Bring Your Mind (Open Your Wallet)

From LS Lowry’s bleak northern landscapes to pieces by Pete Doherty featuring syringes, crack spoons and his own blood, the London Art Fair feels like an upmarket boot sale for 20th Century art.

It’s white paint and money-scented floors can feel intimidating, especially if this is your first jump into the polo-necked world of modern art.

Go along and you will see everything from non-descript paintings of fruit to a dizzying 3D piece by Patrick Hughes of Damien Hirst’s formaldehyde shark that seems to move as you walk past it.

Yes, you will hear plummy voices from people called Camilla but you will also feel colours from the slums of Brazil and the alleys of the East End.

There’s a non-too-subtle money side of things – everything here is for sale.

That, as well as the myriad of arty types swanning through corridors can be off-putting – butthat commercialism is also the saving grace.

What’s most striking is the sheer volume of work on show.

Unlike the Frieze Art Fair, there’s nothing worthy here … nothing hits you over the head with the pretensions of conceptual art.

Nothing makes you feel stupid. If you don’t like it, you can move on and find something you do like.

The popularity of modern art means you probably know more about it than you give yourself credit for.

Should you go? Should you care? London Art Fair’s director Jonathan Burton says: “You don’t have to buy, you can just browse and soak it all in.

“Since the Fair’s been around for twenty years, we have a very good idea of what people will like to see.

“We have over a hundred galleries and try to offer something for the experienced collector and someone who’s never been to a gallery in their life.”

I overheard someone say: “Art is like sex, if you fancy it you want to grab it.”

Either way, you don’t have to have an open wallet. Just an open mind.

:: The London Art Fair is from 16-20 January at the Business Design Centre, Islington.


This article was originally published on Sky News Online on 15 January 2008. All rights reserved.


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