The first 3 days of March 2013 saw London Olympia transformed into an exciting hub of contemporary art, packed with international collectors, artists, gallery owners and anyone with an interest in art.
Art 13’s debut was extremely well received and attended, and the fair will doubtless build up as an important event in the global art calendar.
VIP day was very busy with a number of major collectors and a few surprise visitors.
Harry Styles of One Direction turned up and bought Ben Turnbull’s small gun-behind-glass sculpture, In Case of Emergency, and several other works for his new house.
Other guests included Ron Dennis, executive chairman of the McLaren Group, steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, American businessman and majority shareholder in Arsenal Football Club, Stan Kroenke and Dasha Zhukova.
Pearl Lam Galleries, eponymously named after its flamboyant owner, had two stands into one and drew a great deal of attention because of the large, bold works, including several by Zhu Jinshi, previously profiled in B Beyond.
Zhu Jinshi’s major collectors, Don and Mera Rubell and B Beyond were guests at a lunch hosted by Pearl Lam at La Petite Maison on the second day of the fair, along with various other collectors including glamorous Hong Kong couple Kevin and Reina Chau with their stunningly beautiful daughter.
Says Don Rubell, ‘I thought the fair was very well organised. Definitely a great start with many interesting artists and young galleries’.
We also caught up with Philip Dodd, Chairman of the Advisory Board, Art 13 London and Founder of the Private Museum Summit, an ambitious initiative that was Dodd’s concept.
‘Our ambition was to stage a one-stop-shop where Londoners, and Europeans more generally, could see and buy art from all around the world – from China and Korea, from Russia and Hungary, from the US and Dubai. The audience response has been extraordinary – the galleries seem happy and the collectors delighted. It looks as if the new fair will become an important fixture on London’s calendar.’
B Beyond had a media stand, along with sister publication FAULT Magazine and the Linveco Cultural Foundation (a registered UK charity supporting multi-disciplinary creative talent). The stand showcased not just different issues of both publications but also the works of some of the artists/members of the foundation who have contributed cover artwork and been featured in the periodicals, such as Christy Lee Rogers, Anthony Russell and Michael Taylor.
A small team of Courtaulds undergraduates had volunteered to help and occasionally took our guests to the stands of galleries we frequently feature in the magazine.
Members of this team conducted a short interview with Chinese artist Su Xiaobai represented by Pearl Lam Galleries.
Interviewed by Clara Chivers, Charlotte Black and Beatrice Cartwright
Is it possible to create a body of art work with no theme? Su Xiaobai claims that his work is purely meditative with no intended purpose. Aesthetically his use of block colours brought to mind works of Rothko. Like Rothko the meditative quality of Su’s work immerses the viewer in another reality. Su’s anecdote about a young girl who sat in front of his work for hours emphasized the contemplative state of mind which these works evoke in the viewer. The result of this young girl’s experience was the profound notion that she must purchase a nail varnish in this colour! Evidently Su’s work inspires a great variety of reactions.
For us, three undergraduate Courtauld students, it was a memorable experience to meet the highly esteemed Chinese artist Su Xiaobai as part of our Art 13 internship. As we eagerly approached Pearl Lam Galleries with our pen and paper in hand we were ready with our many questions.
Despite the need for an interpreter Su was entirely engaging, maintaining eye contact throughout. He spoke about the thought process behind his work, which is apparently no thought process at all! The viewer’s experience is intended to be purely meditative and Su adopts this contemplative state of mind in the process of creating these works.
Su described his works like “a shoulder” with no hard edges. The support of the canvas is wood that is then layered with many pieces of material which give a visual quality of apparent softness. This adds to the meditative quality of the painting, it is not harsh but comforting.
Is it possible to create a body of work with no theme? Speaking to Su it became apparent that in a paradoxical sense the explicit absence of a theme becomes a theme in itself. Overall we greatly enjoyed our encounter with Su and our conversation enabled a greater understanding and appreciation of his fascinating work.
The B Beyond stand was packed with guests, including Russian-born collector Alexandra O’Connell and her daughter, Arina. Other collectors who dropped by were Pat and Doreen Doherty (Doherty has an extensive contemporary art collection, including portraits by the late Lucian Freud), Kira Heuer, Professor Laurence Kirwan and artists Elizaveta Berezovskaya and Aisha Caan.
The top sales of the fair were a recent Banksy painting, Guantánamo Bay, showing a lonely figure cowering before the rolling waves of a calm beach at sunset at £350,000, Indonesian artist Nyoman Masriadi’s warrior-like painting Godlike at £230,000 by the Gaja Gallery from Singapore and a Fifties abstract painting by the little-known Hungarian painter Judit Reigl, sold to a British collector for £200,000.
Sydney Picasso commented in her inimitable style: ‘As David Bowie sang: we’re absolute beginners…. With eyes wide open… Winds from abroad blew over Olympia, and gave it new life!’