Galleries - March 2016

The Affordable Art Fair started life in the late 1990s, and it has been remarkable watching an initiative which started life in a tented pavilion in Battersea Park grow and grow, first with an offshoot in Bristol, then a second, spring time Battersea event. This was followed by outreaches to New York, Hong Kong, India and now some six European centres among others, not to mention the more recent Hampstead events. Key to its success and continuity I think, has been a strict adherence to its original business model; the current £100 to £5,000 price limit on works exhibited representing only a marginal upward inflation from 1999. ‘Affordable’ is no idle PR claim, and it has, moreover, enabled it to ride at least one severe recession and will, quite possibly, help it over the next one. Meanwhile this month’s Spring Affordable Art Fair at Battersea (10 to 13 March) in what has been for some time now, a more permanent purpose built structure, follows the well established formula as closely as ever with 105 galleries exhibiting, events and talks to help novice collectors shape their ideas, practical art events for both children and adults and special exhibitions – in fact everything as user friendly as it has always been. NU Founded in 2005 “to encourage the very best representational painting and promote the skill of craftsmanship”, the Lynn Painter- Stainers Prize got off to something of a slow start, its venue in the Painters’ Hall close to St Paul‘s, despite its historic and atmospheric rooms, proving just too far off the beaten track for both critics and public alike. A move in recent years into the much more central Mall Galleries seems to have done the trick however, and the exhibition (7 to 13 March) is now finally getting the number and quality of submissions its handsome £25,000 prize money deserves, not to mention many more visitors. And with the exception of judge Andrew Wilton, formerly Tate Britain’s Turner authority, it is interesting to note that all four other judges are artists – not another curator in sight! Seriously though this does give the prize a nice sense of artists looking at and selecting fellow artists with no great agenda other than the matter of painting itself. And as is the case with the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, two thirds of the available space is not taken up by members. Looking at images of the selected works by winners who were announced at the opening, it feels like a really wide ranging choice, and not overly academic or conservative either. NU Navigating the lower levels of the Royal College of Art last September I realised something was amiss; struggling to deliver boxes of catalogues for the NOA show, the normal back stairway was closed – the whole of the upper level long gallery was now a students’ teaching domain. An obvious step forward in the pursuit of knowledge but wherefore the venue for the 20/21 British Art Fair? A little later on talking to Gay Hutson, she confirmed the dilemma she and co-director of the fair, Angela (Bunny) Wynn, faced in finding a new venue. Surprisingly central London is bereft of the ideal space for middle sized events which are not best placed in soft structures in squares and parks and can provide a realistic economic fair back drop for the positive market in Modern British works. And now it is official, this year’s 20/21 is on the back burner and may be even heading for the deep freeze after 27 years of providing the most enjoyable, esoteric and popular venue for selling in this particular market. PH A NTENNAE from left H enrietta Dubrey ‘Chamois Blue’, Edgar Modern at the Affordable Art Fair Frances Borden ‘Blue Self Portrait’, Lynn Painter- Stainers Prize at Mall Galleries Alberto Burri ‘Sacco E Rosso’ 1959, Sotheby’s Peter Doig ‘The Architect’s Home in the Ravine’ 1991, Christie’s Alfred Sisley ‘Le Petit Bougival’ 1874, Bonhams Still affordable 10 GALLERIES MARCH 2016 Eyes on the prize 20/21