It is refreshing, following an autumn packed with art fairs, to have a new event to look forward to at which London’s leading dealers will display the best they have to offer, with not a marquee, lanyard, or VIP card in sight. More precisely, this addition to the capital’s art calendar is not a new event but the first winter edition of the well-established London Art Week, which since its foundation in 2001 has celebrated the art trade’s connections to a city in which it has thrived for so long.
Part of the fun of London Art Week is choosing your own adventure around the participating dealerships and auction houses, and although gallery-hopping through St James’s and Mayfair in early December is likely to be a brisker affair than it was in July, the promise of so many specially mounted exhibitions should prove as enticing as ever. High on the billing is ‘Lotte Laserstein’s Women’ at Agnews (until 15 December), the first display of the German émigré painter’s work in London since the gallery exhibited it three decades ago. Laserstein’s depictions of women, painted in Berlin before her departure in 1937 and in Sweden during and after the Second World War, have an intimate realism that retains its extraordinary directness – and the sense of an artist reconnoitring and reconstructing human forms and faces, brushstroke by brushstroke.
Also alluring is ‘Camaraderie and Classicism’ at Tomasso Brothers Fine Art (1–8 December), an exhibition that focuses on the 19th-century sculptor Joseph Gott and his contemporary and friend, the painter William Etty. While both artists hailed from Yorkshire (as do the Tomasso brothers), they met in London in the early 19th century and later travelled to Rome, where Gott honed his carving skills in the studio of Antonio Canova and Etty cultivated the painterly technique that would make his name, through his close study of Rubens, Titian and others. The exhibition sets the former’s audacious neoclassical marbles and careful terracottas alongside the fleshy fantasies of the latter.
Further intriguing juxtapositions are to be found at Lowell Libson’s gallery, which shows contemporary Chinese ink painting alongside 18th-century British landscape painting (30 November–22 December), and at Rupert Wace Ancient Art, where ‘Dizygotica’ proposes formal echoes between pieces from antiquity and figures depicted in historical postcards from the collection of the legendary art dealer Kasmin: an Apulian amphora with a naughty voyeuristic souvenir; a Roman torso of a satyr alongside ‘Le bon gars Normane revenant de la provision’, and so on (30November–22 December).
Rarely shown in London are the photographs of Luigi Ghirri, the Italian post-war photographer whose colour images of landscapes and architecture capture both the comforting quality of nostalgia and its capacity to unsettle us in those places where it makes its presence felt. The display of his works at Italian post-war specialist M&L Fine Art should not be missed (30 November–22 December).
London Art Week is at various venues in Mayfair and St James’s from 1–8 December (londonartweek.co.uk).
From the December issue of Apollo. Preview and subscribe here.