London Art Fair returns this month from 22–26 January, with more than 100 galleries from the UK and overseas combining to present the best of modern and contemporary British art. This year, the fair has partnered with Southampton City Art Gallery to present a special exhibition of works from the museum’s collection, including a number that reveal the city’s effect on the imagination of the British avant-garde. C.R.W. Nevinson passed through during the First World War, on his way to the Western Front; he found at the port a hive of industry that he translated into the bold, futurist diagonals of wooden blocks and metal cranes in his Loading Timber at Southampton Docks (1917).
In the fair’s main section, Osborne Samuel presents one of David Bomberg’s Spanish landscapes, painted shortly after the artist had settled with his family in Ronda in Andalucía in the mid 1930s. Despite personal hardship, Bomberg was enamoured of the town, which, perched precariously atop a cliff-face overlooking the deep El Tajo gorge, gave ‘an extraordinary view of the amphitheatre of mountains by which it is surrounded’. Strokes of mauve and magenta harry one another on this canvas, giving a typically Bombergian sense of perspective at once unfolding and collapsing before one’s eyes. Other works on offer by modern British stalwarts include a late Graham Sutherland gouache at Christopher Kingzett Fine Art, in which balletic grasshoppers dart across a luminous green ground, and a recent Frank Auerbach portrait of David Landau at Castlegate House Gallery. At the Scottish Gallery there is a presentation of works by Pat Douthwaite, ranging from pastels and charcoals to large-scale oils – the latter include her wickedly sardonic Happiness is Green Shield Stamps (1969).
Contemporary work at the fair encompasses a more international group of artists, including the playfully dystopian ‘Life Boxes’ of the Russian artist Marina Alexeeva at Shtager Gallery. The fair’s ‘Photo50’ project, now in its 14th edition, is this year curated by writer and galleries and photography expert Laura Noble, who has selected 10 women photographers over the age of 50 for an exhibition entitled ‘Occupying the Void’. In the ‘Platform’ section, launched in 2019, Candida Stevens has curated a selection of galleries and artists, with a focus on textiles; her own gallery brings a group of 20 newly commissioned works by Alice Kettle, which incorporate stitching by women from Sindh in Pakistan, with whom the artist collaborated for the Karachi Biennale last year.
Elsewhere in London, long-established dealer H. Blairman & Sons has recently moved. Built in 1706, 15 Queen Anne’s Gate was once occupied by the painter Frances Reynolds, sister of Joshua, and later by the founder of Country Life, Edward Hudson, who commissioned restorations to the interior from Edwin Lutyens in 1908. It will now be home to Blairman’s array of furniture and fine art from the 18th to early 20th centuries. Condo London – an annual venture that sees 17 London-based spaces hosting 36 overseas galleries – returns from 11 January–8 February; look out for the photographs of Los Angeles-based Paul Mpagi Sepuya at Modern Art, in collaboration with Team Gallery from New York. Sladmore Gallery has an exhibition of some 100 animal sculptures by early 20th-century artists including Bugatti, Degas, Pompon and Sandoz (until 24 January). Finally, other fairs in London to look out for include the Mayfair Antiques & Fine Art Fair (9–12 January, at the Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square) and the London Antique Rug & Textile Art Fair in Battersea Park from 21–26 January.
London Art Fair is at the Business Design Centre, London, from 22–26 January.
From the January 2020 issue of Apollo. Preview and subscribe here.