Gallery Weekend brings London’s art scene back to life

LONDON – “I met her on a dating app… I met her at a pub,” said 24-year-old Allie Penick, director and founder dare gallery, recalling Friday how she discovered some young artists whose work she was selling from a pop-up space near Carnaby Street during the first edition of London Gallery Weekend.

Penick, who describes himself as a “working-class, queer Northerner with no art background”, was one of over 130 London dealers to go live during this collaborative three-day initiative from June 4-6. held exhibitions aimed at rejuvenating the British capital’s contemporary art scene after months of coronavirus-induced lockdown.

Unable to afford the fees to study sculpture London’s Royal College of Art And frustrated by the art world’s prevailing systems, Penick says he decided to become a nomadic dealer, using pop-up shows and the Internet to promote new talent.

“I looked at the business model and saw that the main expense was space. So I thought I would take it out,” Penick said. Her participation in Gallery Weekend was supported by renowned London dealer Sadie Coles, who gave her a small living room in Soho. The retail unit was lent.

Penick performed 10 works by artists she is “championing” (she prefers the term “representation”). Seven of them sold out early Friday, led by “6 ​​Red Chillies,” an expressionist self-portrait by a London-based Saudi Arabian artist. Shadi al-Atallah. The mixed-media painting was bought by a London collector for £8,500, or about $12,000.

Gallery Weekend, which encourages art lovers to wander from showroom to showroom across the city, has become a successful formula for dealers such as Berlin and Zurich, which, unlike London, does not host major art fairs and auctions that have been a magnet for international visitors in the past.

but the double punches Brexit and Epidemic London’s status as the capital of the European art market has suffered. At the end of May, the 12-month total for auction sales at Christie’s, Philips and Sotheby’s in London totaled $1.7 billion, up from the equivalent total in 2019 at $1 billion, according to pi-ex, an art market research company. some Galleries with prominent names in the city have closed, and travel restrictions threaten to replace a destination international fair like frieze london In October, if it proceeds at all, it becomes a small event.

“Galleries and artists alike have had to update their relationships with their audiences,” said Jeremy Epstein, co-founder of London Gallery Weekend. He acknowledged that a local crowd, rather than a global crowd, would visit the event, but added that he hoped that, in the future, it would become as important an attraction for international collectors as the dealer shows Frieze. coincides with.

Judging by the exhibitions, North American-based artists still regard London as an important gateway for recognition – and acquisition – in Europe. Painting, especially figurative painting, chiefly, as in the present big ticket international auction.

white cube Brought to her central London gallery for a show of 20 recent works by acclaimed Brooklyn-based French artist, Julie Curtis, whose realistically stylized portrait paintings of women, often focused on shoes and hair, were sold at auction for over $400,000 Sold more.

The centerpiece of the exhibition, Curtis’s first in London, was a circular 2021 canvas, “Le Future”, showing figures with blank faces on a riverbank, which inspired Georges Seurat’s Pointillist masterpiece, “On the Island of La Grande Jatte”. Updated on a Sunday afternoon”.

On a rainy Friday morning, the White Cube show attracted a steady trickle of local visitors, including London-based actress and collector, Patsy Prince.

“It’s been a nightmare. We’ve been starved,” said Prince. “I can’t see any more art online. I want to smell it. I want to taste creativity. You can’t do that on Zoom.”

According to White Cube sales executive Paul Garrizabal, Curtis’s paintings cost between $40,000 and $170,000 and all found buyers.

Jacqueline Conley, a Canadian figurative painter working in New Haven, Conn.; lady churchman, a Maine-based painter whose work is infused with Buddhist philosophy; and alvaro barrington, a New York- and London-based multimedia artist, born in Venezuela and influenced by rap culture, are all names that have had a huge impact right now at auction. But his works have been displayed in prestigious museums, and this fact attracts buyers who want to stay ahead of the market curve.

Conley’s new works, whose paintings have been collected by Barack and Michelle Obama, attracted many proposals. scarstedted Gallery in central London. not far, rodeo The gallery found buyers for all 12 of Churchman’s 2020 paintings. in East London, amalin Barrington for all 12 of his new works, created in London during the lockdown, featuring paintings in sculpted concrete frames with rap lyrics. Prices at those shows ranged from $12,000 to $95,000. Most of the works were acquired by buyers who had not seen the pieces in person. “People have become more comfortable about making purchases with JPEGs,” said Katie Green, Rodeo’s London director.

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, works by such sought-after names can be sold out at any gallery weekend, even if held in a much smaller outpost of the art world. So where does this leave London?

The British capital is a very large city with a large number of dealerships spread over a wide area. Unlike more compact centres, such as Berlin, Zurich or Paris (which held last week a similar event), London is not a city that lends itself to the gallery trail format. Yet in reality, these events, such as those now taking place in the art market, have become a live/digital hybrid.

“Sales mostly happen online. Even our London collectors shop on the Internet,” said Kritika Sharma, co-founder of Indigo + Madder, one of a group of new galleries in south-east London’s Deptford district over the past two years which is not far from goldsmiths. , the college where famous British contemporary artists including Damien Hirst studied.

As of Saturday at London’s Gallery Weekend, Indigo + Madder, which specializes in contemporary art from South Asia and its diaspora, had sold 10 of the 13 multimedia paintings created during the lockdown by London-based artist Aaron Hayward. Influenced by electronic music, African and Middle Eastern textiles and 20th-century English landscape painting, these subtle, eclectic images cost between £3,950 and £650. Sold to a Swiss collector.

Hayward said he was optimistic about London’s ability to remain a vibrant artistic centre.

“I’ve been fired from two studios by the developers,” said Hayward, who now works from home in east London. “But London is pretty wild. There’s always going to be a punk streak. Kids are getting it done, but not in the places we know of.”

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