It may sound like just another event in an already bursting art fair calendar, but Art15 can genuinely lay a claim to offering something different. As yet, it’s the only international art fair which is truly global in focus, with more than half the galleries having spaces outside Europe, and over a third of galleries from Asia. ‘That’s really important because it’s reflecting a collector base that’s very sophisticated and wants to find new things,’ says Kate Bryan, the fair’s new director.
Fresh back from the Venice Biennale, Bryan says the event reflects the changes she’s seen happening on the world stage. ‘There’s always been an extraordinary line-up of world artists in Venice but right now it really feels like attention has shifted — it’s no longer on the usual pavilions but on the Pakistan Pavilion, for example. The tide’s turning and people don’t just want to hear about British and American men in their 50s any more.’
The fair will be relatively intimate with 153 galleries in total, representing China, African countries, the Middle East, Latin America and Eastern Europe. With their main interest being to foster global networks and introduce both new and old collectors to new galleries and artists from every corner of the globe, members of the international selection committee have been careful to choose strong galleries from harder-to-reach places including Osaka in Japan, Bolzano in Italy, Cluj in Romania and St Ives in the UK.
Left: Huang Rui, Space Structure 83-9, 1984. Oil on canvas. Courtesy 10 Chancery Lane Gallery. Right: Wang Keping, Tourner la tête WK15, 2010. Yew wood. Courtesy 10 Chancery Lane Gallery
What’s the secret to the fair’s success?
The fair attracted 31,000 visitors in 2014, a significant achievement in only its second year. This is largely down to the careful selection process: galleries must apply and the selection committee favours galleries with a themed or curatorial approach.
There is also a strong emphasis on depth of information and artist focus, to avoid the supermarket approach to fair browsing. ‘We’ve got nearly a third of the fair doing solo presentations,’ says Bryan. ‘It really gives the artist to shine and gives the collector a chance to really get to know more about a new artist.’
What’s more, the line-up of galleries is curated to include young or little-known galleries alongside London’s Bond Street vanguard, including the Contemporary Fine Art Society, Grosvenor and Flowers.
‘For large galleries it’s an opportunity to meet new collectors,’ says Bryan. ‘I was an exhibitor at Art14 for the Contemporary Fine Art Society and the sales that I did were 90 per cent with new people. The thing about a global art fair is that you get a very global audience, around 25 per cent of 2014’s visitors weren’t British. You could be talking to a Hong Kong buyer about a British artist or vice versa.’
Installation view Art15, Olympia, 21-23 May 2015. Photo: Gar Powell-Evans www.artfairslondon.com
Will this year’s fair be the best yet?
There will be plenty of independently curated art, the highlight of which is an exhibition curated by Kathleen Soriano, formerly of the Royal Academy, at the heart of the fair. It will explore freedom of speech through work by artists from Panama to Tibet, and Denmark to Sarajevo.
‘Soriano responded very quickly to the Charlie Hebdo massacre for this show. It’s only really at an art fair that you can put an exhibition together that quickly and to an audience that global,’ says Bryan. ‘Having an exhibition in the fair that has got so much provocative material provides a strong talking point.’ There will also be a series of talks including one about the brave new world of digital art and whether it has a place in the market.
Behind the scenes Art15 will double as a networking hub for 100 of the world’s leading collectors under 40 years old, and the so-called Global Private Museum Association, a group of museum founders including Wang Wei and Budi Tek, who Bryan calls the ‘Fricks and Guggenheims of the future — people with extraordinary buying power who are changing the landscape of the 21st century by setting up their own private museums.'
Kimathi Donkor, Johnny Was Borne Aloft by Joy and Stephen, 2010. Oil on linen. Courtesy Omenka Gallery
And what about some highlights?
A solo display dedicated to Chinese artist and dissident Huang Rui, one of Ai Wei Wei’s earliest collaborators; Mapping Histories, Constructing Realities, a curated exhibition of Nigerian diaspora by Lagos-based Omenka Gallery ; and Kate Bryan recommends a sculptural installation made during the festival from rubbish found on the fair site, presented by White Rainbow, a London gallery specialising in Japanese art.
Art15 London is at Olympia from 21 to 23 May 2015
Main image at top: Installation view Art15, Olympia, 21-23 May 2015. Photo: Gar Powell-Evans www.artfairslondon.com
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