Behold, Art13 has launched in London; a new global art fair, with dealers from Eastern and Western provinces united in a celebration of art, performance and VIP lounges. Based under the roof of the Olympia in Kensington this spawn of Art HK, complete with its own ‘down to business’ title (its Art14 next year), made headlines this weekend as the destination of tween band One Direction’s Harry Styles, the usual Charles Saatchi collector figures and a back-slapping feat of 24,735 visitors over the three-day event.
Brazen in opulence, loud and clear as to its position as a place for financial investment, Art13 was on the whole rather brash. Despite this, it did hold strength as a place to spot new contemporary art galleries, unable to afford a sought-after space at established rival Frieze Art Fair. Granted, there was no ‘one artist per booth’ policy for younger galleries –a rule that serves to give a far better picture of emerging art scenes –but nevertheless, aqnb found a few new names among the crowded rooms for your viewing pleasure.
A purveyor of dystopian landscapes Yang Yongliang, represented by Galerie Paris-Bejing, builds on his knowledge of traditional Chinese ink-painting and calligraphy in an assemblage of photographs that deconstruct the urban undercurrent of Shanghai in mesmerising detail. In ‘Moonlight’, a series captured from high above, the city’s skyscrapers and apartment blocks seem to have merged with mountains, forming a Ballardian vision of tomorrow’s hyper-capitalist mega-city from images of today’s construction sites and urban sprawl. Also worthy of investigation is Yongliang’s project titled ‘The Silent Valley’, where modernity is re-contextualised as a distant presence lurking in serene countryside landscapes, with figures that point to an ancient past.
If you like Jake and Dinos Chapman, you’ll like Federico Solmi. Represented by Jerome Zodo, this Bologna boy, living in New York, updates the fucked-up narrative of Bishops balling with Nazis in an arcane video format. At times it’s reminiscent of early shoot-up video game, Doom, and at other more poignant moments the illustration of esteemed RCA professor Andzej Klimowski. It is, of course, also satirical: Chinese Democracy and The Last Day on Earth (2012) ridicules communist leaders’ abuse of power, while leaving the US presidencies shortcomings hanging. Once hooked in, the viewer is left gagging for more.
A more subtle approach comes courtesy of Australian artist Janet Laurence, whose work featured as part of the Fine Art Society Contemporary’s roster. A polymath (of sorts), realising her subjects’ in a variety of formats, both inside and outside exhibition spaces, Laurence speaks to various disciplines, including science, nature and architecture. Undoubtedly, there is great beauty to her hand-coloured wildlife photography but, as a form of documentation, it lacks much of the appeal of her site-specific pieces, like ‘Veil of Trees’; a project that sees Corten-steel panels embedded with seeds, L.E.D lights and excerpts of Australian poetry musing on man’s relation to the artificial environment.
Art13’s claim to being a global art fair then, does hold ground as a platform for artists from every hemisphere of the world. Nonetheless, the fair’s nature –as a middle-weight player, born in Hong Kong, imported to the UK –meant the exciting home-grown talent usually on offer at London Art Fair simply wasn’t there. Neither were there any genuinely good artists’ projects. Instead Art13 focussed on unadventurous design collaborations, limited-edition prints and minor celebrity. Hopefully next year there’ll be fewer VIPs, and a little more excitement.**
Art13 ran at Olympia in London from Friday, March 1 to Sunday, March 3, 2013.