When Connect Art Fair was launched in 2018 the aim was to ‘bridge the gap’ between dealers that worked mainly online and their clients, offering the venue’s central London location as a meeting point.
After years of lockdowns which made online trading the norm, the possibility to connect (hence the name) is more important than ever.
And while fairs large and small, new and old have recently crumbled (Art & Antiques for Everyone, Olympia and Chelsea among others), this is one of a small but significant group of survivors.
The fair is now in its second annual post-lockdown staging, and it exudes positivity, with bubbly teal and tangerine branding, a selection of achievably priced art and the presence of both young and established galleries promising a variety of offerings.
A sold-out event when it comes to exhibitors, Connect runs from March 22-26 at London’s Mall Galleries hosting around 23 exhibitors.
It has the added distinction of being run by dealers for dealers.
Anna Wakerley (Oriel Fine Art) and James Manning, the founders, organise with Tom Mehigan of Thomas Spencer Fine Art and the trio become event planners and PR reps as well as exhibitors during the fair.
Not only does this give them a special empathy with participants (they are participants too, after all), it also takes some of the pressure off the bottom line which fairs encounter when run by external firms. This is a fair for the sake of itself and its dealers.
This year, organisers say, Connect’s exhibitors are a “young and lively group” of dealerships coming from across the country.
These include newcomers such as Quad Fine Art specialising in 20th-century British, École de Paris and eastern European art, Lime Tree Gallery (Bristol), a Contemporary fine art and glass dealership, and Castlegate House Gallery (Cumbria), which offers works by British painters and ceramicists. Among those returning are Freya Mitton, Panter and Hall, Blondes Fine Art and Kynance Fine Art.
Many focus on Modern and Contemporary art, but there are some more historic offerings as well. Oliver Brooke-Walder specialises in early English and Old Master pictures, for example, and brings a portrait from the studio of Thomas Lawrence among other highlights. Fellow exhibitor Henry Miller, meanwhile, has a thematic speciality in the male nude.
The fair continues to have as its charity partner The Artists’ General Benevolent Institution (AGBI), which was founded by members of the RA in 1814 and raises funds to support ill or financially struggling artists. Launched by artists such as Turner and Constable, it is one of the oldest charities in the UK.