by Anthony J Lester
“ENTRY FREE – with hands in pockets. Exit easy – with picture under arm.” So wrote the French writer and poet André Breton in 1920. Having now woken from its August hibernation, the art and antiques world is bursting with enthusiasm and hoping, of course, that Breton’s dictum will prove appropriate to Autumn ’22. Anthony J. Lester guides us around some of the must-see events.
After a three-year hiatus, dealers and art lovers are excited to welcome back the British Art Fair. Taking place from 29 September to 2 October at the commodious, three storey Saatchi Gallery, King’s Road, SW3 4RY, this premier art fair brings together over sixty of the UK’s leading dealers in 20th century and contemporary art. The breadth and quality on offer is exhilarating – here is a small appetiser of what to expect. Austin/Desmond Fine Art (stand 4) proffer works by two of the market’s much-loved sculptors, Henry Moore (1898-1986) – further examples can be found on the stands of Clarendon Fine Art, Osborne Samuel, Willoughby Gerrish, Redfern Gallery, Piano Nobile and Hidden Gallery – and Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975); based in Holt, Norfolk, Adrian Hill Fine Art (stand 21) displays works by David Hockney (b. 1937), Sir Peter Blake (b. 1932) and L. S. Lowry (1887-1976), while a strong charcoal drawing of a nude girl by Augustus John (1878-1961) is tendered by Simon Hilton (stand 30) from Cambridge.
Over recent years ethnographic culture and tribal art has witnessed a massive growth in popularity, which bodes well for Tribal Art London, taking place between 15-17 September at the Mall Galleries, The Mall, SW1. On a personal level, this is one of my favourite events. Prices range from low hundreds to over £20,000 and I look forward to seeing the stand of David Malík, who will have extraordinary African masks and sculptures; Lisa Tao, who always has fascinating 19th century photographic images and unusual artefacts from Papua New Guinea and South Africa and Ken Mackay, whose eclectic mix ranges from pre-Columbian pottery to Native American items.
Founded in 1961, the Federation of British Artists, now based at the Mall Galleries, The Mall, SW1, is the home of nine leading art societies, two of whom have their annual shows over the next few weeks. The first, taking place from 22 September to 1 October, is the Royal Society of Marine Artists (founded in 1939), who will showcase works inspired by the sea and marine environment, including harbours and shorelines, beaches and wildlife. Some of the artists specialise in carefully researched historical paintings, while others paint en plein air. This is then followed by the 59th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists, who, between 13-22 October, offer over 350 works inspired by the natural world.
A quite different genre is the focus of Staffordshire-based painter and sculptor Leigh Davis (b. 1976), who had staged his first major solo exhibition in 2018 at The Nine British Art, 9 Bury Street, St. James’s, SW1Y 6AB, returns to the gallery for another show entitled Pushing Boundaries. On view between 12-27 October, he says of his imposing abstract paintings “As an artist, you obviously want people to understand your style, to find a connection and thread through it all. However, it’s also a constant process of refining and gradually evolving what you do.”
More abstract art embellishes the walls between 8-23 September at Osborne Samuel, 23 Dering Street, W1S 1AW, but these are by an artistic veteran. John Blackburn (b. 1932) had critical success in the 1960s but because of family illness he withdrew from the commercial art world. However, following an exhibition in 2006, his work is avidly collected again. This latest show, entitled John Blackburn at 90 : Seven Decades of Painting, is a retrospective, with prices ranging from £2,000 for the small, sophisticated, canvas Four Sections, up to £38,000 for the 6-footer, mixed media painting Fire Painting XI.
Without question one of the paramount exhibitions last year was Tate Britain’s comprehensive retrospective of Dame Paula Rego (1935-2022). In 1959 she married the complex artist Victor Willing (1928-1988) and from 15 September to 29 October the Timothy Taylor Gallery, 15 Bolton Street, London, W1J 8BG, presented an exhibition of his paintings and studies. Having studied at the Slade School, she willingly shifted from figurative to a mysterious blend of the metaphysical and geometric, then began to paint furiously in response to hallucinatory reveries, which appeared on the wall of his windowless Stepney studio. Prices start at around £8,000.
In May this year Christie’s New York sold Man Ray’s (1890-1976) 1924 black-and-white photograph, Le Violon d’Ingres for $12,400,000 and in 2011 the same showroom sold Andreas Gursky’s (b. 1955) Rhein II, a colour photograph of 1999, for $4,338,500. What these incredible sums highlight is how popular the collecting of fine art photography has become. For both the novice and serious collector of photography I recommend making a visit to Magnum Photos, 63 Gee Street, EC1V 3RS. The gallery mounts regular exhibitions and running through until 30 September they present Magical Realism featuring the work of Yael Martínez (b. 1984), whose focus is the fractured communities in his native Mexico. Alongside his striking images are prints entirely shot in Brazil by Bruno Morais (b. 1975) and Spanish-born Cristina de Middel (b. 1975).
Other good hunting grounds are the October Gallery, 24 Old Gloucester Street, Bloomsbury, WC1N 3AL, who, until 1 October, present In the Light, featuring images by James Barnor (b. 1929), Benji Reid (b. 1966), Alexis Peskine (b. 1979) and Zana Masombuka (b. 1995); Proud Galleries, 32 John Adam Street, WC2N 6BP, who describe themselves as “London’s coolest photography gallery and the home of Rock and Roll”; the Iconic Images Gallery, 13a Park Walk, Chelsea, SW10 OAJ and the Michael Hoppen Gallery, Unit 10, Pall Mall Deposit, 124-128 Barlby Road, W10 6BL, who, between 12-16 October, will be exhibiting key works by Japanese photographers who rose to prominence during the post-war period at Frieze Masters, Gloucester Green, at the north-east corner of The Regent’s Park, NW1 4HA.
To finish this roundup, a somewhat different venue for an art exhibition. Putney Pies, 2 Putney High Street, SW15 1SL is famed for its pies, served with mash or chips and, of course, gravy; however, the restaurant and vaulted basement bar is also becoming known for its monthly art shows. The current display taking place until 7 October are the attention-grabbing works (£150 to £2,000) of an artist, known simply as MOPH. Inspired by alternative fashion and vintage films, the artist describes his bright coloured infused compositions as ‘Pop expressionism’.
Anthony J. Lester, FRSA
Image: The Meeting Point, signed lithograph by L. S. Lowry, £6,500. Adrian Hill Fine Art, British Art Fair