London Art Fair 2012

Given that 2011 saw the capital play host to more art fairs than ever before (a whopping thirteen by our latest count) this is a big moment for London Art Fair. The launch of Frieze back in 2003 clearly posed a threat, but innovations like ArtProjects and Photo50 have helped to keep London Art Fair interesting and relevant. But how would the fair stand up to the competition from the likes of The Other Art Fair, SUNDAY and Sluice, in addition to navigating between the Scylla and Charybdis of Frieze and Affordable Art Fair? The answer is: pretty well.

The trick that London Art Fair have managed to pull off is to retain the elements that clearly work – so there’s still that large chunk of twentieth century painting and sculpture in the middle of the venue – whilst at the same time continuing to improve their offering through the introduction of new galleries. So the 2012 instalment sees Hannah Barry at an art fair for the very first time, as well as some of London’s most interesting commercial galleries, like Tenderpixel, The Residence and Hoxton Art Gallery. Pertwee, Anderson and Gold is here for the first time too – and that’s despite James Golding’s alleged non-payment of a children’s charity and his own artists whilst at Leonard Street Gallery…

But that’s by the by – in short, London Art Fair have the balance just about right, despite the rather soulless nature of the Business Design Centre. And, unlike several other art fairs, there’s actually a good amount of interesting art on display too. It’s good to see Danielle Arnaud taking pride of place once more right at the front of the fair, and even better to see two small works by Erin Hoi, whose exquisitely detailed drawings I haven’t seen since Zoo Art Fair in 2008. A selection of Tessa Farmer’s incredible works are on show too, whilst, just round the corner, Jack Milroy’s cut paper construction at Art First also stands out.

Elsewhere, and as ever it’s the Photo50 and ArtProjects sections that contain the most work of interest. Tenderpixel have a strong debut showing, with intriguing little works from Marina Kassianidou, Duncan Woolridge and Jeremy Wood in particular. I also really like Jess Littlewood’s giclee prints at The Contemporary London [above left]. There’s lots of artists doing something similar at the moment (Ryan Leigh, Sam Griffin, Wieland Payer, Jonah Freeman…) but Littlewood brings a new sense of wonder to her ambiguous sci-fi worlds.

Other ArtProjects highlights include Siro’s Cy Twombly-esque large-scale resin doodlings at Artered Gallery; Katie Sims’ occultish landscapes at Hoxton Art Gallery; and Tim Phillips’ mixed media totems at Chris Guillochon Gallery. Guillochon is also showing eerie photography by Liane Lang that’s similar in some ways to Jonny Briggs’ work over at Art Catlin, whose new Art Guide for 2012 is a cracker. Look out for the works of Katrine Roberts, whose tiny, vividly swirling oils [above right] are a sumptuously enthralling delight. Keep an eye open also for Jane Ward, whose digital photocollages have taken an apocalyptic turn, and don’t miss the ever-entertaining L-13 and their dramatic Art Hate schtick.

Finally, head upstairs to Photo50, where there’s a new work by the wonderful Noemie Goudal (who’s just won the inaugural residency at the Corinthia hotel) as well as John Stezaker-esque photocollage from Melinda Gibson, darkly enigmatic images from Esther Teichmann, and mixed media photographic collages from Julie Cockburn. I tend to prefer Cockburn’s works when they involve manipulation of the photograph itself rather than the simple application of everyday materials over the top. So, for me, Yellow Dress is a highlight.

With a little bit of everything, and the layout beginning to feel familiar, London Art Fair continues to go from strength to strength.

London Art Fair 2012 is at the Business Design Centre from Wednesday 18th to Sunday 22nd January 2012.