London Art Fair returns to the capital, offering a visual and sensory escape from the cold winter weather, and an opportunity for visitors to discover new artists and collectors to add to their collections. Founded in 1989 to provide a platform for galleries specialising mainly in Modern British Art, London Art Fair has grown since the first edition when 36 UK galleries were featured, to a more international event with over 100 galleries presenting modern and contemporary art.
Curated displays will be accompanied by an eclectic talks and performance programme. Highlights of the 2024 edition include; a museum partnership with Charleston, modernist home of the Bloomsbury group artists; ‘Platform – A Million Candles, Illuminating Queer Love and Life’, a section dedicated to LGBTQIA+ artists curated by Gemma Rolls-Bentley; a Photo50 exhibition themed around ‘Grafting: The Land and the Artist’; and an Encounters section dedicated to new and emerging artists and galleries, curated by Pryle Behrman and featuring an installation by Atau Hámos.
Culturalee favourites at London Art Fair 2024 include;
Situated in the South Downs National Park, Charleston, an iconic modernist home and museum in the South Downs National Park, which was the studio of Bloomsbury Group painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, is the museum partner of LAF 2024. Charleston was a hotbed of creativity and meeting point for some of the 20thcentury’s most radical artists, thinkers and writers, who gathered there to socialise and create. Charleston presents a selection of artworks by Bloomsbury group artists, including a Vanessa Bell portrait of her sister, the author Virginia Woolf, a Roger Fry portrait of novelist E.M. Forster, Duncan Grant’s fireplace screen and painting of the farmhouses at Charleston, and Omega ceramics from a private collection.
Vanessa Bell portrait of Virginia Wolf at Charleston. Photo by Lee Sharrock
Virginia Visual Arts presents “Elizabeth Dyer: The Essence of Truth Through Contemporary Portraiture”. The presentation spotlights new works commissioned for LAF and featuring iconic figures from pop culture including Mick Jagger, Patti Smith, and Frida Kahlo.
Canadian artist Elizabeth Dyer unveils a narrative on Venetian marble that transcends the tangible. Her contemporary portraits, a captivating blend of oil and pencil on Venetian plaster, exhale a palpable, almost sculptural, and ethereal quality. Each brushstroke carries the essence of truth, as if the portrait is an observer, watching you or emerging from the marble surface.
Also featured are a series of delicate oil paintings by Wen Wu, depicting girls reading books as a reference to the restrictions on literature in some countries.
The contemporary portraiture theme continues with two breathtaking portraits of British model/ actors Lily Cole and Cara Delevigne by renowned portrait artist Jonathan Yeo: “Lily Cole as Helen of Troy” and “Cara II”. Jonathan Yeo is one of the world’s leading figurative artists who has captured some of the most iconic figures from contemporary culture during his career, including; Sir David Attenborough, Malala Yousafzai, Nicole Kidman, Damien Hirst and official commissions of Prince Philip and The Queen. (E12/ Encounters)
Lily Cole by Jonathan Yeo. Courstey Virginia Fine Arts
Tin Man Art presents new works by Catherine Anholt, Marie Elisabeth Merlin and Malene Hartmann-Rasmussen on Stand 51, as well as an exhibition of Zach Toppin in Platform’s LGBTQI+ curated section ‘A Million Candles, Illuminating Queer Love and Life’. French painterMarie Elisabeth Merlin’s canvases are a real highlight of London Art Fair, with a magical sense of narrative and uplifting palette. Merlin conjures up a parallel universe evoking memories of childhood and the beauty of the natural world. Merlin’s standout piece is inspired by Manet’s impressionist masterpiece Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (1863), reworked with a tropical palette. (Stand 51 & P5)
‘Platform – A Million Candles, Illuminating Queer Love and Life’, This year’s LAF Platform section is curated by Gemma Rolls-Bentley and inspired by LAF’s partnership with Charleston. Charleston became a focal point in the early 20th century for members of the Bloomsbury Group of artists and writers, including Vanessa Bell and her sister Virgina Woolf. ‘Orlando’, Woolf’s 1928 novel, was an imaginative biography of her lover Vita Sackville-West, in which the protagonist changes sex from male to female, and features the line: “A million candles burnt in him without his being at the trouble of lighting a single one.”
Platform features presentations by 10 galleries that “reflect the resilience, beauty and passion of queer love and life from a wide range of diverse perspectives”. Central to the Platform curation is a selection of David Hockney etchings from ‘Fourteen Poems for Constantine Cavafy’, which he completed in the year male homosexuality was decriminalised in England. Other highlights include a Soho Revue exhibition of new etchings by Nooka Shepherd inspired by Tarot cards, and a presentation of Bahraini artist Ghada Kunji from Janet Rady Fine Art. Kunji’s FaRIDA Series (2015 – 2022) references Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907 – 1954)who created deeply personal works that not only interrogated the nature of her relationships with her family and lovers, but also examined the stories of her inner life, that often dealt with mental and physical pain and trauma.
Ghada Kunji courtesy Janet Rady Fine Art
Gallery B-R is based in the Cotswolds yet has a distinctly Spanish flavour to its artist roster, and was initially launched in Barcelona by founders Pep and Cuca. London Art Fair highlights include Andrea Torres Balaguer’s surreal photography and abstract paintings created using aerosol, charcoal and pencil by Aythamy Armas. (Stand 4)
Gallery B-R stand photographed by Lee Sharrock
Common Sense gallery is exhibiting multi-disciplinaryartist Lauren Baker’s mystical new Totem Tribe Dolls. Through her multi-disciplinary holistic practice, Lauren explores symbolism, metaphysics, higher realms of consciousness and communes with nature and the elements. The Viennese gallery works with established and early-career artists from multiple generations and cultural backgrounds. As well as Lauren Baker’s sculptures, the gallery is presenting paintings and installation art by Pauline Marcelle, Tine Nedbo and Makiko Harris, Armina Hatic.(G29)
Independent British photography gallery Crane Kalman Brighton is exhibiting an eclectic mix of British contemporary photographers including Terry O’Neill, Karine Laval, Andy Lo Po, Tria Giovan, Marisa Culatto and an enchanting photographic series titled ‘Chalk Streams’ by Ellie Davies. Terry O’Neill’s iconic 1977 image of actress Faye Dunaway taken at the Beverly Hills Hotel the day after she won her Oscar is a highlight, as well as images taken on the streets of New York City in the 1990’s by Tria Giovan. (Stand 20)
Another Brighton gallery – Koop Projects – is encouraging a visual dialogue between artists in Africa and Brighton; Senzeni Marasela, Georgina Maxim, Arabel Lebrusan, Peter Mammes and Tony Mentel work with multi-media and textiles in an original and sustainable way, addressing universal themes that cross cultural barriers.
Peter Mammes’s enchanting drawings created using polyurethane rubber are on display for the first time in London, and Tony Mentel draws on his previous career as a bridal fashion designer to apply techniques of embroidery, appliqué and hand beading to recreate scenes from queer life and the Sussex countryside. Georgina Maxim, based in Zimbabwe, uses weaving, sewing and winding to de-structure, cut and re-compose recycled clothing. (E15)
Tanya Baxter Contemporary’s eye-catching exhibit features Tracey Emin nudes, a Warhol screen print of Queen Elizabeth II, a lithograph of Hockney muse Celia Birtwell, and ‘Red Paper Bride’, a stunning oil painting by contemporary Chinese artist Zeng Chuangxing. (Stand 29)
A highlight of Adrian Hill Fine Art‘s presentation is a series of enchanting oil paintings by Alison Friend, depicting animals acting like humans. The former children’s book illustrator knows how to tug at the heart strings with her nostalgic images, and explains “The anthropomorphism of animals is a tool used in picture books which helps bring the animals to life, connecting the reader with the character. I think that’s why people connect with my paintings so much.” (G9a)