Preview: London Art Fair 2019
- Credit: © Mark Cocksedge
The London Art Fair returns to Islington next week for what is the first large scale international art event of 2019.
Founded in 1989, this 31st edition of the fair will once again offer art collectors the chance to browse a large portfolio of galleries – established and emerging, orthodox and pioneering, local and far-flung – in what is a celebration of the best modern and contemporary art around right now.
Running between January 16 and 20, the goal is to nurture collecting at all levels – from prints and editions trading in the hundreds of pounds to major works courtesy of renowned artists.
Last year’s event featured contributions from around 130 galleries and attracted crowds of 20,000 to the fair’s location at the Business Design Centre across the week.
Hackney-based New Art Projects are one of a healthy contingent of local art galleries taking part. Owner Fred Mann has put together a line-up designed to “demonstrate the gallery’s commitment to women artists”, and Aly Helyer is one of five female artists who will be exhibiting in their section.
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“With my work, sickly sweet psychedelic cartoon colours hit you first, then you notice groups of figures acting and interacting in various stages of play and intimacy,” she says.
“Colour is very important to me. There are lots of traditional elements in my art and I’m a big fan of early renaissance paintings. My work aims to deal with the straight forward notion of what it is to be human and encounter relationships.”
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Helyer studied painting at Chelsea in the 1990s and had a studio in Hackney Wick between 2004 and 2014. She first exhibited at the London Art Fair two years ago when representing LLE – a small, Cardiff-based gallery.
Helyer’s involvement at the London Art Fair is a prelude for more activity with New Art Projects, where she will stage a solo exhibition in September.
The Stratford-based artist, who considers Nicole Eisenman, Dana Shutz and Amy Sillman among her main influences, adds: “The fair is a very rich and diverse exhibition.
“Going to art fairs like this are great for you to have a little wander around. You can go with no preconceptions and you don’t need to know anything beforehand; just react to something and open up to it.”
Located within a stone’s throw of the Business Design Centre, Upper Street’s James Freeman Gallery is another local art dealership taking part in this year’s London Art Fair.
The gallery specialises in contemporary art with a historical focus and has been based in Islington since 2003. Freeman will bring an esteemed line-up of talent to next week’s five-day event.
“Our line-up this year features Claire Partington, who we’ve worked with since she first started out,” he says.
“Claire makes ceramic figures and recently won a £50,000 award and received a big commission at Seattle Art Museum.
“We’ve also got another ceramic artist called Carolein Smit who was recently at the V&A Museum, as well as a new artist for us in Netherlands photographer Hellen van Meene.”
Alongside the main body of work, the London Art Fair also features a number of special exhibitions that run concurrently.
These include Art Projects – a collective of work from 33 emerging galleries based in 11 different countries – and the annual photography exhibition, Photo50, which this year will pose the question: who’s looking at the family, now?
The London Art Fair will also feature a collaboration with the Eastbourne-based Towner Gallery, showcasing 30 of the East Sussex venue’s contemporary artworks collected over almost a century.
There’s also to be a daily programme of talks and tours aimed at “both the experienced collector and new art-world enthusiast.”
If you were thinking about heading down for a look round after work, Thursday Late will see the fair remain open until 9pm.
London Art Fair takes place at the Business Design Centre, 52 Upper Street, N1 0QH from January 16-20. More details and tickets here.