Following the loss of its Royal College of Art venue in January, this year’s event was forced to cancel, leading to speculation it had closed down for good.
But last week the organisers, Gay Hutson and Angela Wynn, revealed the new venue and said the 2017 fair would run from June 7-11 instead of the normal September date.
“We believe that the change of date, together with a new venue, will provide momentum to the fair as it continues the celebration of Modern British art which it has done so successfully for the past 28 years,” they said.
Hutson and Wynn stressed they never intended to discontinue the fair after the RCA’s decision that they would no longer host external events.
Just two weeks after the 20/21 cancellation, Lucy Russell and Richard Hodgson, co-directors of Hodgson Events and organisers of the Works on Paper Fair (February 11-14), announced the launch of a new Modern British Art Fair.
Intended to “fill the significant gap” left by 20/21, the new fair will run from September 7-11 (20/21’s former dates) at the Royal Geographical Society, around the corner from the RCA in Kensington Gore.
Although a number of 20/21 exhibitors will exhibit at the new fair this year, this move riled some of 20/21’s loyal supporters, including David Archer of Austin Desmond.
“A legacy built up over three decades should not have been so casually dismissed,” said Archer, adding that Hutson and Wynn have played a vital role in the recognition of Modern British art.
“The new central London location is hugely significant for ease of attendance,” Archer added, “but we are also aware that some of the other fairs taking place have become targeted at an audience who are very casual in their appreciation of the art we have spent so long promoting.”
Peter Osborne, director of Osborne Samuel gallery and another member of the 20/21 advisory committee, said although June is a busy time (they also exhibit at Masterpiece London later that month) they will “definitely exhibit at the relaunched fair because any opportunity to showcase Modern British art should be taken”.
Osborne added: “The 20/21 fair stands for British art in all its guises, at all price points, with all its idiosyncrasies.”
Osborne added that densely hung booths may not work in this space and that selective curation will be crucial in today’s competitive art fair landscape. “Every gallery should participate in making the fair look good by doing something creative with their space, perhaps by presenting a themed or solo artist show or by having one highlight work that provides a focal point.”