance to acquire works ranging from previously unoffered works by the key names of Modern British Art through to prints and works on paper at the more affordable end of the market.
Amongst the many highlights in the fair, Richard Green will be showing Mark Gertler’s ‘Still life – pears’ (1932) and Terry Frost’s ‘Olive Sun Ride’. Gertler’s work was commissioned by Cadbury’s as part of a ‘Famous Artist’ series of chocolate boxes designed by a number of artists that also included Paul Nash, Laura Knight and Arthur Rackham. Frost’s ‘Olive Sun Ride’ (1987) celebrates the bright sunshine and olive groves of the Mediterranean and was acquired directly from the artist by the leading photographer Roger Mayne.
The Mayor Art Gallery will be showing works from the collection of Ray Hughes. The Australian art dealer acquired British artworks for both his gallery (located initially in Brisbane and then in Sydney) and his own collection. The presentation will include 9 works by Alfred Wallis from Hughes’ own collection. It will also include works by Roger Hilton, Howard Hodgkin, Allen Jones and Alan Green amongst others.
Along with well-recognised names, the fair offers a chance to discover artists who have been unjustly overlooked. Gwyther Irwin (1931-2008), once a student of Roger Hilton, created collages from old billboards that he found on his nightly forays around London. Irwin first came to notice in 1958 in the ‘Three Collagists’ show at the ICA and represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1964. Despite this, his career fell away. Described by the critic William Packer as “an artist of great originality and invention” his works will be seen at Jenna Burlingham Fine Art at the fair.
The critic Richard Dorment described James Reeve (b.1939) as “one of a long line of British eccentrics”, “a miraculous draughtsman” and also “a true original”. Reeve painted landscapes in the Australian outback, Uganda, Haiti and Madagascar before settling on Mexico where he produced his most interesting paintings produced with a virtuoso technique and filled with idiosyncratic detailing. Long & Ryle will be showing works by Reeve at their stand at the fair.
As in previous editions the fair will also enable visitors to acquire prints and works on paper of artists of museum calibre. Dominic Kemp for instance will be showing the linocut ‘Covent Garden Fruit Market’ by Edward Bawden (1903-1989). Bawden is currently the subject of a solo exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery (until 9 September) and the exhibition contains an example of that particular work.
Along with the gallery booths, the fair has three special presentations. For the first time in a generation in London visitors will be able to view an exhibition in a public space by Ivon Hitchens with over 25 works from all periods of the artist’s career on view. This is mounted by Jonathan Clark, the noted Hitchens’ specialist and dedicated to the memory of Victor Sandelson (1928-2017), the father of the fair’s new owners.
‘Caro/ Golding: In Conversation’ presented by Piano Nobile will align the work of lifelong friends, Anthony Caro (1924-2013) and John Golding (1929-2012) and to explore their affinities and shared influences. By showing their work together, the exhibition will cast a new light on their respective paths toward abstraction. As close contemporaries, they both absorbed the influence of Abstract Expressionism and translated it into a British context.
This year the fair is supporting the charity Paintings in Hospitals with a display of works from its dealers by Bridget Riley. Her hospital interventions are well known and her writing on the subject pertinent, acute and inspiring. The most recent work in St Mary’s Paddington, which was completed in 2014 and is on the floor of the trauma unit. She said of this at the time to The Guardian : « It reminds patients that theirs is a transitory state, that they are there to recover and rejoin life – that life goes on, and life is outside, and they feel reassured. »
Robert Sandelson, the new co-owner of The British Art Fair said: “When I think of the huge array of talented and knowledgeable dealers and the art that they are choosing to bring, I am confident that the fair will be of great interest. The spacious galleries at Saatchi will a magnificent backdrop to show Modern British art, both in paintings and sculpture at its very best. Typical is the appearance of a large bronze by Barbara Hepworth that was for many years on view in St Ives, now coming to London this September.”
The British Art Fair takes place at the Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, London, SW3 4RY between Thursday 20th and Sunday 23rd September.
Opening hours are 11am to 9pm on Thursday 20th September; 11am to 7pm on Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd September and 11am to 6pm Sunday 23rd September with tickets priced at £15