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Art14: Balancing Acts

1 March 2014

Day three of Art14 London and the exhibitors are settled in, ready for the large crowds that the weekend draws in. As Head of External Projects at the fair, I’ve overseen the installation of 24 projects, that range from a blood-red wax throne by the Chinese artist Zhao Zhao to an elegant sculpture by Alison Wilding. The talks programme has already seen Julian Schnabel, Iwona Blazwick and the Chinese private museum Wang Wei on stage. And the performance booth has produced some dramatic interventions, from an artist sitting inside a shelf to a film by seminal performance artist Bruce McLean.

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Art14 London showcases galleries from around the world but balances this out with a selection of galleries from Britain. The reason is twofold – artists and galleries don’t want a purely non-western fair as they want to exhibit side-by-side with their western peers. The second reason is practical. Visitors to the fair have a challenge to look at art that is incredibly diverse – as you enter, the first galleries you see come from China, India and Korea. So it’s also important to have art that is more easily recognisable for visitors to be able to orientate themselves.

A sight-line goes from a bold painting by the Hungarian artist Judit Reigl showing at Kálmán Makláry Fine Arts through to a suite of beautiful works on paper by Bridget Riley at Karsten Schubert. Both are important women artists who came to prominence in the 1960s and use the drawn or painted line in a meditative way but where Riley is well-known here, Riegl isn’t. It’s through such juxtapositions that the fair works best.

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Putting together a new fair is a challenge – this is the second edition of this particular fair. Where there were once a handful of fairs in the world, there are now around two hundred so a new fair needs to have a distinctive direction to it. Next week’s ‘Independent’ in New York has few walls, leading to a layout where galleries almost merge into each other. Art14 London is the indirect descendant of those big, messy, ambitious museum shows of global art such as ‘Magiciens de la Terre’ (whose 25th anniversary it is this spring).

In the end, global art has been articulated through the spread of commercial art galleries around the world, and the fair attempts to be a platform to showcase this. If visitors to the fair come away being enthused by five artists they’ve never heard of before, and five artists they were already familiar with, then the fair will have succeeded in its principal aim.

Art14 is at Olympia Grand, London, until 2 March 2014.

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