All Eyes on London: Political Borders Up, Art Borders Down

London Art Fair 2016, © Mark Cocksedge.

2017 has given way to a transformed economic and artistic landscape in the wake of the global political turbulence of the year past. Artists of all generations are now engaging with a political discourse, be it by expression through social media, or by creating new works of art in response to current events.

Whether it’s as deliberate as the concept of “Artivism,” or a more subtle message of unity, artists and curators will undoubtedly focus 2017’s energies on creating a discourse about the politics of the day.

“War-Garden (after-Tubby)” by Graham Fagen, presented by Golden Thread Gallery as part of
Art Projects: Dialogues. Photo courtesy of the London Art Fair.

This year’s London Art Fair, which goes into its 13th edition this January and marks the first major European art fair of the year, will welcome 2017 with a message: unity and collaboration beyond borders. With 61 percent of contributors hailing from other countries, London Art Fair is keen to point out that this is the fair’s most international edition so far, featuring works by artists from Greece, Germany, Japan, France, South Korea, and Zimbabwe, among other countries.

Breaking Down the Borders

In an effort to underscore the importance of cooperation and cross-collaboration, London Art Fair’s major curatorial vision, titled Art Projects, will feature two initiatives: Dialogues, curated by Portuguese-born Miguel Amado, Senior Curator at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA), and Stranger Collaborations, curated by art writer and lecturer at Writtle University College, Pryle Behrman.

Lee Cavaliere of the London Art Fair says that this year’s Art Projects presents a “huge international offering,” and reflects “an atmosphere of borderlessness within the global arts community.”

On History, Race & Collectiveness

The Dialogues section will showcase five collaborations between galleries from both vastly different geographic locations and artistic areas of focus. The artists exhibited will address the issues of our time, looking at history, race, and collectiveness, alongside explorations of representation and subjectivity.

“In the past 25 years or so, museums, galleries, art fairs, auction houses, and other players have been seeking to broaden their horizons with respect to non-Western art and other ‘subaltern’ practices – ‘art from elsewhere,’ as the curator Okwui Enwezor puts it – including those rooted in gender and ethnicity as well as belonging to craft and outsider traditions,” says Miguel Amado, on the art world’s search for connectedness.

Highlights among these will be the meeting of galleries from two countries whose struggles under monetary union have been documented internationally: Portugal and Greece.

The Greek Kalfayan Galleries will feature artist Aikaterini Gegisian, whose photographic and collage-based work questions the timeless imagery and ideology of Greece as a modern tourist paradise through the introduction of black lines that reference censorship and the abstract language of constructivism. In his exploration of the Greek national identity, Gegisian’s work explores the broader construction of national identities.

“Crystal Girl, no 78,” by Noé Sendas, presented by Carlos Carvalho Arte
Contemporânea as part of Art Projects: Dialogues. Photo courtesy of
Carlos Carvalho Arte Contemporânea.

Meanwhile, Carlos Carvalho Arte Contemporânea from Lisbon says Brexit’s ripple effect will impact his work in the year ahead. “Europe’s political and economic situation has created the most critical situation ever for galleries. Brexit and the increasing fragility of the European unity comes with the uncertainty behind Germany’s and France’s elections this year have put us in a challenging position.” Carlos Carvalho Arte Contemporânea will present photographic work from Noé Sendas, whose images explore the construction of identity through unsettling reflections on cinematic tropes.

Work from A Place in the Sun, Aikaterini Gegisian, presented by Kalfayan Galleries as part of
Art Projects: Dialogues. Photo courtesy of Kalfayan Galleries, Athens – Thessaloniki.

Work from A Place in the Sun, Aikaterini Gegisian, presented by
Kalfayan Galleries as part of Art Projects: Dialogues. Photo
courtesy of Kalfayan Galleries, Athens –Thessaloniki.

Another curious collaboration will be between the new Welsh artist-led curatorial project, LLE, and First Floor Gallery, Harare, Zimbabwe, both of which focus on contemporary painting. “Although LLE and First Floor Gallery are curating distinct displays, we hope that there will be a strong connection between the two booths, creating an overarching aesthetic,” says Lara Davies, Director of LLE. LLE will be exhibiting artworks from Aly Helyer, Ben Risk, Casper White, Lindsey Bull, and Toby Ursell.

“Smoke” by Lindsey Bull, presented by LLE as part of Art Projects:
Dialogues. Photo courtesy of LLE Gallery.

“Dan” (detail) by Casper White, presented by LLE as part of Art Projects:
Dialogues. Photo courtesy of LLE Gallery.

Stranger Collaborations

The Stranger Collaborations section will fill this year’s Art Projects screening room, showcasing artwork created through partnerships formed online. Among those exhibited will be Liz Sterry’s photographic series, “Drinking Alone with the Internet,” in which she has documented online performances that she captured after issuing an open call for internet users to join her to dress and drink like a character from the cult movie franchise Star Wars.

“Drinking Alone with the Internet” by Liz Sterry, Star Wars Edition, Take 1 (Drinking port as Boba Fett),
presented as part of Art Projects: Stranger Collaborations. Photo courtesy of the London Art Fair.

The piece, in which Sterry hosts “a virtual party in which everyone is both together, and very much alone,” brings a note of humor and hope to the fair during a pivotal moment in the social, political, and economic climate. The artist strives to demonstrate that although physical barriers (such as geographical location) may exist, with access to the internet, a human connection will remain only a screen away (through culture, comedy, or the plain humanity of sharing a drink).

London Art Fair runs from January 18-22, 2017 at The Business Design Centre, Islington, N1. Invaluable is pleased to offer a 30 percent discount for readers wishing to book day tickets online until January 15th. Book tickets here, and use the code LAF323 at checkout.