WHEN does a jumbo tent look sophisticated and soigné? When it houses 77 galleries participating in artLONDON, which took place between June 9-13 at Burton’s Court in Chelsea.
When this event was launched in 1999 by Ralph Ward-Jackson of Ebury Events I can well remember the cry from the art trade: "Not another fair, please."
But with a uniform colour scheme of white, and exhibitors encouraged to show the work of just one or two artists, this fresh, upbeat fair was like no other and immediately hit the spot for the twenty- and thirty-somethings.
They were certainly out in force, together with a smattering of more mature art buyers, for the champagne collectors' preview on the evening of June 8. Although, in my opinion, the overall quality of exhibits was not as high as in other years, presentation was first-class and, with more than 3000 guests, the evening had a great ambience.
After the fair's five-day run, the attendance figure was put at around 15,000, pretty well the same as last year. As for sales, it was the usual fair scenario of winners and losers. For those who had the right images and names, the cash registers were ringing merrily.
Although much business was in the lower price bracket - under five grand - there was a fair smattering of five-figure items finding new homes too.
Messum's of Cork Street parted with a Duncan Grant (1885-1978) still life for around £20,000, Thackeray Gallery made a number of strong sales, including a Snowdonian landscape by Sir Kyffin Williams (b. 1918) and a still life by Alberto Morrocco (1917-1998) for £28,000 each, while The Redfern Gallery sold a large drawing of a rhinoceros by Paul Emsley (b. 1947) for £15,000.
This year, eight overseas galleries participated, with Galerie Ariel Sibony of Paris selling more than 20 pictures for a total of some £100,000, while fair veteran Everard Read of South Africa found plenty of eager purchasers for the big cat bronzes of Dylan Lewis (1964), including two life-size cheetahs, which sold at £29,500.