2013.03.08 Fri, by Translated by: 梁舒涵
Art13 London art fair report

Art13 London by numbers

  • 24,735 visitors

  • 6000 guests on opening night

  • 129 galleries from 30 countries

  • 70% showed at an art fair in London for the first time

  • Strong sales overall…but not all galleries happy

Winners and…

Of the galleries I spoke to, many were delighted with sales and the overall impression of the fair, including Alexander Ochs Galleries (Berlin, Beijing), Amelia Johnson Contemporary (Hong Kong), 29/02 Gallery (Singapore), Pearl Lam Galleries (Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore), Gajah Gallery (Singapore) which sold a USD 6-figure work,  Galerie Paris-Beijing, which was packed every time I walked by, Primo Marella Gallery (Milan), and Pifo Gallery (Beijing) was positively ecstatic with their success (including best booth).

Dissapointed (as of Saturday afternoon) was HUA Gallery (London) and Tolarno Galleries (Melbourne) notwithstanding they had one of the absolute best displays, including lots of Patricia Piccinini works. But most galleries enjoyed some success if not as much as they would have liked, including leading Chinese gallery Boers Li (Beijing), Galerie du Monde (Hong Kong) Chan Hampe (Singapore) and Vanguard (Shanghai), while some viewed it as a learning exercise (“expensive advertising” as one gallerist quipped).

Local galleries, Riflemaker, Paul Stolper and Rossi & Rossi, The Fine Art Society were also content.

Art13 – The Good

Spring had sprung, and West London was welcoming. Newly restored, the nineteenth-Century arched girder-and-glass Olympia Grand Hall looked spic and span, with natural sunlight pouring down on the fair – causing installation problems for some finicky gallerists but raising the mood for everyone.

So International – focusing on galleries from East Asia and the Middle East, and some from Africa, was smart. This fair looks different – just enough. And the emerging market galleries and artists were matched by emerging market collectors.

Look who’s talking – Talk topics were defined by their participants, with major collectors from first China, and the Middle East, and then from elsewhere (Don & Mera Rubell) talking about the rise of private museums, and finally (and pleasingly) a photography talk. “The China Moment” included Wang Wei (Long Museum), Dai Zhikang (Himalayas Art Museum), Li Bing and Philip Dodd was an excellent compare, including educating one wordy, wheedling dealer. The collectors were good but had to field a surprising number of ignorant and naive questions. Really, is a major Chinese collector going to criticize China’s government or discuss tax in a (foreign!) public forum? But the ignorance also indicates that taking emerging-market art to established Western markets still has a long way to go yet.

Collectors – besides those mentioned already, there were plenty of major collectors circulating the hall, including Uli and Rita Sigg, Dominique and Sylvain Levy, and Serge Tiroche, as well as a few curators, such as Thomas Eller.

Cheers! There were moments when it felt a bit – just a bit – like ArtBasel, mainly when drinking a champagne at the Fortnum & Mason’s stand right in the middle of the hall. Packaging is important at an art fair, so Art13 London has the right idea.

Sunhee Kim, Director of Daegu Art Museum, with philanthropists and collectors Uli and Rita Sigg


Art13 – The Bad

Far away, closed too early. The fair opened on the Thursday evening but when Friday evening came the fair closed, exactly when the hedge-fund managers, bankers (yes, they still have money), lawyers, and just about everyone else was getting off work and ready for a night of wine and giddy art purchases. And reaching Olympia during peak-hour traffic would have required a Herculean effort, anyway.

Not Basel. It has to be said, there was sometimes a quality deficit. Not all art is created equal and this was apparent not only in certain booths but, more embarrassingly, also in the special projects.

Where’s Jay? The big local galleries were conspicuous by their absence: no White Cube, Lisson, Sadie Coles HQ, Gagosian, Pace, Victoria Miro or Hauser & Wirth – not even Ben Brown (who was in Hong Kong opening an exhibition), Simon Lee…

Pace had a fantastic Zhao Yao show at its Soho gallery (of which, more later), so why weren’t they also at the fair?

Bigger online presence – there is no longer really a difference between live art fairs and online ones, so why separate them?

What Art14 should do next year

  • Even stronger East Asia and Middle East presence – China, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand.
  • Some super-big galleries – most have emerging market artists, so get them to concentrate on this. (Why are these galleries necessary? To ask the question is to answer it).
  • Open later in the day and stay open later – and people need parties to go to afterwards.
  • Improve the public programs – this is a chance to sell art, not decoration.
  • Expand the talks but simplify them (simultaneous translations for 3 speakers plus moderator is hard work on participants and audience alike – 1 or 2 would be enough).
  • Tour the West End galleries – Piccadilly and Soho (including a bus on circuit)

Art14 London returns to Olympia Grand Hall London from 28 February – 2 March.