ref: dGt Sep 16-20 2009 20/21 BRITISH ART FAIR Modern and Contemporary Art - return to Galleries PR Index

Now in its 22nd year, the 20/21 British Art fair has weathered recession conditions before, and is set to do so again.  It will take place 16th – 20th September at the Royal College of Art.  Unlike many other fairs which have seen a high turnover of exhibitors this year, the 20/21 British Art Fair has all but four of last year’s 57 exhibitors taking part, and no shortage of quality dealers ready to fill the gaps.


As the original fair to highlight British art of the 20th and 21st centuries, the 20/21 British Art fair has generated much competition in other fairs seeking to emulate its success with Modern British art but it remains the only fair to specialise exclusively in this area.  


Highlights at the 2009 Fair


Henry Moore will be one of the most visible artists at this year’s fair. Ten dealers will be exhibiting sculptures, drawings or prints by Moore who has proved one of the most resilient artists at auction during the current recession. In one sale at Sotheby’s in May, 9 works by Moore were offered and all sold.


Unexpected highlights at the fair, because they are rare on the market, are two important works by the major Bloomsbury school artists - Duncan Grant and Roger Fry. Both paintings were reproduced in the Tate Gallery’s catalogue for the revealing exhibition ‘The Art of Bloomsbury’, in 1999. In Grant’s ‘A Room with a View’, 1919, (Richard Green) his long term companion, Vanessa Bell, the other important Bloomsbury painter and sister of Virginia Woolf, reclines on a deck chair on the terrace of Charleston, their Sussex home, which is still preserved like a museum full of their works of art.  The painting’s title is thought to be a reference to eponymous novel by E.M Forster, who was a regular visitor to Charleston.


Roger Fry, the leading art critic who introduced Britain to European post Impressionism after the war, was intrinsic to the Bloomsbury set. A former lover of Bell’s, he was replaced in her affections by Grant. Latterly he spent more time in France, and his painting ‘The Round Table,’ 1920, (Belgrave Gallery), shows the French sculptor, Marcel Gimond with his wife, and the artist, Sonia Lewitska, wife of the painter Jean Marchand, who Fry admired, in Venice in 1920, just prior to Gimond’s visit to England where he made portrait busts of Fry and Vanessa Bell (examples of which are in the National Portrait Gallery). The painting has not been on the market since 1977 when it was last exhibited by the Belgrave Gallery.


Another rarity from the period is Christopher Wood’s ‘Exercises’ 1925, (Anthony Hepworth), which has not been on the market since 1970. Wood was closely associated with Ben and Winifred Nicholson and the forward looking ‘Seven and Five Society’ during the 1920’s but died tragically in 1930 at the age of 29, when he fell under an express train at Salisbury station. His paintings rarely come onto the market, and this one was exhibited at the seminal retrospective exhibition of his work at the Redfern gallery in 1938.


Another artist associated with the ‘Seven and Five’ was Ivon Hitchens, a perennial favourite of the art market whose works are seemingly riding out the recession. Six galleries at the British Art Fair will be showing examples of his work with Austin Desmond and Jonathan Clark boasting early examples from the 1930’s. Jonathan Clark, who represents the artist’s estate, has recently discovered a trove of 21 previously unseen paintings by Hitchens dating from the Thirties rolled up in a tea chest, and will be presenting some of these at the fair for the first time.


Also from the 30’s is William Robert’s portrait, ‘The Schoolboy’, 1930 (Piano Nobile). Roberts was among the most advanced artists of his generation in the early decades of the 20th century as part of the Vorticist group, but his experience as a war artist led him to more figurative subject matter. ‘The Schoolboy’ belonged previously to the diplomat, Sir David Scott, whose fascinating collection of Victorian and Modern British art gave Sotheby’s one of its most successful sales of the last year. Scott bought ‘The Schoolboy’, in 1931 for just 18 guineas.


Works by the Nicholsons, Ben and Winifred, are always high up on the list for collectors of Modern British art. Several dealers will have examples by Ben Nicholson, including Lucy Johnson who brings ‘Umber’ 1968, which had been bought directly from the artist by the legendary art dealer, Ernst Beyeler and his late wife, Hildy.


Paintings from the 70’s by Winifred Nicholson are to be shown by Crane Kalman, which exhibited her work extensively during her lifetime, and the Redfern Gallery.


As ever, there will be a strong representation of the neo-romantic painters, John Piper, Graham Sutherland and Keith Vaughan. In the same vein is an unusually large, 1955 composition comprising several watercolours by Alan Reynolds (JHW Fine Art)


British pop (Sir Peter Blake, Eduardo Paolozzi, Derek Boshier) and minimal and constructive art will be complemented this year with examples of the more conceptual work of two important, lately deceased artists, John Latham and Mark Boyle. Latham made his name in a performance in which he chewed up and spat out books, turning them into mixed media collages, such as ‘Light Novel,’1961 (Robin Katz). Mark Boyle, who made the original light shows for the Pink Floyd’s psychedelic performances, conceived a unique way of casting small sections of the earth’s surface, selected by throwing a dart at a map. ‘Shepherd’s Bush, London Study’, 1965, (Richard Saltoun) is one such example.


This year, the fair is particularly strong on specialist print dealers - 8 in all. With works ranging from the early 20th century by Paul Nash and Eric Gill to contemporary works by Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Antony Gormley, there is likely to be something to suit all tastes and budgets.


The fair offers an opportunity for the public to meet private dealers who normally work ‘by appointment only.’ This year there are 13.


New to the fair this year are Whitfield Fine Art who are better known as an Old Master gallery of many years standing, but has branched out into modern art from its new gallery in Dering Street.  The other new dealers are Sarah Myerscough and Hilary Chapman and The Fine Art Partnership.  Anthony Hepworth will also use the fair to announce his relocation from Bath to London.


With its spread of galleries from London, Bath, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and St Ives, the 20/21 British Art Fair is the ideal opportunity to cover a lot of ground under one roof, and to keep up with the constantly changing patchwork that makes up the intriguing world of modern and contemporary British art.



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