OF all the imminent fairs, the one for which market omens are most favourable is the popular 20/21 British Art Fair, which will take place at the Commonwealth Institute, Kensington High Street, London W8 from September 17 to 21. While the art and antiques industry has been reeling in recent years, one area which has consistently bucked the trend is 20th century British art.
Now in its 16th year, the pioneering 20/21 British Art Fair has truly come into its own and would seem to be very much the fair of the moment.
Actually, it has been on a roll for a few years, although it faltered a little last year, partly due to the massive Countryside Alliance march blighting the final day, which is normally peak trading time.
But indications are that this year could be a memorable one. What do Allen Jones, Alfred Wallis, Ceri Richards, John Tunnard, John Bratby and John Piper have in common?
Not much in terms of their art. But they are united in that they are all 20th century artists for whom record prices have been set in the salerooms this year.
All are represented at the fair, which is organised by its founders Gay Hutson and Angela Wynn aided by an able advisory committee which includes exhibiting dealers Peter Osborne, Jess Wilder, Peter Nahum and Julian Hartnoll.
Among the 70 exhibitors are such big names from the British art world as Agnews, Crane Kalman, Gimpel Fils, Marlborough and Redfern.
And among the 10 newcomers to the fair this year is Richard Green, who owns three Mayfair galleries and is the number one British art dealer in terms of sales.
Others making their debut include fellow Mayfair dealers the John Martin Gallery, Messum's and E&R Cyzer. Richard Green's arrival is particularly significant and reflects both the buoyancy of this market and, consequently, the increased status and importance of this fair.
Green has recently moved heavily into 20th century British work, where, for many artists, demand now far outstrips supply. Alongside the established favourites like Lowry, Seago and the Newlyn School, you will see on the Green stand works from the Camden Town School, the British Surrealist John Tunnard and the pop artist Allen Jones.
Overall, the prices mirror the range of work on sale. The 20th century giants like Freud, Hockney, Bacon, Moore and Spencer will cost many thousands but for a few hundred there is a choice of work by relatively unknown contemporary artists, who may well be worth a punt. Whatever the price tag all work is vetted.
Highlights I have got wind of include Walter Sickert's Le Grant Duquesne at Agnew's, William Roberts' 1916 study of Bond Street in wartime at
the Mayor Gallery and Leon Underwood's 1936 carving L'Amour at the Redfern. And now that John Bratby has been favoured by the attentions of Charles Saatchi, expect the collection of Bratbys on the stand of Julian Hartnoll - long a champion of the painter - to cause a stir.
This year's loan exhibition comprises 100 artists' self portraits, curated by Dr. Robert Travers of the exhibiting West London gallery Piano Nobile. The show will be opened on the evening of September 17 by Joan Bakewell and admission is £8.