The London Art Fair returns – and it’s bigger than ever before

WHETHER YOU’RE a serious art connoisseur or have a more general interest, make sure to head down to the London Art Fair this weekend. In recent years it has struggled to compete with the likes of Frieze but if there was ever a time to visit, it’s now.

This year’s event sees 100 leading British and international galleries housed under one roof, presenting their wares in the fair’s biggest offering to date. Over the years it’s grown from being a small showcase to one that attracts art lovers from all corners of the world, luring many of the industry’s biggest exhibitors.

The work of established names like English painter David Hockney, conceptual artist Helen Chadwick and painter LS Lowry will be on show in the main fair but the real buzz this year comes from the Arts Project, an initiative launched in 2005 to help offer something new and fresh to the classic museum-quality works the fair is known for.

Thirty galleries, none of which are more than a few years old, are taking part, offering guests the opportunity to enjoy a finely curated selection of solo shows, installations and group displays, along with accessibly priced pieces.

“The works in Art Projects are characterised by a gentle questioning that looks at gradually-unravelling developments from a critical new angle, one that is never cynical or simplistic,” says curator Pryle Behrman. “These are artists who find questions where perhaps none were seen before, and never have the hubris to suggest that the answers are easy to find.”

Make sure to head over to Poppy Sebire’s gallery to see the work of painter Georgie Hopton, which pose the question of the relationship between nature and culture, or to the Limoncello gallery. Owned by Rebecca May Marston, Limoncello is one of the most buzzed about galleries in the space, having gained a huge international presence through showing at Frieze New York and Liste in Basel. Instead of just displaying their artists’ work, this year’s booth was inspired by the ITV dating show ‘Take Me Out,” and sees 30 female artists lined opposite one male artist, Sean Edwards.

Photo50 is another must see exhibition. After the success of last year’s theme “The New Alchemists,” which looked at photographers who transform or subvert photographic print though decoration, the exhibition is back with a brand new theme. Titled A Cynical Poem, the showcase brings together the work of eight photojournalists and documentary photographers who have lived in Britain between the 1970s and today, and looks at the relationship between photography and themes like repetition, time and memory.

Photography also plays a major part in the master classes on offer, the biggest one running over the weekend being The Macallan master class. The Scotch brand has commissioned famed photographer Annie Leibovitz for the third time to shoot breathtaking photographs featuring Kevin McKidd and the class gives a rare opportunity for photographers of all levels to discuss the images and quiz Royal Photographic Society president Roy Patterson on his top tips for taking standout photographs.

The fair also makes a big focus on films that have inspired some of the artworks, so expect to see many on loop throughout the day including 2008 film Waiter Waiter There’s a Sculpture in my Soup and 2010 series The Mourners. And just in case that’s not enough, why not book onto one of the many tours on offer. At noon on Saturday broadcaster and author of Art Crazy Nation Matthew Collings and The Arts Desk critic Mark Hudson will be amongst a panel talking about the impact sky high auction prices have on our experiences of art. Visitors can also join a 50 minute tour, on topics ranging from photography to the popular Own Art Tour, which is designed to help visitors pick pieces to start or develop an art collection.

The London Art Fair runs until Sunday 20 January at the Business Design Centre, 52 Upper Street, N1 0QH. Day tickets cost from £16-£30 on the door, or £12-25 in advance. Some concessions are available.

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